Tag Archives: Joe Eszterhas

The London Screenwriters’ Festival: 10 amazing seminars in one handy guide

10 Dec
London Screenwriters' Festival founder and director, the inspirational Chris Jones, takes to the stage

London Screenwriters’ Festival founder and director, the inspirational Chris Jones, takes to the stage

The London Screenwriters’ Festival is the largest of its kind in the world. That’s right, the biggest and best event for screenwriters happens not in LA, not in New York, but right here. London, Hollywood indeed. I’ve written up all the best talks, screenings and seminars I attended at this year’s: that’s ten blog posts. Read ’em, one by one. You’ll laugh! You’ll learn!

Behind The Scenes

The Silence of the Lambs, with screenwriter Ted Tally. Discover the secrets of the famous jail scene between Clarice and Hannibal, how Jodie Foster got the part, and whose head is really in the jar. Part one, click here; part two, click here.

Finding Nemo, with co-writer David Reynolds. Find out: Why is the vegetarian shark called “Bruce”? How did Sean Penn narrowly miss being in the film? And why did Pixar have to make their animation, in parts, deliberately bad?

The Lost Boys, with director Joel Schumacher. Find out: How was Rambo an influence on the movie? How you do you get maggots to act? Why must Surf Nazis die? Where did Kiefer Sutherland go in full vampire make-up?

Great talkers

Joel Schumacher. The veteran director explains how Woody Allen changed his life, how the studio took fright at Falling Down with Michael Douglas, and how “if I can do this, you can do this too”.

Lynda La Plante. The writer of Prime Suspect, who is currently working on the prequel, tells how she made it as a screenwriter. Find out why her key tip is to “write like a transvestite trucker”.

Tony Jordan. The creator of Life on Mars and the forthcoming Dickensian talks about his long, illustrious and surprisingly accidental career. He explains how he nearly gave up after just a few episodes of EastEnders (he went on to write 250), and how Life on Mars came about.

Charlie Brooker. The sweet, avuncular, cuddly uncle of screenwriting – just kidding! – trains his bile on blockbusters (“like staring into a washing machine full of cars and robots and things all smashing together”) and writing itself (“I love having written, but I hate the process of writing”), and talks about the Black Mirror Christmas special.

Writers’ guides

Beyond The Chick Flick: Writing The Female-Driven Screenplay, with Pilar Alessandra. Sigourney Weaver’s part in Alien was originally written for a man. But though it can be useful to ask yourself “what would a man typically do?” when writing for women, you’re missing out on a whole lot of depth if that’s all you do…

The Art & Craft of Dialogue, with Claudia Myers. She outlines the five pillars of what makes a good scene, and the four pillars of what makes good dialogue within that scene. Learn how even the way you address someone can matter: “In The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft are sleeping together, but he’s still calling her ‘Mrs.Robinson’.”

Bonus section: last year’s highlights

A whole lotta Joe Eszterhas: The straight-talking author of The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, who used to be paid $4 million for a script, was so entertaining and larger-than-life he could not possibly fit into one blog. So I posted several, including a, ahem, blow-by-blow account of Basic Instinct, his troubles with Mel Gibson, and his tips on writing.

Creating Character, with Pilar Alessandra. How to brainstorm a film structure from scratch, based solely on character (fascinating!); plus the three dimensions to character, and how to introduce a character in a script.

The Epic Spec: How To Explode Onto The Hollywood Scene, with Stuart Hazeldine. “Sometimes, to get noticed, you have to take your clothes off and run in the traffic.”

Steve Pemberton. One of the League Of Gentlemen team gives a local talk for local people. Discover, too, how a director he didn’t previously know persuaded him to act, for free, in his short film, as a cannibalistic serial killer with agoraphobia.

Graham Linehan. Absolutely one of the top TV comedy writers working today: the man behind Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd reveals how Robert McKee screwed him up, and what the Three Moments rule is for TV comedy.

The London Screenwriters’ Festival 2015 is pre-registering now, and already 37% sold out. Find out more here.

Hooray for London Hollywood: 5 highlights from 1 year and 100 blog posts

19 Nov


This is my 100th post. It’s also a year since I started LondonHollywood.net.

A big thank you to all readers, with an extra peck on the cheek to anyone who Shares or Retweets or even Comments when they like a post.

I’m passionate about film; that’s why I do this. It’s good to spread the love. [Though if any commissioning editors read this, I am still more than happy to write for money, as well as love!]

