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BPS 184: Being Blindsided, Oscar® and Blockbuster Directing with John Lee Hancock

I have an epic conversation in store for you all today. Our guest is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, filmmaker, John Lee Hancock. While working as a lawyer by day back in 1986, John moonlighted as a screenwriter, writing script after script. His spec script A Perfect World caught the eye of Steven Spielberg and eventually was directed by Clint Eastwood

After that success, he went on to direct the crowd-pleasing The Rookie.

A true story about a coach who discovers that it’s never too late for dreams to come true. Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) never made it out of the minor leagues before a shoulder injury ended his pitching career twelve years ago. Now a married-with-children high-school chemistry teacher and baseball coach in Texas, Jim’s team makes a deal with him: if they win the district championship, Jim will try out with a major-league organization.

After the box-office success of The Rookie, John tackled the epic story of The Alamo.

A semi-historical account of the standoff at an abandoned mission during the Texas fight for independence. The Texans, led by Colonel Travis, managed to temporarily hold off the Mexican army of Santa Anna. The Texans were outnumbered 183 to 2000 and eventually succumbed. After the fall of the Alamo, General Sam Houston led another group of Texans against Santa Ana’s army in San Jacinto where they defeated the Mexican army, which eventually led to an independent Texas.

Hancock’s famous five-year hiatus comeback film, The Blind Side, an adaptation of Micheal Lewis’s 2006 book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game yield and performed outstandingly. The film received countless major awards nominations including an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and a win for Best Actress for Sandra Bullock.

The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All-American football player and first-round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

The Blind Side went on to make $309.2 million internationally on a $29 million budget. Not too bad.

Just this year, Hancock released his latest HBO Max neo-noir crime thriller, The Littel Things, starring Academy Award winners and heavyweights Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, and Jared Leto.

Kern County Deputy Sheriff Joe Deacon is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment. Instead, he becomes embroiled in the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing the city.

John also tackled bring the legendary Walt Disney to the big screen in Saving Mr. Banks starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.
Author P.L. Travers travels from London to Hollywood as Walt Disney adapts her novel Mary Poppins for the big screen.

The Highwaymen bring John together Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson to the tale that follows the untold true story of the legendary lawmen who brought down Bonnie and Clyde. When the full force of the FBI and the latest forensic technology aren’t enough to capture the nation’s most notorious criminals, two former Texas Rangers must rely on their gut instincts and old-school skills to get the job done.

I had a ball talking with John about filmmaking, how he almost broke Steven Spielberg’s Rosebud prop from Citizen Kane when they first met, and so much more. He really goes into detail about his creative process, how he was able to navigate Hollywood, how to deal with the highs and lows of the business and so much more.

Enjoy my conversation with John Lee Hancock.

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Alex Ferrari 0:29
I like to welcome to the show John Lee Hancock, how you doing, John?

John Lee Hancock 4:36
I'm doing great. Alex, how are you?

Alex Ferrari 4:38
I'm doing great. Thank you so much for doing this. I've been a big fan of your stuff for a while. And I reached out to you because I wanted to talk to you about your process and and you're in your filmography and how you do stuff cuz you've done. You've been able to write some amazing like perfect, the perfect world. I love that when it came out. I was just like, blown away by that and And a lot of the other writing you've done, but also your directing and how you trance trance transition from screenwriting to directing and and how you've been able to kind of jump back and forth and stuff. So we're gonna get into the weeds a little bit about about what you do, if you don't mind.

John Lee Hancock 5:17
No, no, ask away.

Alex Ferrari 5:19
So first, first things first, how did you get into the business?

John Lee Hancock 5:24
Wow, like, like most people, it was circuitous. And you know, I started off as a lawyer in Houston, Texas. practice law for about three years I've been writing for a good long while but started bawling. Houston started writing screenplays. And I had a screenplay that got accepted to a Sundance Institute satellite program in Austin, Texas over a weekend or something. And thought, Well, you know, maybe I have enough talent, somebody thought so and moved to Los Angeles, get every odd job in town to try to, you know, pay the bills and have time to write, had a theatre company. I wrote and directed plays for friends who were actors, and just kept writing screenplays. And then, you know, lo and behold, a perfect world with Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner got made. And that's kind of that's that was the project that kind of launched you into into your career. Yeah, yeah. And I had other stuff before that. It was one little tiny movie I did. I think it is $100 movie or something. But it was but on purpose, a straight to video movie. And so I don't really count that that didn't put put me way ahead. I wouldn't say but it's called a perfect world, then I've been working ever since.

