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WATCH: THR's Writers Round Table with Holofcener, Delpy, Clooney, Ridley and More (VIDEO)

by Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna
November 7, 2013 1:03 PM
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Julie Delpy
Julie Delpy

The Hollywood Reporter continues their round table series with a top-rate assembly of writers. Included in the mix are Julie Delpy ("Before Midnight"), who co-wrote with Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, writer-director Nicole Holofcener ("Enough Said"), John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave"), Danny Strong ("Lee Daniels' The Butler"), Jonas Cuaron ("Gravity"), who collaborated with his director father Alfonso, and George Clooney and Grant Heslov ("The Monuments Men"). Watch below, plus quote highlights.

Since Clooney and Heslov did this panel, "Monuments Men" has been pushed out of the awards season bracket, now eyeing a February release. Heavyweight producer-director-star Clooney could have his pick of any panel he wanted, but agreed to be on the writers panel, as opposed to directors or actors. He wants to be seen as a writer, and clearly revels in that discussion, although it veers into his political areas of interest. And recent revelations about a trove of stolen art that got away from the real Monuments Men makes this movie more timely.  

Clearly, THR's talent booker-interviews Stephen Galloway and Matt Belloni are sensitive to past criticism that their roundtables are often too male-centric. Not in this case! But Holofcener might have been a good inclusion for the directors panel as well...we'll see how that one shakes out. 

Holofcener on getting "Enough Said" off the ground:

It was not hard at all. Fox Searchlight said, "We want to make a movie with you, but we want this one to have a little more plot and just give us a little more to market." Actually, I didn't really mind because I wanted the challenge of having to write a script that was possibly more commercial but still mine. Something that I wouldn't be embarrassed about, you know?

Delpy and Clooney also act. Does their writing change when writing for themselves?

DELPY: No. I mean, there is the period of writing where we're excited to write lengthy monologues, and then we get to rehearsing, where we look at the monologue, and we're like, "Argh!" It's very schizophrenic. And then we go into the acting process, and we become insecure, we don't sleep, we don't eat, we're freaking out. Actually, it made me realize acting is a very unsettling job. It makes you emotionally a mess, you know?

CLOONEY: I feel perfectly comfortable! What are you talking about? (Laughter.) But I've met a lot of insecure writers and directors.

Did Strong have doubts on writing about the African-American experience? 

STRONG: Only in the way that I have doubts about everything that I write. And I always get through that with research. I just start doing lots of research, and then I start to feel comfortable, and then I'm sick of research and I just want to start writing. I mean, I've written female characters, and I'm not a woman.

HOLOFCENER: (Smiles.) That's not right!

Ridley on historical accuracy in "12 Years a Slave":

The only allegations that I'm aware of around 12 Years a Slave are actually pointed back toward [Solomon Northup's book about his experiences in slavery] -- which, to me, is very troubling because there were court cases, you know? These are things that have been documented.


  • Kate | November 7, 2013 8:13 PMReply

    I thought towards the end of the roundtable the discussion veered off too much towards journalism and politics, but otherwise this was interesting. I would have liked to hear more from Holofcener and Delpy. I'm kind of surprised no one thought to ask Delpy about the difference between writing with Hawke/Linklater and writing for her own projects. She's done more on her own than with them.

    Ridley was very interesting. His comments toward the end confirmed my own opinion of his/McQueen's intent with 12 Years. They're really not interested in depictions of character (either Solomon or the slavers), but rather dissecting a corrupted society.

    I picked up on some tension between Clooney and Ridley. Who knows if that was about Three Kings or something else.

  • Lucas | November 7, 2013 2:00 PMReply

    Loved it. The discussion about truth was particularly interesting to me. I'm not sure the writers in the room, though, realize how influential their "entertainment" can be. Dramatizations are convincing, particularly for people who don't care to look things up later, as is suggested by a few people in the video. And none of that is the fault of the filmmakers, but I think they need to be aware of their own influence on the "truth."

    I mean, you look at something like The Social Network and, for better or for worse, THAT is the definitive account for the founding of Facebook for the people who saw it. Whether part of it or none of it or all of it was actually true, millions of people left that movie never caring to wonder if it was actually all about a girl for Mark. If you ask Aaron Sorkin, he would say that his film is just one version of the truth; he talked about Rashomon in every interview he did for that movie. But that inherent narrative skepticism doesn't translate to broader audiences at large. So I think the line between entertainment and fact is blurrier and harder to find than the writers seem willing to admit.

    Having said all of that, in the context of awards season, it's a ridiculous topic because these films should be judged as works of art that stand by themselves, with or without a basis in history or fact. Tearing a movie down for misrepresenting a fact is like removing a painting from an art gallery for not being a photograph.

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