In celebration of a year of blogging, these were the highlights. Click the links to read the posts.

Most popular: My four-part interview with Benedict Cumberbatch, ranging from Sherlock to Madonna to his time with Tibetan monks. The Cumberbabes went nuts for this — at one stage racking up 3,000 views a day

Most unpopular: To the horror of many, I greeted Django Unchained with something less than rapture. Now that I have seen 12 Years A Slave (coming soon to this blog), I stand by my opinion even more firmly. 

Most epic: Colonel Badd, the short film I co-wrote, was accepted into the Court Métrage section of the Cannes Film Festival. I went out there, writing 11 blogs: half were from this trip, half from my 1997 diary from when I went out there with Jon Ronson as Editor of Time Out. Divine madness, with a cast that includes Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, Jonathan King, Alan Parker, Paul Kaye and the Spice Girls. 

Only slightly less epic: I wrote ten blogs on the recent London Screenwriters’ Festival, for those who couldn’t be there, ranging from one-on-one interviews to panels on better writing. Four posts were on the irrepressible Joe “Basic Instinct” Eszterhas, the highest-paid screenwriter of all time. Trust me, they’re a hoot. 

Most controversial: I wrote two blogs about heart-breaking YouTube videos by bullied teens, two of whom went on to commit suicide. One man, ‘Philip Rose’, wrote to me many times, at some length, saying the story of Amanda Todd is not all it seems; he then started his own blog, here. Intriguing. Murky. Very hard to unravel. 

So there it is. Hope to see you back here soon (bring your friends!), and here’s to the next year. A short version of this URL, btw, is www.londonhollywood.net.

LSF #5: From Showgirls to mad Mel, Joe Eszterhas’s glorious disasters

1 Nov

Cult: Elizabeth Berkeley in Showgirls

We’re not done with Joe Eszterhas yet! At the London Screenwriters’ Festival, the wildly entertaining raconteur discussed some of his less successful projects, and the lessons to be learned. From the crazed fiasco that is Showgirls to the even more crazed fiasco that is Mel Gibson, these are the best bits:

Showgirls, 1995. Lesson: don’t do so much “research” you forget about the movie.

“I’ve always done a lot of research for my films. For Showgirls, Paul and I went to Vegas and did a lot of research – that was before I met Naomi here! [Aha, that kind of research.] Paul accused me of being relentless about it. But yeah, we really got nailed both commercially and critically for Showgirls. The problem is it was an NC17, and I desperately wanted it to be an R.

“The movie is over the top – flagrantly, violently, viciously over the top [laughter]. It’s globally over the top [laughter]. Perhaps that’s why it’s found a cult audience. I saw the movie last about 12 years ago, at a special screening in New York, where the audience were dressing up and reciting lines of dialogue. So many people over the years have come up and whispered to me, ‘I love Showgirls’. It is what it is. It became something I never intended, but if so many people found something they love in it, God bless ‘em even if I didn’t intend it.”


Cu*t: Mel Gibson in two police mug shots: after anti-Semitic remarks and drunk-driving in 2006, and booked for alleged battery of his former girlfriend in 2011

The Maccabees, unproduced. Lesson: if Mel calls, hang up.

“I was commissioned to do a piece [Eszterhas always says ‘piece’, not script or screenplay] on The Maccabees for Mel Gibson. As I researched, I thought it was one of the most profound and moving stories about Jewish independence I had ever read. I asked Mel why he wanted to do it, he said, ‘Because I think I should.’ We took it to be a sign of repentance for his anti-Semitic statements, which were undeniable.

“Then one day, he said, ‘What I really want to do with this movie is,’ quote, ‘convert the Jews to Christianity.’

“I came to realise there is a dark well of wild-eyed anger and hate there towards people he has worked with, and an overall volcanic rage. Mel needs an intervention. We were in his house in Costa Rica once when he went off completely, screaming at the guests, knocking over totem poles – my 15-year-old son was so frightened he grabbed a butcher’s knife from the kitchen and slept with it under the bed. But I loved the story, so I decided I would write it in my way, and let the chips fall where they may.

“Then it hit the fan.

“Part of the experience that was very painful is I thought it was one of the best things I’d ever done. It was very violent in the fight scenes, but it ended with the words ‘Never again’, which had an echo across the ages. I was fired because Mel didn’t like the script, and I can’t now do anything with it because he commissioned me. It truly was a tragic and heart-breaking human experience on all levels.”