Alex Ferrari 6:42
So I wanted to go back a little bit farther back for a second. Is it true that you were a PA on my, my demon lover?

John Lee Hancock 6:50
Yes, that was my first credit. I was a PA on, you know, for commercials and HBO was just starting out. And so I met met other pa 's and met producers and things like that. And the opportunity to be a PA on that movie in both LA and New York. I took after that I figured out we just do pa work on commercials because it took me away from writing for too long.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Right? Exactly. Not on that on that show specifically, was there anything you took away any major lesson? Because I remember doing pa work when I first started out and I realized really, really early. This sucks. And I don't want to wake up at three o'clock in the morning to set up cones.

John Lee Hancock 7:34
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. I had one of those. I think it was in Washington Square Park at 3am. As usual, when it was not a good neighborhood. And as you go out there to talk to the crack dealers off their corners.

Alex Ferrari 7:51
Yeah, shooting here today. Can you move your crack dealing down a block? That was really appreciate that.

John Lee Hancock 7:56
Yeah, exactly. And shooting an alphabet city before it was gentrified? You know? And there's a lot I mean, people peeing on you from their windows and you know, ever.

Alex Ferrari 8:11
Oh, New York.

John Lee Hancock 8:12
I love New York. But yeah, like you, I decided that I didn't want to have a like in production, and do a lot of PhDs who have continued on and then they became first IDs and ups and things like that. But they were more cut out for it. I liked the process, but I didn't want to have a life of that.

Alex Ferrari 8:32
Exactly. Now, your first film hard time romance, which was that $100,000 straight up? How did you get that off the ground? And how did that whole project come to be? Because I mean, it is your first time.

John Lee Hancock 8:44

Alex Ferrari 8:45
Directing on set and it is a big thing. I know. It's not your big break, but it's like your first time doing it.

John Lee Hancock 8:50
Yeah, we my Theatre Company, one of the one of our friends and our Theatre Company was Brandon Lee, who was Bruce Lee sunny and tragically, I don't set and who makes an appearance in the little things, but I will get to that.

Alex Ferrari 9:08
I think he does. Yeah, okay. You'll tell me where it is. I think I remember seeing him but

John Lee Hancock 9:12
yeah. But Brandon, we were good friends. And he would read everything I wrote. And I wrote that script, which I called via canvas. And they changed it to hard time romance. I don't know why. But anyway, I wrote the script. And he was dating a girl at the time who worked for a company in the valley that did straight to video movies. And this was before DVDs before blockbuster even but there were video stores. And so all those video stores had empty shelves. And people were really taken with the idea that they could go actually rent the movie and watch it that night and bring it back and so she smartly set up a company that would do little movies, sometimes using stock footage that she would buy Have a car crash or something and then you know bought go buy that the Nova that crashed, go buy a nova painted the same color and you've got a medically got a set piece that you don't have to pay for. So it was it was that kind of a deal. But anyway, yeah, we shot in Las Cruces. And so anyway, so I, so Brandon gave the script along, the producer said that she wanted to do it. And they were gonna pay me something I was wasn't in the Writers Guild, yet I forget what they were gonna pay me. Maybe it was $1,000 or something for the script. And then they were trying to find a director and I raised my hand and said, you know, I'd really I've been directing theater, but I'd really love to direct film. And so she said, okay, but I'm not going to pay you for that. And I was like, that's fine. You don't have to. So we we cast it, it was Mariska Hargitay, one of her very first roles. Friends, Leon Rippy, who's and Tom Everett, who are character actors who have worked all the time. We're both in it. And we went to Las Cruces, New Mexico, because we had some kind of a deal there. And I don't remember how many days we shot. Maybe it was 20, I don't remember. But I do remember, we would routinely lose locations. So we would be at a location in an alley or something. And I'm out there with the actors trying to block the scene. And also we're using we have a very specific amount of film. And so we're using short ends and things like that and go, Okay, this scene takes 27 seconds, do we have enough film in the in the roll on this yet or not? And all those kind of things. So you really had to turn into a math problem almost every day. But you'd be out there working with the actors, and he would come the producer, who says we're leaving, we're going to the next location. I said, Well, what about we're gonna come back to this one. It's like, Nope, it's gone. Take it out of the script. I said, but what about all the stuff that happens in the scene that's important, nobody will be able to make sense of this. And she goes, you'll figure it out. So yeah, I would have to take bad exposition, and, you know, kind of campus diddly, stick it into another scene. So it turned into kind of a really bad version of Days of Our Lives with somebody saying, remember last week when Bruce went to the hospital? But yeah, so that was that was that? We finished the movie, I got locked out of the editing room, because I had too many I had too many ideas. And then I think they let me back in at the end. But you know, it's, it's perfectly fine, I guess. But

