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April 19, 2012

Joe Eszterhas Releases Audio of Mel Gibson Rant

The good news for Mel Gibson is that there's nothing antisemitic on it.

The bad news is that he seems like a very angry, very out-of-control guy.

Previously I ignored this because Joe Eszterhas has never struck me as a credible or ethical person, and the allegations he laid on Mel Gibson seemed motivated by a business dispute. Gibson had hired him to write a script for The Maccabees, and now Eszterhas wants the script back (but I didn't see any offer to pay Gibson back the money he'd laid out for the script).

Everything Eszterhas says may be true. And yet, given his bad intent here (pressure Gibson into giving this script up), I wouldn't want to put money on his claims.

But there definitely is tape of Gibson ranting. In an out-of-control way. Content warning for language.

Here's a bunch of things Eszterhas claims Gibson said, but there's no tape of it. (At least none that I know of.)

I always thought that South Park episode portraying Gibson as a lunatic was a cheap shot and a nasty invention on the part of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. I don't think that anymore.

But as to Eszterhas -- here's why I don't trust him. He has always been a terrible, terrible hack, filling his dumb scripts with the most obvious sort of Exploitation Film pandering imaginable. I suppose he must do some things right, as he sold a lot of (B-movie exploitation) scripts, but not many things right.

Plus, he's sort of been out of work for a while. He hasn't worked much -- at least only a pair of produced screenplays -- since people caught on in 1997 that he wasn't very good at all. Like, after the Showgirls debacle. He wrote a script containing these (Content Warning) atrocious lines?

So, to give Gibson every benefit of the doubt: This guy could be desperate and be very angry that his would-be comeback is now scuttled by the rejection of this script.

Crap Script? I tend to believe Gibson's stated reasons for rejecting the script:

"Both Warner Brothers and I were extraordinarily disappointed with the draft. In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time. The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor."

Honestly, I haven no idea why he'd think Joe Eszterhas -- Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Flashdance -- could credibly write a story of 2nd century Jewish revolutionaries.

This guy writes about the script, and notes it's very "bloody," but I don't see him saying it's any good. He seems to not say anything about the quality of it, as if he's protecting his source (Eszterhas, who talks a lot to The Wrap).

Just because it's "bloody" doesn't mean it's any good, of course, and it doesn't mean Gibson would think it's good. Braveheart was bloody-- but also a good script. He doesn't shoot shit just because it has decapitations in it.

This passage from the script suggests it's pure hackery.

We will be free! The day will come when well be free! We will be free to pray to our God! We will be free to educate our children! We will never have to bend our knee to anyone but our Lord! The day will come when well be strong and mighty, strong enough to defeat anyone - anyone! - who wants to wipe us off the face of the earth. (He puts his clenched fist up into the air and bows his head.)

Oh dear. This is, uh, on-the-nose, as they say. It's what you want to communicate, true, but your characters shouldn't say the things you've decided the scene is meant to communicate. They shouldn't just read aloud the Moral of the Tale.

These sorts of things are hard to write but dude, you have to do better than this.

Braveheart had some tough things to write. But the writer came up with good ways to say the embarrassing sloganistic stuff.

William: Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace.

Short soldier: William Wallace is 7 feet tall.

William: Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his ass. I am William Wallace, and I see before me an army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?

Tall soldier: Fight against that? No, we will run, and we will live.

William: Ay, fight and you may die, run and you'll live. At least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom.

See, that's not the Very First Thing That Pops Into Your Head, as Eszterhas' "freedom to educate our children" thing is, now is it? "And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that..." is an unexpected way and interesting way to preface the Tough Sledding part about freedom.

Imagine if Wallace just yelled "We shall fight for our freedom! Freedom! Yah, freedom! Whoo-Hoo! We shall have freedom, and we shall lay the groundwork for the moderal social welfare state!"

Yeah, see? Not quite as good.

I guess it's a first draft, so you can chalk that up as "placeholder" dialogue, stuff you write just to get the story beats down, knowing that there's no way in hell that crap will survive to the actual filming script.

Still. Not a good sign. A first draft is not supposed to be just pure crap. You're supposed to have figured out how to handle the bulk of the problems in the script, whether about pacing or structure or dialogue or exposition.

You can't just take the position "We'll figure it all out in the second, third and fourth drafts." Then, um, just skip directly to those drafts. No one profits from a waste of time script in which there are no problems solved and no insights or cool parts.

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posted by Ace at 10:44 AM

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