Writers penning stories about writers is not a rarity in the world of film and tv. While some may criticize this as being a bit lazy and arguably pretentious on the part of the writer, it is a narrative device that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The effectiveness of these portrayals vary. Sometimes depictions of writers are endlessly fascinating to people, while other times people could care less about watching someone sit in a room and transcribe the conversations that take place in their head. It generally hinges on the level of interest the viewers have with the author in question.
Personally, the last thing I want to write fiction about is writing. I’d rather spare people the not so interesting ins and outs of my writing process in favor of exploring something more fantastical. But what about you? As a writer, what do you think of the way writers are depicted in film/tv? Do you find them completely unrealistic, at least as far as the majority of authors go? Do people think you’re wealthy beyond belief because of these depictions? Do they expect you to pick up the tab because of Californication? Do they expect you to arrive to book signings in a helicopter because of Castle?
It seems that most films tend to favor unrealistic depictions of writers. One of the more outstanding examples is John Cusack’s character in the forgettable two and a half hour explosion that was 2012. Cusack’s character Jackson Curtis lives in a fairly sizable house in LA despite being recently divorced, apparently out of work (he might drive a limo? I forget) and a bit of a mope. He identifies himself as an out of work writer who penned this great science fiction novel that no one read. Despite not seeming to do any other writing outside of said book, he lives comfortably off the massive royalties from the twelve people that bought his book. This seems like a bit of a stretch unless his book jacket was made of diamonds and each copy sold for $100,000. But in retrospect, Cusack’s occupational discrepancy is still probably the most realistic thing in that movie.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t rock star writers out there that don’t live like royalty, but the truth is that they represent a very small minority of the writing community. And even then, most of the vastly successful writers like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman hardly strike me as extravagant or excessive personalities. So, this begs the question, is there really a Rick Castle or Hank Moody out there in real life or are the really wealthy writers just recluses who spend their millions on expensive scotch and alimony payments?
Notable portrayals of writers in film/tv:
David Duchovny as Hank Moody in Californication
Nathan Fillion as Rick Castle in Castle
John Turturro as Barton Fink in Barton Fink
Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey in Secret Window
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining
Emma Thompson as Karen Eiffel in Stranger Than Fiction
John Cusack as Jackson Curtis in 2012
Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp in Wonder Boys
Nicholas Cage as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation
Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love
Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade in Quills
Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath in Sylvia
James Caan as Paul Sheldon in Misery
William Holden as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard
Woody Allen as Harry Block in Deconstructing Harry
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in Capote
Thomas McCarthy as Scott Templeton in The Wire
Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass
Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums
Ben Stiller as Jerry Stahl in Permanent Midnight
Albert Brooks as Steven Phillips in The Muse
John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven
Dianne Wiest as Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters
Everyone trying to kill Tim Robbins in The Player