Alex Ferrari 12:38
no, look, we all go through that, that we all go through those. Does that mean? Look, I've heard so many stories just like yours? Like, I'll do it for free? Yeah, you have no control. And you're killing yourself to do it. But at the end of the day, you got your first movie made? And you can I promise I can only imagine the volumes of stuff you learned on the in those 20 days.

John Lee Hancock 13:01
Yeah, I just every day was was learning just from the, from the, from the nomenclature to the way people talk on sets, to ways to work around problems. I mean, every day was, you know, it was me under the gun.

Alex Ferrari 13:16
Exactly. And that's I always I always tell filmmakers, look, throw yourself into the deep end of the pool, you are going to learn much more than in a classroom. I mean, you could learn about it in a book all day. But until you're in the fire, that's when you really really learn

John Lee Hancock 13:30
true, absolutely true.

Alex Ferrari 13:32
Now you you kind of started your directing, would you start your career in the business really, as a writer, that kind of what kind of launched you into the career and you did this? You wrote this amazing script called the perfect world for a little unknown director called Clint Eastwood at the time. How did that whole like was that a spec script? How did that work?

John Lee Hancock 13:53
Yeah, I was just an idea I had and I had a, I'd written. Let's see, I'm trying to think exact order of everything happened. But I but I just came up with an idea for it and wrote it. I mean, I outlined it for probably six months and then wrote it very, very quickly. I had it all kind of laid out and wrote it in a real writing jag spit most of the time writing it over house with pies in Los filas you know, because nobody was before Los Angeles was really cool and hip. And so Starbucks

Alex Ferrari 14:28
and Starbucks wasn't around just yet.

John Lee Hancock 14:30
No Starbucks or somebody said it was the Dupree back los vieles and Beastie Boys. Yeah. So uh, you know, by seven o'clock at night, that place was empty and I could go in there and stay three or four hours and and work and they would keep refilling my coffee cup and and on like that. But yeah, I wrote it and, and had I was a pocket client of an agent. By that point. Her name is Rhonda Gomez and Rhonda gave the script To her if the time had, I had friends, I think Leon rippy knew some people that had German money. You know, there's all these different waves of money. This is money coming from China's money coming from Germany's money can. And there was a wave of that happening in the late 80s. And so I met with a producer, financier, a German fellow, and he seemed interested in letting me directed. And, and that I was interested in that it wasn't, you know, either way. But Rhonda read it and she said, Look, here's the thing, the German money may or may not be real. But the one thing I know is you need to get inside the walls. And this was one was a very traditional studio system. So you need to get inside the walls. And this, we toss this script over the wall, and I promise you, you'll be inside magically. Because she said, it's a really good, it's a really good script. And I'm not saying it'll get made, but it'll certainly put you on people's radar. So and she said, you know, and then you can, you can direct something else. But let's, let's just play this out. I said, Okay, so she sent it to five producers over the weekend, and told them and knew them all, and said to each of them, don't have this cover, read it yourself. And by Monday morning, I had five meetings set up of the five, only one Mark Johnson, who at that time was partners with Barry Levinson in Baltimore pictures wanted to make the movie wanted to option it option, the script. And the others were we love this script. We're not sure we can get it made. But is there anything else you want to do? Or we've got these three books we on the rights to would you do on read them and see if there any of them interest you? So immediately, I had I got work and was inside the walls. And then you know, it started out being something that it was a script, Mark had the script and was passing it around to different people and stuff like that. And everybody the word spread that it was a good script. And Steven Spielberg came up to mark and their friends and said, I hear you've got a great script, and you haven't sent it to me, how come? And and Mark said, well, it's it's a little it has its there's a little bit of Sugarland express in it. So I just didn't think you'd be interested. And he said, Well, let me read it, and he read it. And so the next thing at all, Mark and I are going over to Steven Spielberg's house for lunch. And even though

