Time was, movies were based on literary works. Now it seems as if there’s a book for every picture. Having a written record of one’s production may do wonders for a director’s ego, but as this survey of four recent ”making of” books indicates, a picture doesn’t always deserve a thousand words.
DISNEY’S ALADDIN: THE MAKING OF AN ANIMATED FILM, by John Culhane
Hagiography of Disney animation, geek-speak explanations of animation processes, storyboards, stills, and breathless soliloquies from Aladdin‘s cast and crew (excluding Robin Williams, who’s referred to as ”the chap who signed to do the voices of the Genie and the Peddler”).
Sample Text: ”’When you talk about positive ambition, think of Walt Disney, trying to do & the best he can, and taking other people along with him on the same quest. But when you think of someone using his power over you to cause harm, you’re talking about dictators like Joseph Stalin — and you’re getting (the evil wazir) Jafar.”’
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT: BRINGING A CLASSIC TO THE SCREEN, introduction by Robert Redford, essay and screenplay by Richard Friedenberg
Redford’s reverent account of securing the film rights to the book, 12-page paean to frontier Montana from Friedenberg, screenplay, more than 50 color stills, and 10 black-and-white historical photographs.
Sample Text: ”I faced a book that I could only see as a movie about a middle-aged professor explaining the sadness of his brother’s life, interspersed with 15-page exegeses on the art and religion of fly fishing. My task…was to re-create the book’s magic without having the benefit of the book’s methods. The key…lay in research.”
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA: THE FILM AND THE LEGEND, by Francis Ford Coppola and James V. Hart
Screenplay, Coppola’s analysis of the vampire myth, excerpts from the novel, more than 160 stills, notes from Coppola’s production journal, storyboards, and peppy sidebars on topics like blood, Symbolist painting, and Victorian sexual repression.
Sample Text: ”’Absinthe was sort of the LSD of the Victorian era,’ Francis Coppola told his production team, ‘…like a sexy woman who got into your brain. That’s the kind of drugged, decadent Oscar Wilde level that Jim Hart has tried to lay into the script….It enables our storytelling method to be a kind of Symbolist trance.”’
BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY: THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THE MAKING OF MALCOLM X, by Spike Lee with Ralph Wiley, introduction by Terry McMillan
Screenplay, reminiscences from Denzel Washington and crew, 20 black-and-white stills, and rambling discourse from Spike on making X, black pride, Knicks games, and his various public feuds.
Sample Text: ”’The Completion Bond Co. didn’t want us to go to Egypt. They said we should shoot the Mecca section at the New Jersey shore. How are you going to shoot f—ing Cairo or the Sahara desert and Mecca in f—ing January at the f—ing New Jersey shore? These people don’t know how to make films.”’