Did you know Mel Gibson went on to make a film called The Beaver? Why Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct 2 reminds me of that, I don’t know

Basic Instinct 2, 2006. Lesson: take the money, do nothing.

“The executive in charge thought that Basic Instinct was misogynistic, and she wasn’t going to let the sequel be. So they made me an offer I could easily refuse. My deal on Basic Instinct called for me to get $2m for any sequel, whether or not I worked on it. They offered me $2m. For the sequel to the biggest-grossing movie of 1992 [NB: he often claims it’s the biggest, but it’s actually No9 domestically or No4 worldwide], they offer me the same as I would get if I did no work at all. Hollywood does these screwy things. They’ve got the golden egg and they screw it up.” [Basic Instinct 2, which Joe had no hand in, grossed only $39m worldwide. Sharon Stone’s salary alone cost a third of that.]


Debra Winger and Tom Berenger, Betrayed by the margins

Betrayed, 1988. Lesson: don’t cheat the margins.

“My original script for Betrayed was too long – so I just made the page margins wider! That made the right page-count. I got a call half-way through filming from the producer, saying ‘Come up here, we’re screwed, the film’s going to be too long because the margins are too wide, so we have to cut’ – from what hasn’t yet been shot. It was the ugliest creative process. I never cheated the margins again!”

Original Sin, unproduced. Lesson: the postman always fakes twice.

“I wrote a piece called Original Sin, and they had trouble putting it together. I’m in Hawaii a year later, and I get this desperate call that a scriptwriter had sold this script to a TV company – he was paid $350,000 or something. And it was my physical script: I always type on a manual typewriter, he’d just put his name on the top!

“I discovered it was a mailman who’d taken a screenwriting course, and they gave out scripts as samples, and one was Original Sin. He just Xeroxed it and put his name on it. The final pinpoint I love is that they discovered that a couple of years before he had tried to sell another of my scripts, and this one he couldn’t sell – but then it was a film called Sacred Cows, about the President having sex with a cow!”

More Joe Eszterhas: click here for his advice to screenwriters; click here for the origins of Basic Instinct; click here for his blow-by-blow live commentary. NEW: for my one-on-one interview, from his dying father to Hunter S Thompson and his syringe, click here

LSF #4: Basic Instinct, blow by “blow”, with Joe Eszterhas

31 Oct

Moderator Chris Jones (left) and Joe Eszterhas giving live commentary on Basic Instinct

At the London Screenwriters’ Festival on Sunday, there was a full screening of Basic Instinct. Its writer, Joe Eszterhas, gave a live commentary from the stage, moderated by the festival’s creative director, Chris Jones. Thriller expert Lucy V Hay was also on the panel, but Joe blanked every single one of her questions – “Listen, I just type this stuff”, he said at one point, evidently no fan of critical analysis.

Eszterhas’s wife Naomi and their 15-year-old son were in the audience, which made watching the very graphic sex scenes even more surreal, particularly when you remember that Eszterhas claims to have had a fling with Sharon Stone, preserved here in her prime, at the time of Basic Instinct.

So come, Watch With Joe. I’ve recorded the best of the in-flight commentary for your benefit, so fasten your seatbelts: it’s going to be a bumpy night. 

George Dzundza comes up on the credits. Joe: “My suggestion for this part was Willie Nelson. That’s how much I know about casting.”

Jerry Goldsmith’s score plays. Joe: “I kept hearing Stones songs while I was writing Basic Instinct. We actually bought the rights to Sympathy for the Devil for $700,000 to use over the closing credits, but Paul (Verhoeven) elected not to use it.”


The very first scene is full-throttle love-making with some white-scarf bondage thrown in. Chris: “We’re already straight into the action.” Joe: “The ‘business’, as we say in Hollywood.”


Suddenly, the woman frenziedly stabs the man again and again with an icepick. Chris: “Holy shit, Joe!” Joe (shrugs, deadpan): “She was excited.”


Roxie is introduced. “I’m her friend,” she tells detective Nick Curran. Chris: “That’s so charged, the way she says it.” Joe: “Camille Paglia [influential feminist commentator] praised the film for its modern take on sexual politics.”


The first scene between Dr Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), a psychiatrist, and Nick Curran. Chris: “Great sexual charisma between her and Michael Douglas.” Joe: “It doesn’t hurt that they were having a blazing affair while filming.”