Alex Ferrari 17:29
So, stop right there, I just got it. Yeah, let's take this slowly. What is it like? That's a young, unknown screenwriter to be invited over to Steven Spielberg house at the height, arguably the height of his powers.

John Lee Hancock 17:42
Yeah, we'll one the option check. hadn't quite it takes a while. I mean, they you know Baltimore pictured option it or got got Warner Brothers to option it for them. I can't remember what the deal was. But it takes sometimes, you know, four to six weeks to get the check. So I was still doing pa work, even though I said no, I promise you I optioned the script and the Oh, yeah, right. Yeah, sure. Go get my coffee. And, and so I had to, you know, I still had was taking meetings and things like that around town. And I told my I told Rhonda, my agent, I said, if you can ever make meetings, lunches, that's 10 times better for me because I get a free meal out of it. Because I was really broke. And so she would she would try to get lunches in. And so anyway, Mark called and said, Do you want to have have lunch on Saturday? And I said, Yeah, sure. Let's just do it. Because we're going to Spielberg's house, and I Oh, wow. And I'd never met Stephen. And so went over there. And when we got there, we got to the house and got in there. And Kate was there with some of the kids and, and Steven was out at jack in the box with his son, which was the weirdest thing to me thinking about Stephens field, we're pulling through jack in the box. But so he was gone. And I'm there. And I'm talking to Kate, and she's from Texas, and I'm from Texas. And so it's getting really relaxed. It's you know, there's kids and dogs and all that good stuff. It's just a normal great house. Great, great house, we get me wrong, but still it was very comfortable. And at one point, I was leaning, I was laughing and leaned back in my chair against the wall. And I felt something start to fall on my head. And I go, I put my hands back up and it was kind of a Lucite in, you know, box of sorts, but it was huge. It was something mounted on the wall that was coming down and I was holding it. And I turned my head around the sea. And it was rosebud. And I go oh my god was not rosebud. Yes. Oh my god. I you know, I almost just destroyed the most important piece of American cinema memorabilia. And

Alex Ferrari 19:56
for everyone listening Rosebud has not seen Citizen Kane rose, but is a very Important artifact out of Citizen Kane. And Steven Spielberg has purchased that rose. But

John Lee Hancock 20:06
yes, Mark Johnson making a joke said they burned the door. They burned the best one. That was the second. So don't worry about it.

Alex Ferrari 20:14
That's amazing. But,

John Lee Hancock 20:16
but at that time I saw a hand up on it. And here comes Steven in. And he I see him and I'm trying to hold this thing up. I look and he goes pretty cool, huh? And I said, Rosebud. It's it was, so they were often running from there.

Alex Ferrari 20:32
It was surreal to say the least.

