The wordsmith behind ''Jurassic Park'' and ''Mission: Impossible'' says he loves being in charge for a change

By Josh Wolk
Updated September 17, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Kevin Bacon
Credit: Michael P. Weinstein
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The supernatural thriller ”Stir of Echoes,” which was No. 3 at the box office in its debut last weekend, is a story of revenge of the undead, with a telephone lineman (Kevin Bacon) suddenly being haunted by visions of a murdered girl. Behind the scenes, however, ”Stir” is a story of revenge of the screenwriter: David Koepp, who is used to writing scripts for such moviemakers as Steven Spielberg (both ”Jurassic Park” movies), Barry Sonnenfeld (”Men in Black”), and Brian De Palma (”Mission: Impossible”), got to direct his own screenplay. ”I’ve worked with some great directors,” says Koepp. ”But even when they [make my scripts] better than I would have made them, they still did it different and therefore they’re wrong.”

Koepp says that because blockbusters based on his scripts have reaped millions, studio execs are usually unwilling to let him out from behind his word processor. ”When you’re established as a writer, Hollywood has lots of financial ways to make it compelling for you to continue only to write,” he tells EW Online. But now that Koepp’s been in the director’s chair, it’s hard to keep him back on the word farm. ”Directing is the last legal dictatorship,” says the 36-year-old transplanted New Yorker, who also directed ”The Trigger Effect” (1996). ”It’s the only profession in the world where you can walk in someplace and say, ‘Oh, it would be so great if that wall wasn’t there.’ And 10 minutes later, it’s not.”

Still, high-profile directors shouldn’t worry about going scriptless: Koepp hasn’t quit pounding out the occasional blockbuster for hire. He’s currently taking a turn writing a ”Spider-Man” script for Columbia, now that James Cameron has exited the project. But — surprise — he says he’s not interested in taking the helm. ”It’s so much fun to write, but there’s just no earthly way I’d want to tackle it as a director,” Koepp explains. ”I always think of a line of description I wrote in ‘Jurassic Park,’ that said ‘The T-Rex chases down the gallimimus and makes the kill in a cloud of dust and blood.’ That took me about 20 seconds to write. But it took months of meetings for people to figure out how to do it. Those aren’t meetings I want to be in.”

Stir of Echoes

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