Nick watches Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) undressing. Chris: “That’s very inappropriate behaviour. It tells us something about his character.” Joe: “He likes to get too close to the flame.”


Catherine Tramell offers Nick a cigarette even though he’s given up, lights one, smokes it suggestively. Joe: “There is no doubt that these scenes glamorise smoking. Especially with Sharon doing it. I regret that, especially in the light of what happened to me later [Eszterhas contracted throat cancer in 2001; his husky voice is due to the removal of most of his larynx].”


The notorious interrogation scene. This was Verhoeven’s idea, inspired by a woman who uncrossed her legs, pantieless, at a party to embarrass him when he was younger. Joe: “Close your eyes, John! [This to his 15-year-old son in the audience.] This is a terrific scene but the downside is that this is, in my mind, a really intricate film noir, but it’s rather overshadowed by the world’s most famous pussy shot. It may have done Sharon a disservice, too. She does seem really fine, subtle performing here.”


A passionate sex scene between Dr Garner and Nick Curran turns violent. Joe: “This attracted a lot of criticism, but I think it’s obvious that it isn’t date rape in the context of their relationship.”


Um… really? “No!” says Dr Garner, as Curran bends her over an armchair. “Stop!” she says, as he rips off her black panties and thrusts himself into her from behind. Chris: “Blimey!” Joe (drily): “‘Blimey’ indeed.”


After a terrific chase scene down a winding road which Eszterhas intended as a visual echo of the twisting plot, Curran tracks Tramell to the house of Hazel Dobkins, a former killer. Joe: “Hazel Dobkins was an old landlady of mine when I went to College.” Chris: “Did she mind?” Joe: “She sent a note thanking me.”


A great line: Tramell says to Curran, “Soon I’ll know you better than you know yourself.” Curran replies, “I doubt that. I’m very –” “Unpredictable?” she says, in unison with him. Chris: “So who is the killer, Joe?” [He asks that again and again. I hadn’t realised there was any doubt.] Joe: “The usual thing is for me to say buy the DVD and watch it several times, because I still get the residuals! But maybe I’ll tell you at the end.”


A sex scene between Curran and Tramell ends with her tying him down with a white scarf, just as in the murder scene at the beginning. He lets her do it, even though he knows she may be the killer. Chris: “Why?” Joe: “He likes getting close to the flame. And Catherine likes to take him there.”


Over the end of the movie, Joe Estzerhas talks about the bidding frenzy over his script, which was bought by Carolco for a record $3m. “Screenwriters never made that kind of money. I was on holiday with my family at the time, and news teams helicoptered in to talk to me. After it was released, Mario Kassar, the head of Carolco, called me in and said ‘Joey, I paid you peanuts. I’m going to make a hundred million dollars for this f***ing movie.’”


Curran and Tramell make love, Tramell’s hands occasionally going under the bed as though about to pick something up. When Curran agrees they don’t have to “raise rugrats”, just “f*** like minks and live happily ever after”, she leaves whatever it is alone and kisses him. There’s a fade to black, then, unusually, a fade up again… on the icepick under the bed. Chris: “Why the fade to black?” Joe: “I didn’t want to pan to it at that point. When the fade happens a lot of people are going to think she didn’t do it. Then when it fades back…” Chris: “So who really is the killer?” Joe: “She is wonderful, and manipulative, and so smart, and omni-sexual…” [Effectively confirming Tramell as the killer. So there, conspiracy theorists.]

And that’s all for now, folks! Come back tomorrow for Joe Eszterhas on Showgirls and other films. For part 1 of his wit ‘n’ wisdom, click here. For part 2 on the origins of Basic Instinct, including fighting Michael Douglas’s alternative ending, click here. Thanks to screenmusings.org for the screengrabs.




LSF #3: Joe Eszterhas on the origins of Basic Instinct

30 Oct


I like Basic Instinct. It’s smart, it’s sexy, it twists and turns but does not insult the audience’s intelligence, and the performances are spot-on. I put it on the cover of Time Out, a few months after I became Editor.

It was the most talked-about movie of 1992, and took $350 million worldwide. Joe Eszterhas himself was paid a then record $3m for his spec script after a frantic auction – just 13 days after he first sat down to write it.

Joe tells us how the film got made – and how it very nearly didn’t – in my second daily dose of his movie masterclass from the London Screenwriters’ Festival:

Let your characters live. “Writing starts with characters. When it’s going well, the characters tell me what to do – within certain boundaries, or you lose the spine of the story. I’d wake at 3am and take notes.”