John Lee Hancock 20:36
It was in Steven said, I love your script. Do you? What do you do in the next two weeks? We I want to go through it with you. There may be some little stuff we want to adjust. But I want to do this. And do it fast. Because I've got another movie that I'm scheduled to do a dinosaur movie, which became Jurassic Park, yes. But he said I've, I've got a start date for that. But ILM is never going to be ready. I know it's going to get pushed. So I'll have time to fit into the movie. And I'd love to do this one. And I said, Okay, um, he just come over here every day. And we'll work said, Okay, that's it. That's that works for me. So and then then by the end said, Tell you what, though, let me double check with ILM. You know, just to make sure, because if they're going to be ready, I can't push this down the road, it's got to start if we're ready to start, there's a lot of money behind it, and said, Okay, I get it. So for about a week, I didn't hear anything. And then, and then Stephen came back and said ILM said they're going to be ready. And so I have to do it. Now at this point, it would, everybody knew that there was interest from Stephen around town in this and he wanted to do this, it could have easily become Stephen was going to do this, but thought better at it, or changed his mind. And instead, Steven did me a solid, he kind of let everyone know that this was a movie he really, really wanted to make, but was unable to because of schedule. You know, and there's a big difference between the two. So thank you, Steven. During that time, people were sending me stuff, like I said, books and things like that. And Clint Eastwood had Warner Brothers option, a book that he was interested in directing. And he said, so you know, send it out to some writers and see if anybody's got to take on it. So they sent me the book, I don't even remember what the book was called. But at the same time, they sent the script to perfect world, the clent. To read, as you know, here's the here's this guy, john, he's cheap. He's a sample. Yeah, we've been getting cheap. And you know, and he's not bad. So quit read the script and goes, forget about the book, what's going on with the script? And, and they said, well, Stevens, you know, going to do it, because, well, if anything changes, let me know. So when Steven called and said he couldn't do it. The next thing I know, I'm over clouds office, you know, and he, we were talking about it, and he said something that made me know that he was the right guy for it when he said, totally, it kind of reminds me of lonely are the brave, which is, you know, a great movie, Kirk Douglas. And I thought, Oh, he gets this, he gets this. So you know, the next thing you know, you know, he's gonna do it. He's got to go off and do a movie with Wolfgang Petersen first before he's going to direct this he's acting about to start acting in the movie in the modifier. Yeah. In a line of fire with john malkovich. Yeah. So anyway, we've got a little got a little time before we're gonna start. But he he, one day, he calls when you call when you would call, when Clint would call, it wouldn't be an assistant on the phone saying, Are you available to talk to Clint Eastwood? You know, the phone would ring and this is before cell phones. The phone would ring and you'd answer ego. JOHN got out. It's quiet. It's called. So amazing. Yeah. And so he calls he goes, because you when he said, your body doing anything Saturday morning, and I said, No. And he goes, I got somebody, an actor I want you to meet. And I said, Okay, and I thought for a second, I'm going to ask, I want to ask who it is, but I thought if he wanted me to know, he would tell me so fine. So on Saturday, I've been to the Warner Brothers lot several times. I've always been during the week when everybody was there, and all the gates were open. So I knew kind of where my pastor was. I'd never I'd been there once to meet with collapse.

But they took us in on a Saturday I had to go through an odd gate and park in a weird place. And I remember it was very warm that day, and I gave myself plenty of time to get there and park and all that. But it took so long at the gate to get through it took you know then the parking and then trying to figure out where I'm gonna pass it was and no one was there. Round to ask, right? So I'm racing, running, sweating all over Warner Brothers lot on a Saturday trying to find malpaso. And the meeting was supposed to be at, let's say, 10am. And I walked in the door at 1004, or something, you know, sweating and everything else. And I look in there in the lobby of malpaso is Clint sitting with Kevin Costner who at the time is the biggest movie star in the world. And I just remember looking at them all sweaty, and saying something my dad would always say, from taxes. I said, if this isn't $1 waiting on a dime, I don't know what is. And they. And they laugh. Yeah. Mike judge actually use that because I told that story once before. And Mike judge came up to me years later and said, I owe you an apology. And I said, Why? He said, I stole one of your lines and put it in King of the Hill. And I said, Oh, my God would be so happy.

Alex Ferrari 25:58
Great, great line. So yeah, so Clint, you know, it sounds like you're still paying at this point.

John Lee Hancock 26:06
Yeah, by this point, that option checking had had been wanting to sit down and, and go through the script with me, because he had, he said, I've got some notes. And I thought, okay, and I thought nobody's gonna try to do, I was like, my fear was that he was going to try to soften his character, who is it was named Bush, that he was going to make bush more lovable and nice, because you know, Kevin's a big movie star. And bush was kind of an angry, dark, interesting, complicated guy. And so my fear was that Kevin was going to get in and try to soften the edges on bush. But the first day, he said, I don't want to do anything with Bush, I love Bush, because I want to build up the Texas Ranger a little bit more, because I want Clint to play that role. And because at the time, Clint was saying, I think I'll get Robert Duvall or somebody to do it, you know, and now I'll just direct it. But Kevin really wanted Clint in the in the movie and being fantastic, of course. But I think more than anything, the one of the reasons was, he wanted a poster with his with his face and crunchbase on it, you know, which is the little boy and Kevin that I love. He's honest about it, too. You know,

Alex Ferrari 27:17
it's like, I just, I just, I just want to be in a movie with Clint Eastwood. I'm sorry. It's still. Yeah, I had conversations with a few people have worked with with Kevin, Kevin Reynolds was on the show. And we talked about Robin Hood and Waterworld and all that stuff. And a few of the directors have worked with Kevin. And he I've heard a ton of Kevin Costner stories and that so makes perfect sense.

