Cinematek has invited one of Hollywood’s great screenwriters for a visit and a retrospective, and they have given him carte blanche. When David Koepp isn’t directing his own films, he is providing scripts for people like Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, and Brian De Palma. “I try to get inside the head of the director and think like they do.”
In this ground-breaking blockbuster by Steven Spielberg, people are smart enough to bring dinosaurs back from extinction but dumb enough to populate a theme park with them.
“When I was writing the script, there was a big debate about whether the dinosaurs should be mostly mechanical or computer-generated. The technology was still being developed. Steven Spielberg gave me total freedom to write what I wanted. The only limit was the limit of my own imagination. He was going to figure out how to translate it to the screen.”
“Michael Crichton’s book was brilliant. The problem with a lot of sci-fi material is that it is not very plausible. But Crichton’s explanation about a mosquito fossilized in amber from which the blood and thus the DNA of a dinosaur could be extracted, enabling scientists to bring the prehistoric animals back to life, is very plausible. The idea of marketizing the dinosaurs in a theme park was another stroke of genius. You don’t encounter many ideas like this in a whole lifetime.”
>Jurrasic Park. Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1993
In this excellent one-room thriller by David Fincher, Jodie Foster and the twelve-year-old Kristen Stewart try to outwit three burglars. Claustrophobes beware.
“This was a spec script: a screenplay that I wrote at my desk without a director or studio being involved in the project. David Fincher expressed interest relatively early on, and of course I couldn’t refuse him. I rewrote the script following some of his excellent suggestions. I try to get inside the head of the director and to think like they do. Not so that I can slavishly imitate their style or anything like that, but so that I can offer them material that they will be able to use. They can only make the film that they have in their head. As soon as a gifted director is involved, I think of myself as an assistant-storyteller.”
> Panic Room. Dir. David Fincher, 2002
After filing Scarface (1983), Brian De Palma did not want to make another gangster epic with an intense Al Pacino digging his own grave, but he changed his mind after reading Koepp’s script.
“You can never predict which films will age well and which ones won’t. There is something timeless about Carlito’s Way. It helps that it is a film from the 1990s that is set in the 1970s and that its heart was really derived from the gangster films of the 1930s and ’40s. Having said that, Carlito’s Way is also very well made. It has a moving story, brilliant direction, and fantastic actors: it has all the makings of a classic. Its critical reception at the time was good but not great. Many people thought ‘Not another gangster film by De Palma starring Al Pacino!’ It was unfair. Scarface and Carlito’s Way have nothing in common: not emotionally, not stylistically, and not textually.”
> Carlito’s Way. Dir. Brian De Palma, 1993
Bicycle courier Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to deliver a message on time or a mother will lose her child. Reckless driving in the extreme, but highly entertaining recklessness.
“I drastically underestimated how difficult it would be to shoot the action scenes. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy and made jokes about it, but it turned out to be much harder than I had imagined to film a speeding bicycle in busy New York traffic. Traffic is unpredictable. Apparently, filming at sea is also difficult and unpredictable. But water is soft. Falling off a bicycle can cause serious injury. The bike chases are fun and entertaining, but shooting them was very stressful indeed. Somebody got hurt almost every day, but fortunately there was no serious or lasting damage.”
> Premium Rush. Dir. David Koepp, 2012
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Solving ancient mysteries in the blink of an eye, escaping from the quicksand at the very last second: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was vintage Tintin…ehm, Indiana Jones.
“I was 18 when Raiders of the Lost Ark was released. My plan of attack for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was basically to come up with the best story that I could without too many references to the glory of the past. The plot had actually already been outlined [by George Lucas - NR] so I just had to unleash all my creative power on it.” Is Koepp planning something different for the fifth Indiana Jones film that is currently in the works? “By the time I have learned something, it is usually too late to apply it. Let’s just say it was probably a mistake to let Indiana Jones survive a nuclear explosion last time. That scene made a bad impression.”
> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Dir. Steven Spielberg, 2008
> Artists in Focus: David Koepp. 1 > 30/5, Cinematek
> Carte Blanche David Koepp. 5 > 27/5
> Artist talk. 18 & 19/5