Keep it real: “It took 13 days to write, but I had thought about it for a decade. It started with a policeman I knew. He was a great guy but he’d been involved in three fatal shootings, and I decided that he liked it. Then I thought of this woman smart enough to manipulate him.”

[Eszterhas also based this woman, played in the film by Sharon Stone, on a real person. He didn’t say this at the London Film Festival – perhaps because his 15-year-old son was in the audience – but he tells the story in his gloriously indiscreet book The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood:]

“One night when I was a young man, I was with a girl I’d picked up at a go-go bar in Dayton, Ohio. She was one of the dancers. We went to a hotel and, after what we’d done what we went there to do, she pulled a cute little .22-calibre revolver on me and asked if I had any real good reason why she shouldn’t pull the trigger, considering the way her life was going and considering how used she felt at that moment. She told me I wouldn’t be the first guy she’d pulled the trigger on, and I believed her… and somehow talked her out of pulling it on me. When I was writing Basic Instinct many years later in a little room in my house in San Rafael, California, I remembered the girl in that hotel room in Dayton, Ohio.”

For God’s sake, pick a title that suits the genre: “It was originally called The Love Birds, after a Country & Western song I loved. I was about to send it to my agent, when I suddenly stopped, in a grittier version of Paul on the road to Damascus, and the words ‘Basic Instinct’ came into my head. I turned around and changed it.”

Include at least one scene that everyone will still talk about 20 years later: “The flashing scene was not in the original script, that was all Paul (Verhoeven). There was a scene where Michael watches Catherine change, and she’s nude, and you see she’s not wearing underwear. Paul in his mad genius Dutchman way took that scene over into the interrogation scene, flashing ‘those little bitty hairs’, as he called them.”

You may have to fight for what’s right. “Paul wanted to change the Basic Instinct script. We had a big meeting, including the producer, Irwin Winkler, and Michael Douglas, the star. Michael was leading the fight, feeling that Catherine was one-upping his character all the time, and that there was no redemption, and he wanted the movie to end with him shooting and killing her. Paul backed him up. I said if you want to do this I won’t be involved in killing my own child. It would make it into a bad TV movie. In my mind, this was film noir, not a morality tale, and that’s what made it unique and daring.

“Paul stood up and said, ‘I am the director, you are the writer, you do what I tell you.’ I said ‘Like f*** you do!’ Irwin Winkler called Paul ‘a f***ing Nazi’. And that was the end of a great creative session!

“Three months later I get a call from Paul, who’s decided to go back to my original draft. He said he hadn’t understood the ‘basement’ of my script, as he called it, that it was about good and evil. He not only went back to my draft, he actually held a press conference and said this. For a director to mumble these words is quite something; for him to hold a press conference is mind-boggling.”

Read the first part of Joe’s wit ‘n’ wisdom here. Joe Eszterhas’s scene by scene commentary on Basic Instinct is now up here.

LSF #2: Joe Eszterhas, the $4m man, on screenwriting

29 Oct

Joe Eszterhas (left) with the winner of his icepick award, Eran Creevy (maker of Shifty and Welcome to the Punch), and London Screenwriters’ Festival founder Chris Jones

During the London Screenwriters’ Festival this weekend, I spent four and a half hours with Joe Eszterhas, the most successful scriptwriter of his day, in a Q&A panel, a one-on-one interview, and a live-commentary screening of Basic Instinct. The festival also announced a new award: the Joe Eszterhas British Screenwriting Award, won by Eran Creevy.

Eszterhas, irreverent as ever, whispered to me after in a voice still husky from his 2001 battle with throat cancer: “He seems like a nice guy; hope it doesn’t jinx him!” Perhaps Eszterhas was thinking of the late ’90s when, with his own star falling after Showgirls and Burn Hollywood Burn, the Golden Raspberries renamed their screenwriting category the Joe Eszterhas Dis-Honorarial Award.

Eszterhas may not be the critics’ darling, but for more than a decade his spec scripts attracted $2-4 million payoffs, even those that weren’t produced. In one year alone he made $10 million.

So you might figure we have something to learn from him.

And there is. It’s mostly about listening to your heart, writing from your gut, and the giant brass clanking balls you need to protect your work. I’m going to let Joe tell it in his own words. He’s as entertaining in speech as on the page, so why not?

On the goldfish bowl of Hollywood: “You need a short memory. They can screw you, and you can screw them, but you need a short memory if you’re going to carry on working.”

