How to Screw Over Tom Stoppard

So let’s say you’re an enterprising young director by the name of Chris Weitz. You have a great literary property at your disposal: Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. But the guy who’s penning it is Tom Stoppard, one of the greatest living playwrights and an Oscar winner for Shakespeare in Love. You’re intimidated by his talent. The man shoots out wordplay faster than you can comprehend it. So what do you do? You use pressure to dump him, because, hey, you only direct the scripts that you write, dig? You’re an auteur. You’re a rising star, what with films like The Nutty Professor II and American Pie on your CV. You cut all the references to God in the script. Because you need to entertain and you fear offending even a handful of those folks in the red states. And in the end, it’s about the Almighty Dollar, right? But then you bolt from the director’s chair because “the technical challenges of making such an epic are more than I can undertake at this point.” Of course, since you’ve already written the script for New Line, the studio plans on using it anyway. And since New Line’s bought Pullman off with a ridiculous and undisclosed sum, he’s a convert, no matter what monkey’s banging away on the keyboard.

Talk about a classic example of passive-aggressive backstabbing. We may never know the true nature of Stoppard’s script. But if anyone needed to be reminded about Hollywood’s willing encouragment of its bottom-feeders, Chris Weitz’s despicable antics provide a case history in progress.

Of course, for all I know, Weitz’s His Dark Materials might be dandy. Even so, you have to wonder whether the “technical challenges” would have been easier if Weitz had trusted a wordmeister like Stoppard in the first place.

(tip via Kevin)


  1. Having been deeply underwhelmed by Weitz’s tedious “In Good Company”, I can only feel that this is a fabulous development. (Though I did quite love “About a Boy” but that might be the Rachel Weisz factor talking … )

  2. New Line clearly doesn’t know what it is doing. It should have played up the anti-Christian thing and goaded the fundamentalists into boycotting and protesting it. That would lead to massive free publicity and every die hard bluestater would run out to see it in defience of the totalitarian puritancial red staters. It would make gobs of money.

  3. […] Is there new hope for the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials? It would seem so. After seeing Tom Stoppard’s contributions eviscerated by Chris (American Pie) Weitz, only for Weitz to weasel out at the last minute, Anand Tucker is now on board to direct. Tucker made one of the best films of 1998, Hilary and Jackie. And anyone who can get Emily Watson and Brenda Griffiths to offer some of the best performances of their careers while also making a cello’s presence ominous has my unmitigated support. […]

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