I just saw the news that author and screenwriter William Goldman died today. He was the screenwriter for such classics as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, and The Princess Bride.
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, stories and partial novels mostly. Back in 2003 (at the age of 37 which, now that I think of it, is a little beyond being a kid) I decided to teach myself screenwriting. I bought a copy of the Final Draft software, a couple of books on screenwriting, and went to work on a screenplay about a death row inmate who gets a final conjugal visit from a prostitute hired by his brother. That screenplay went through several drafts and several different endings before I shelved it. During this time, I made my one and, to date, only trip to Los Angeles to attend the 2003 Screenwriting Expo. One of the featured speakers there was William Goldman.
I listened to his presentation with great interest. He was, after all, one of the screenwriting giants, and I had read his books about the movie business Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell. The thing I remembered most about his session was that he said there were only two writing projects of his that he can look back on with any kind of sense of pride, that he felt he had done the best job he could. The first of these was the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The second was both the novel and the screenplay The Princess Bride. As a writer who struggles with feelings of inadequacy regarding my own writing, hearing someone with his tremendous body of work say that he was only really satisfied with two things really had an impact on me.
After the session was over, I made my way to one of the men’s room in the Los Angeles Convention center. I was alone at the bank of urinals when someone stepped up and started using one to my right. I glanced over long enough to determine that William Goldman himself was taking a whiz right next to me. The fanboy in me went into overdrive. There was so much I wanted to ask him, about the production of Butch Cassidy, Andre the Giant in Princess Bride, adapting Stephen King novels for the screen, but I couldn’t say anything. We were in the men’s room doing our private business after all. So, I finished up and washed my hands. I left without uttering a word to him. I have always wished that I had said something…