I drove down to Galway today for the film festival and started with a Masterclass by successful screenwriter Christopher Hampton. He turned out to be a charming, self-deprecating man, who pointed out that while he’s had 14 films made, this represents only a third of all the scripts he’s written. There’s hope for us all!
He specialises in adapting novels into films, which was an area I didn’t know much about. So it was fascinating to hear how he turned Atonement, The Quiet American, Dangerous Liaisons (from his own play), Imagining Argentina and many, many more into movies. The class was preceded by a showing of Atonement and it struck me again while watching it that it’s one of those stone-cold classics that you knew was a classic from the first time you saw it.
Things I learned from Mr. Hampton’s talk:
· He reckons he does good dialogue but doesn’t think he’s any good at plot structure, hence all the adaptations of existing work. An excellent example of playing to your strengths!
· John Malkovich is even more cheeky than I had previously suspected but is apparently great to work with.
· The films costume designer actually directed the opening scene of Dangerous Liaisons.
· David Lean used to be an editor and would spend ages (really, really ages) editing his own films.
· Christopher Hampton spends 3-9 months preparing to write his script, but then writes in a white-heat and cranks out a draft in a few weeks. I like his style.