John Lee Hancock 27:39
avatar with Kevin Reynolds to Oh,

Alex Ferrari 27:42
it was that.

John Lee Hancock 27:44
His dad, Herb Reynolds with the president of Baylor University where I went to college. And Kevin had been in the same fraternity, and he was older, but he didn't ever know him. But I knew his baby sister, who was about my age or maybe a year younger. And Rhonda Reynolds was it's her name. And anyway, Kevin gone off. And then I think he did, he went out came out to USC. And when he went to law school, as well, yeah. So he went to law school and then decided he wanted to get into film and moved to us went to USC grad school and all that. And I thought, boy, there's my mentor. I can see this, you know, we both went to Baylor, we both went to Baylor law school. We both are, you know, trying to make it in the film business. He's way ahead of me and doing great. But he could be a mentor. So I sent him my cinema script, and sent to his agent. And then Rhonda, probably not asking Kevin gave me Kevin's phone number and gave me Kevin's address, which she shouldn't have ever done.

Alex Ferrari 28:49

John Lee Hancock 28:51
But she knew I was harmless. But still,

Alex Ferrari 28:53
it was a different time. Two, it was what what yours is we're talking about late 80s. Early 90s.

John Lee Hancock 28:58

Alex Ferrari 29:00
Yeah, late 80s. So it was a little bit more innocent time. It's a bit more innocent time.

John Lee Hancock 29:06
This is probably 1987

Alex Ferrari 29:07
Yeah, yeah,

Unknown Speaker 29:08
I was. I was doing pa work. And I just kept you know, and I would call his agent and leave a message like every two or three weeks, you know, any any word back from Kevin and, and then I would call Kevin about you know, once a month or so and just leave a nice message. And one morning at like 7am I get a call as a call on the phone. Answer. And he says is this John? I said yes it is. Because this is Kevin Reynolds. Can I buy you lunch today? And I said absolutely. And so we met it I remember was Nate Now's or some deli in the in the valley or somewhere and we get there and I go this is all coming together perfectly. For me. I love this because I'm gonna have a mentor. He's gonna give me all this great advice. And Kevin can be very precise, Kevin Reynolds And you know, and such a smart, smart, smart guy, and so talented. So I'm a little daunted, but I get there, and we sit down. And he says, We should go ahead and order. Just we can get that out of the way said, Okay, great. And so, you know, he ordered I think I said, I'll have what he's having me now. Make it easy, right? And then he's he said, Okay, what can I do for you? And I said, Well, did you were you able to read my script? And he said, I read 15 pages, which told me all I needed to know with, which is, you're not without talent.

Alex Ferrari 30:41
Just what you want to hear?

John Lee Hancock 30:42
Yeah. But you've got a lot of work to do. And I went, Okay. And he said anything else? And I said, Well, you know, advice, you know, and he said, If I give you advice, where you take it, and I said, Yes, he goes, go back to used in practice law. He said, because, and I also asked him about, you know, a mentor, and he said, doesn't work that way. He said, you get a mentor, when you've got something to add to the equation, right, you know, and he says, just didn't work. Nobody. He goes, look, nobody wants to hear your competition. Why would I want to, you know, why would I want to help you? So I'm going this is the word this is, this is the worst lunch I've ever had. And, and he said, You know, when he said, Go back to Houston, practice law, he said, Because here's the thing, if you'll take the advice of someone you've known for 15 minutes, you're never gonna make it in this town anyway. And if you leave here, after this lunch, and you go to hell with that guy, I'm gonna write 10 pages today. He said, then this was a good lunch. And I went, Okay, and I did, I was kind of angry, angry with him. And but I went and just wrote like, hell, and so it was probably the best lunch I've ever had in Hollywood, the most productive in a way.

