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Three Acts? Five? NONE! Milius on screenwriting!

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

So John Milius just gave this interview:

 

https://creativescreenwriting.com/i-was-never-conscious-of-my-screenplays-having-any-acts-its-all-bullshit-john-milius/

 

It's a pretty great interview, but since we tend to talk stucture a lot in these parts, this response in particular was interesting (emphasis mine):

 

Quote:

In the old days the writer’s greatest fear was always, this time out, it just isn’t going to happen. I just won’t have the stuff. Now the fear is that I’ll have it, but those little jerks from Harvard Business School won’t be able to understand it. Because these MBAs can follow instructions, they read these books and say your script has to have these characters and those turning points. They ask questions like, “Who are you rooting for at the end of the first act?” I was never conscious of my screenplays having any acts. I didn’t know what a character arc was. It’s all bullshit. Tell a story.

post #2 of 21
I've posted that before, maybe in the last year I think. Good interview.
post #3 of 21

so he didn't JUST give this interview?

 

DAMMIT MICHAEL!!!

 

 

Yeah, I remember it being posted.  It's from over 2 years ago!

 

you'll pay, michael... don't think you won't pay...

 

STILL GOOD STUFF THOUGH!

post #4 of 21

The last I heard of Milius he had that stroke and could barely communicate.  When was this interview given?  

 

There's a great documentary about him but I forget the name.

post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ambler View Post


There's a great documentary about him but I forget the name.

it was called MILIUS

hahahaha

(the link that michael posted above is from Feb 2015)
Edited by mcnooj82 - 9/24/17 at 6:23pm
post #6 of 21
Milius strikes me as an instinctual writer, someone who knows how to tell a story without using beat sheets, outlines and -- gasp -- three act structure. His scripts still arrive at the same story events because he unconsciously knows where everything's supposed to go.
post #7 of 21
Which immediately makes him better than me. :-(
post #8 of 21
Every writer has his own process, Johnny.
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JacknifeJohnny View Post

I've posted that before, maybe in the last year I think. Good interview.

 

Mea culpa. 

post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post

Every writer has his own process, Johnny.

I know, and I mostly like mine, but I admire his.
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by JacknifeJohnny View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post

Every writer has his own process, Johnny.
I know, and I mostly like mine, but I admire his.
Yeah, some people just have the kind of natural instinct other people in their field would kill to possess.

Still, if you actually have a process and work on figuring out where stuff goes in your story, what your story even is, and what stuff needs to be added and what stuff should be cut, instead of blindly Mad Libs-ing your way through some fucking prefab outline guidebook somebody else wrote for clueless executives to buy into because they want a magic formula that makes up for their total inability to either learn how storytelling works or put their trust in someone who does, you're a leg up on 90% of the screenwriters in modern Hollywood.
post #12 of 21
That Milius doc is great. I wasn't aware of his stroke when I started watching it, and kept wondering why it almost seemed like it was posthumous when the guy was still alive, since he doesn't appear in interviews during most of it. Before the reveal I had just come to the conclusion that he just didn't cooperate with the production... Anyhow, a stroke has to be particularly tough for a guy like Milius; he seemed to be improving at the end of the doc and I wonder how he's doing now. I really wish he'd gotten to make his King Conan picture-- it seems like such a no-brainer with an aged Arnold.

I think he's absolutely right, by the way. Yes, a good story in most cases will have character progression and a beginning, middle and end. But a lot of this stuff has become way too codified in the last couple of decades with the rash of instructional literature. Hitting the formula, I suspect, has become a substitute for quality in many cases, which is why we see some writers continue to fail upward.
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradito View Post

His scripts still arrive at the same story events because he unconsciously knows where everything's supposed to go.

That sounds right. It's very likely that Milius has a deeply internal understanding of something that new writers, as well as the suits he's talking about, read on a checklist.
post #14 of 21

I was under the impression Milius had recovered?

post #15 of 21
When you listen to the Conan commentary from 2010 or 2012 you can infer that his health isn't great.

It's nice to see that he's still around to see the love the younger generation has for him, just like his peers - and unlike many high-falutin' movie critics over the decades. I was maybe one of five people in the theatre to see Flight of the Intruder opening night. Didn't think it would be the last Milius film I would see in the theatres.
post #16 of 21

Oh... that commentary track was from 2000.

post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subotai View Post

I was maybe one of five people in the theatre to see Flight of the Intruder opening night. Didn't think it would be the last Milius film I would see in the theatres.


The two made-for-TV films (MOTORCYCLE GANG and ROUGH RIDERS) that followed FLIGHT are both pretty great, and I wish there was more about them in the documentary.

post #18 of 21

Milius didn't lean on his friendship with Spielberg and Lucas (AKA: the most powerful guys in showbiz) to get more films made after Flight of the Intruder. Nothing wrong had he done so... but gotta respect that he ultimately didn't.

 

As the story goes, he had a development deal at Warner Brothers (circa late 80's/early 90's) and on a regular basis would throw pizza parties at his office. And would always invite (despite the objections of... pretty much everyone else) this hyper-active movie nut named Quentin Tarantino. Took him under his wing and mentored him pre-Reservoir Dogs. Even gave him WWII books to read when he finally decided to make Inglorious Basterds.

 

He was the only absent party from the awesome Milius documentary and that was due to his schedule on Django Unchained. Would have loved to hear from him.

post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by FilmNerdJamie View Post

Milius didn't lean on his friendship with Spielberg and Lucas (AKA: the most powerful guys in showbiz) to get more films made after Flight of the Intruder. Nothing wrong had he done so... but gotta respect that he ultimately didn't.

As the story goes, he had a development deal at Warner Brothers (circa late 80's/early 90's) and on a regular basis would throw pizza parties at his office. And would always invite (despite the objections of... pretty much everyone else) this hyper-active movie nut named Quentin Tarantino. Took him under his wing and mentored him pre-Reservoir Dogs. Even gave him WWII books to read when he finally decided to make Inglorious Basterds.

He was the only absent party from the awesome Milius documentary and that was due to his schedule on Django Unchained. Would have loved to hear from him.

I'm out of rep at the moment, but this is delightful and my day is better for the fact that I learned it.
post #20 of 21

Apparently, Spielberg called Milius on location of Saving Private Ryan (while filming the D-Day opening) and said, "Guess what I'm doing right now? KILLING NAZIS!"

post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malmordo View Post


The two made-for-TV films (MOTORCYCLE GANG and ROUGH RIDERS) that followed FLIGHT are both pretty great, and I wish there was more about them in the documentary.

Rough Riders certainly makes you wish it was on the big screen.

Motorcycle Gang was written by a great writer named Kent Anderson, author of Sympathy for the Devil and Night Dogs. In Night Dogs he thanks Milius, among others. I think Milius was maybe in line to adapt one of the novels at one point.
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