“Never-ever-ever write a screenplay adapted from intellectual property to which you do NOT own the rights!!!”
It’s the very fist admonition of screenwriting gurus to yon hopeful peons when discussing the many spiky pitfalls of penciling a biopic for the big screen.
Did I mention I’m terrible at doing what I’m told?
Bad, Gohsy! Bad!
So, wha’d I go and do?
Couple years ago, I wrote a biopic based on Ernest Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir A Moveable Feast.
I been sitting on it for obvious or not-so-obvious reasons but, frankly, my biological clock is winding down and I’d like someone to read the damn thing before they send me to that big discount crematorium in the sky. Or maybe it’s located in East Lansing.
I know. I know.
- No agent will touch me with a ten-foot pole.
- No director will look at the script with a ten-foot monocle.
- No Prodco will cliché me with ten-foot overused metaphorical devices.
- And Patty Duke still won’t return my letters.
Yah. Yah. Yah.
So why’d I do it?
I love this book.
No, I mean I love this book.
You love your grandma and your first born and the way it tickles your wee-wee when you speed over hills … but I LOVE this book.
I know it backward and forward. Upwards and downwards. Heretofore and theretofore. Every nuance. Every seemingly minor detail that turned out to be a not-so-minor detail. Every seemingly odd inclusion that was really the author’s way of saying, “Hey, this is who I really am … if anybody cares to know it!”
Am I overselling it? Shit. I’m overselling it.
Look, fictional bartender in my mind who I’m probably gonna refer to as “Mac” once I’ve had enough cheap bourbon, I’ll never get to Paris.
I’ll never buy a copy of Tropic of Cancer from Shakespeare & Co. and read it aloud to all zee horrified mécènes as they gasp Frenchilly at the Place de la Contrescarpe while sipping le horrible overpriced and way too strong decaf cappuccino.
I’ll never get to punch Ford Maddox Ford in his big stinky mustache, that “well-clothed upended hogshead.”
But by god I have this book.
Every rain-drenched cobblestone.
Every sunrise goatherder bringing fresh buckets of milk to the fresh-faced mothers of freshly liberated Paris. Viva la France!
Every cold frothy distingué.
Every plate of French potato salad.
Whatever the hell that is. [And probably has too much mayo in it like they’re immune to heart disease or something.] Be afraid to eat cheese, you smug bastards!
And out of fear of what so many others have chosen to focus on in Hemingway’s life and writings—blah-blah-misogyny, blah-blah-toxic masculinity, blah-blah that mustache is ridiculous—I decided to do nothing more than transpose the most interesting and genuine elements of the book into a movie script.
My mission was neither lionization nor vilification … but purely magnification.
I wanted to take all those lovely sights and smells, textures and tastes, and transport the viewer to the post-WWI Paris of the 1920s.
This is for those who love Papa, for those who adore Paris.
To that end, I wrote the screenplay very much as the book is written: a man enamored of a place and time, regaling listeners with fond memories as he strolls the hallowed halls of his mind, with its steaming streets and smoky chimneys.
Anyway, anyone interested in reading my 84-page spec script can do so at the link below. While it’s only 84 pages, there would be enough montages and establishing shots of Gay Paree to bump it up to at least the 90-minute mark.
If you’d like to read more than the 10-page sample, email: benjamingohs at gmail dot com with promises of riches or, at the very least, assurances I won’t be sued by the Hemingway estate.
My favorite biopics?
There are so many great biographical movies, and prolly just as many bad ones.
But, here are a few of my favs. Granted, some more biographical than others:
Ed Wood, Papa [Hemingway in Cuba], Amadeus, Shirley, American Splendor, Can You Ever Forgive Me, Trumbo, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, All is True, Mr. Turner, At Eternity’s Gate, Pollock, Mrs. Lowry & Son, Final Portrait, Erin Brockovich, The Elephant Man, Walk The Line, and—yes—even JFK.