On why screenwriting is, as Swiss Tony might say, like making love to a beautiful woman: “What Warren Beatty said, talking about trying to bed every woman he met, applies to screenwriting too: ‘You get slapped a lot, but sometimes you get laid.’”

On writing: “Keep writing. Even if you’re throwing up. For the first couple of years I was so nervous about writing I used to throw up every morning before I started. Still, that’s better than throwing up afterward! I’ve done that a couple of times, too.

“Don’t make changes without agreeing to them. Always fight your corner. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror. Don’t sell your children.

“Don’t figure out what will be a hit. Write what is in your heart, in your gut, because we just never know what is going to be a hit.

“I still write on a manual typewriter, I’m a technical ignoramus. If I get stuck on page 45, I start again from the beginning, rewriting every word, and usually I find somehow what was wrong and fix it by doing that.”

On script gurus: “Let’s be euphemistic here [we know he’s joking: Eszterhas always calls a spade a spade, not a soil-relocation facilitator]: I think they are con men and hookers, and they take advantage of people like you, because they haven’t done it themselves. What’s Robert McKee written, one TV movie? What they give to you guys is bullshit. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

“The danger of focusing too much on film is you get caught up in the technical aspects. Learn about people, how they talk, what makes them tick. I know a guy who worked for the phone company; he wanted to be a scriptwriter, he would listen in on people’s conversations for hours a day. Another friend, he used to put a little bug in the flowerpot in the café.”

On the real reason fewer films are being made: “When I began, producers and studio heads were showbiz people who trusted their own instincts. They weren’t surrounded by business graduates and focus groups and cost analysers, they went with their gut. One reason that fewer and fewer films get made is not just budget, but people are afraid to green-light things because if they do, and it doesn’t work, they could lose their jobs and usually do. That’s why we get so many comic-book tentpole movies that don’t take any chances.”

On priorities: “I’ve always preferred reading a book to seeing a movie, always preferred having sex to reading a book, and for a few years I preferred having a drink to anything.”

On the most important thing of all: “This is the most important thing I can tell you: ‘Don’t let them take your mojo. Keep the thing that makes you write hidden deep inside of you.’”

Part 2: Click here to read Joe Eszterhas on Basic Instinct — why he originally wanted to call it The Love Birds (?!), and why he had to fight Michael Douglas for three months over the ending

LSF #1: Starting a daily series of reports from the London Screenwriters’ Festival

28 Oct

Dominic Wells (me) with Joe Eszterhas, writer of Basic Instinct and usually no friend of critics. “They want to kill you, rape your wife and eat your children” is the typically understated chapter heading in his book.

What an exhilarating, exhausting, mind-altering three days the London Screenwriters’ Festival has been! There were 100 guest speakers to choose from, including a two-hour Q&A with Joe Eszterhas, the highest-paid, most successful and most belligerent screenwriter of his day, plus a surreal afternoon in which 300 people packed into the main hall to watch Basic Instinct with Eszterhas providing a live running commentary – and occasionally warning his 15-year-old son in the audience to shut his eyes…!

The 68-year-old living legend was good enough to give me a one-on-one interview, as well. Given that in his scabrous warts-and-all book The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, Eszterhas headlined his chapter on critics “They want to kill you, rape your wife, and eat your children”, it’s an interview I approached with more than the usual trepidation. But in the event he talked candidly of the death of his father, the battles with drinking and smoking that almost killed him, and his wild first meeting with Gonzo journo Hunter S. Thompson, who got him his breakthrough job with Rolling Stone.

During the London Screenwriters’ Festival I also interviewed Doon Mackichan of Smack The Pony and Steve Pemberton of League of Gentlemen and Psychoville; attended a terrific seminar with Graham Linehan of Father Ted and The IT Crowd fame and a very candid talk by David Hare, plus “how-to” lectures by a Brit who’s made it as a sci-fi blockbuster writer in Hollywood and great ones on character, structure, and thriller writing.

I’ve written about it today in The Times (click here), but a single piece doesn’t begin to do justice to the event.

So I’m going to write a series of daily blogs until I’ve shared with you all the great stuff in my notebook. Do keep coming back, and pass the link www.londonhollywood.net to any filmy friends.

As Chris Jones, the inspirational founder of the festival likes to say… onward and upward!

Read the first of my daily LSF blogs here, featuring the inimitable Joe Eszterhas