By Simon Miraudo
September 21, 2012
In Ruby Sparks, Paul Dano’s awkward author Calvin wills one of his characters into existence so that she might become his real-life girlfriend. If only the written word could be so magical; I’d have my own life-size Nicolas Cage to recite monologues every evening. But then, prose can indeed be powerful, and the following ten movies about writers prove just that. (Note: We’ve excluded playwrights, screenwriters, and journalists, as they deserve top tens unto themselves.)
Frank Langella’s ageing and largely forgotten Leonard Schiller is reluctantly primed for a comeback when he becomes the subject of young Heather Wolfe’s (Lauren Ambrose) Master’s thesis in Andrew Wagner’s intimate little character study. The presence of Frank Langella is surely enough to intrigue you to seek out this lovely little film.
9. The Hours
Michael Cunningham’s ambitious book is brought to life by Stephen Daldry, with Nicole Kidman playing doomed Virginia Woolf, Julianne Moore as a fifties housewife reading Mrs. Dalloway, and Meryl Streep as a modern woman unwittingly living the life depicted in that novel. Though all anyone remembers is ‘the nose,’ Kidman greatly deserved the Best Actress Oscar for her part in the flick.
Todd Solondz’s uneven Storytelling is no match for his masterful Happiness, but the first half – entitled ‘Fiction’ – does feature a compelling tale of a creative writing student (Selma Blair) writing about an affair with her teacher (Robert Wisdom). In the U.S. release, the sex scene was considered so graphic the MPAA suggested it be cut. Instead, Solondz stuck a giant red box over the fornicators. In Australia, we get to enjoy it in all its harrowing glory. That... is freedom.
Kathy Bates won the Academy Award for portraying a superfan of Paul Sheldon (James Caan). Here’s a cautionary tale for writers if ever there was one: don’t trust anyone who claims to be your “#1 Fan,” and certainly don’t trust anyone with easy access to a mallet.
6. Wonder Boys
Michael Douglas’ Grady Tripp is a pot-smoking author who can’t figure out how to finish his second book. He finds inspiration after an unlikely adventure that begins with him accidentally shooting a dog and discovering his mistress (Frances McDormand) is pregnant. This wonderful Curtis Hanson comedy also features Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr,. and Katie Holmes.
Kevin Smith’s best film features Ben Affleck as comic writer Holden McNeil, slumming it with the Bluntman and Chronic funnies (based on buddies Jay and Silent Bob), until he falls in love with lesbian Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and creates a cartoon entitled Chasing Amy. Hey, comic authors are writers too!
...which brings us to the Harvey Pekar biopic American Splendor, with Paul Giamatti as the famously cantankerous scribe who brought his awkward, personal trials (including a battle with cancer) to life in the pages of his graphic novels.
3. The Shining
Authors are procrastinators at the best of times. The Shining reminds us not to lock one away at an isolated – and haunted – hotel where there are distractions such as nude, rotting women in bathtubs, ghost barman, and giant bears servicing tuxedoed men.
Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) succumbed to the unthinkable after a stroke: struck with locked-in syndrome, he could only communicate with his left eye. Determined to relate his tale, he blinked the alphabet and had a dutiful partner write down his autobiography. It took ten months for him to blink out an entire book. That’s actually more productive than most writers who still have feeling in their hands.
Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered the definitive depiction of iconic author Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s acclaimed 2005 flick. It details his efforts writing the true crime novel In Cold Blood, during which time he bonded with killer Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and struggles to deal with the guilt of capitalising on the criminal’s need for redemption in book form. Bonus! Catherine Keener also plays Harper Lee, just as To Kill a Mockingbird becomes a major success. Two legendary authors – and brilliant actors – for the price of one!