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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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LAFF: Diablo Cody Debunks Her Myth & Dustin Lance Black Dishes Eastwood

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent


Diablo Cody summed up being a female screenwriter in Hollywood at yesterday's LAFF Screenwriter Panel in two sentences. Ready? "If someone (in the press) says 'your legs are fat,' it's not going to help you write. That kind of criticism, that's what happens when you're a lady."

She was on a panel with Josh Olson (HISTORY OF VIOLENCE), Dustin Lance Black (MILK) and the co-writers of CAPTAIN AMERICA, Chris Markus and Stephen McFeely, who are also co-credited on all three NARNIA movies.

"Our first agent kept wanting us to write talking dog movies," Markus said. "We said NO! Then we got NARNIA, where all the animals talk." McFeely finished his writing partners' thought with, "And they wouldn't even let us include a dog. We tried to."

Diablo Cody's next film, with Jason Reitman directing, is called YOUNG ADULT and will be out shortly.  "YOUNG ADULT is going to be a real departure from what people might expect from Jason. I hope I'm not bringing him down into a spiral."

Cody also expressed anguish about her TV series "United States of Tara" being canceled. "I'm really pissed it's not coming back for Season 4. I'm really crushed too."

The legend of Diablo Cody -- that she wrote one script, and BAM, she was an Oscar winning superscribe to the stars who could do no wrong -- is not entirely true. JENNIFER'S BODY, Cody's JUNO Follow-up, with the unsinkable Megan Fox, that somehow sank. Call it tuition. Or, the cost of being a creative writer in the business.

"It's not that I don't want to be a sell-out (in Hollywood). I would love too. It's just that I don't have that skills set... You have (studio) people telling you 'the character needs to be less of a whore.'"

Cody admitted she does best when she "writes on spec," not for money up front and not by studio executive assignment, like with JUNO. "

"Every time I've been a hired gun -- I completely fail at it. I've had a lot of trouble working in the studio system. I feel like there's a noose around my neck."

Dustin Lance Black, also an Oscar-winner like Cody, said "MILK was a spec script. You didn't get paid, you had to figure out how to survive... we kept MILK at IMAGINE as long as we could; my trick is always avoiding studio notes."

Black's next film is J. EDGAR, a biopic based on American FBI Honcho J. Edgar Hoover starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Naomi Watts. It is directed by the man whose legacy might turn out to be bigger than Hoover's, Clint Eastwood.

Dustin Lance Black joked "with Clint Eastwood, he doesn't even let the writer make changes, even when he is begging to make changes!"

J. EDGAR is in post-production at the moment, and Dustin is scheduled to see a screening of a rough cut in about a week. "I'm excited. It's Clint Eastwood."

Stephen McFeely and Chris Markus are probably two of the funniest writing partners in person working in Hollywood. On their first script? "By page 60 we started making fun of it!" "There are 12 of every idea," Markus quipped, "we got sent 3 Judy Garlands and 2 Jackie Gleasons. we could have become the biopic guys."

"We want to do something dark," Markus added, "where there is not a lot of hope," which would be the reverse of NARIA in other words, "where the animals all see the light."

Josh Olson got him with "but you're Hope Merchants. Merchants of Hope. That's what you do."

"I don't have the biggest well of hope," Markus huffed, in a funny way that only a man who writes dialogue for talking animals can muster.

LAFF Composer panel is next up, and today Quincy Jones is slated to appear in a tribute to the late great director Sidney Lumet (1924-2011), whose birthday is June 25.

Stay tuned.

# # #


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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

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