Midnight Marauder's (a brilliant graphic designer/illustrator) Criterion cover for John Boorman’s 1967 classic Point Blank.
Lee Marvin interviewed by John Gallagher (1986). In a rare and comprehensive interview conducted one year before his death, the legendary star reminisces about John Ford, John Wayne, Robert Aldrich, Fritz Lang, Michael Curtiz, Sam Fuller, and John Boorman, and such classics as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Donovan’s Reef, The Big Red One, The Dirty Dozen, Point Blank, his TV series M Squad, and winning the Oscar for Cat Ballou.
Walter Hill just mentioned recently how much Alexander Jacobs’ script for John Boorman’s Point Blank influenced him.
Alex Jacobs’ script of Point Blank (1967) was a revelation. He was a friend (wonderful guy, looked like a pirate, funny and crazy). This revelation came about despite a character flaw of mine. I have always had difficulty being complimentary to people whose work I admire, when face-to-face with them. This is not the norm in Hollywood where effusiveness is generally a given. Anyway, a mutual friend told Alex how much I admired Point Blank and John Boorman. Alex then very graciously gave me a copy of the script. This was about the time he was doing The Seven-Ups (1973). Anyway, by now I’d been making a living as a screenwriter for maybe two or three years and had gotten to the point where I was dissatisfied with the standard form scripts were written in — they just all seemed to be a kind of subliterary blueprint for shooting a picture and generally had no personal voice. Mine were tighter and terser than the average, but I was still working with the industry template and not too happy about it. Alex’s script just knocked me out (not easy to do); it was both playable and literary. Written in a whole different way than standard format (laconic, elliptical, suggestive rather than explicit, bold in the implied editorial style), I thought Alex’s script was a perfect compliment to the material, hard, tough, and smart — my absolute ideals then. So much of the writing that was generally praised inside the business seemed to me soft and vastly overrated — vastly oversentimental. Then and now, I haven’t changed my opinions about that. But I have changed them about the presentational style.
Anyway I resolved to try to go in that direction (that Alex had shown), and I worked out my own approach in the next few years. I tried to write in an extremely spare, almost haiku style, both stage directions and dialogue. Some of it was a bit pretentious — but at other times I thought it worked pretty well. I now realize a lot of this was being a young guy who wanted to throw rocks at windows. Hard Times was the first, and I think maybe the best. Alien (1979) — the first draft, then when David [Giler] and I rewrote it, we left it in that style. The Driver, which I think was the purest script that I ever wrote, and The Warriors. The clean narrative drive of the material and the splash-panel approach to the characters perfectly fit the design I was trying to make work. Of course all this depend on the nature of the material; I don’t think the style would’ve worked at all had I been writing romantic comedies. My scripts have always been a bit terse, both in stage directions and dialogue. I think I’ve loosened up in the dialogue department, but I still try to keep the descriptions fairly minimal, and in some cases purposefully minimalist. I still punctuate to effect, rather than to the proper rules of grammar. I occasionally use onomatopoeias now, a luxury I would certainly never have allowed myself when I was younger. My favorite description of the dilemma of screenwriting comes from David Giler, “Your work is only read by the people who will destroy it. —Walter Hill
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