Alex Ferrari 32:08
And Kevin is exactly that. He's a very sweet man very intelligent from from when I when I spoke to him. And and he, I could see that I after knowing him for I spoke for almost two hours. I could see that lunch so clearly in my head, because he is precise. And he is, he will tell you, and he's no BS, which I love about him, he tell you, he will tell you straight up, but in many ways he was your one of your greatest mentors without mentoring you.

John Lee Hancock 32:35
Yeah. And it was funny, because then we're cut two years later, and I'm doing perfect world. And I'm sitting, you know, with Kevin in his office over TIG at Warner Brothers. And, and keys, Kevin Reynolds calls him and he puts it on speaker because, you know, I told him I knew I knew Kevin a little bit. And you know, so we're all friends. And I thought, well, this is really cool. He sent me pretty much you're gonna say yeah, I said, Hi, Kevin. And he is now Hi, hi, how are you? And I said, Fine. You know, we're, I'm here with Kevin, we're, we're working on a perfect world. It looks like it's gonna go. And I thought he's gonna go man, you did it. That's so great. That's fantastic. You know how those years back he's went, congratulations. That was it.

Alex Ferrari 33:23
That makes that makes all the sense in the world. That makes all the sense of the world.

John Lee Hancock 33:27
Yeah, but

Alex Ferrari 33:29
great, but no, you know what, but you know, this as well as anybody in this town to get someone who's can't this was candid, and truthful is Yeah, it's extremely rare to find someone like that in this town.

John Lee Hancock 33:42
Yeah, exactly. It's, it's true. Like I said, it was the it was the probably the most important one should I it had early on, you know, it wasn't what I expected. But it drove me to work harder.

Alex Ferrari 33:56
So after perfect after perfect world, then you got another writing assignment midnight in the garden of good and evil, which was also Clint, I'm assuming one thing led to another and Clint hired you to do that as well.

John Lee Hancock 34:07
What was it Clint didn't hire me what happened is it was another producer on the lot. And I was looking at different stuff. To think about what I was going to dap next. And they sent this book over. That was a key member who was in galley, or it had I mean, it hadn't been published yet, I don't think. And they had had troubles. The writer john Baron had troubles with his agent with the book because they didn't know how to sell the book. They said does it go in the travelogue section? Does it go and is it fiction? Is it nonfiction? You know, what is it and so he traded agents and found one that would help him get it get it made. And I read the book and talk to them and I loved the book, the books just masterful. And I and they said you know, it's a shame. No one's ever gonna really read it. And I thought, well, you don't want if we make a movie. Some people will Read it I bet, you know, maybe, but I think it's great. And you know, like when you have a dense, dense book like that, with lots of interesting and colorful and complicated characters, the first thing you have to do is figure out which 60% you're going to exercise. You know, because it's it's a two hour movie, roughly. So anyway, I rolled up my sleeves, said, Yes. wrote a wrote a draft of it. That the producers, the producers liked a lot. And then they were talking about different we're talking about different directors. And I ran into Clint on the lot. And he said, Hey, what are you doing? What are you up to? And I said, I just finished writing the script, you know, for he goes, Well, it's Warner Brothers. I can, yeah, tomorrow. He said, Can I read it? And I said, Sure, because I'm kind of looking for something. So he read it and call me goes, Hey, let's do this. And so all of a sudden, it just upset the applecart in a certain way. Because it was like everybody was one who were going to get the directors and they go, will Clinton doing it? You know, okay, great. Here we go. And there we went. And he was very good to me on on both those movies, because he allowed me to be on the set. And that wasn't something that he had done a lot of,

Alex Ferrari 36:17
right in his in his technique, from what I understand I've ever meeting him or being on set is he's that really short, concise. One, take two take three takes tops kind of guy very laid back non. He's just so comfortable. I mean, he's been on the set.

John Lee Hancock 36:34
Yeah, he is. I mean, john Cusack coined the phrase for him. He called him the Zen daddy. Yeah. And, and that, and that's, and that's clear. I mean, you, you know, I try my best that to emulate kind of how his sets work in terms of I don't, I don't like like, clean. I don't like screaming. I don't like yelling, like running people running around, or, you know, doing that kind of stuff. I mean, I think Clint told me one time because they don't run in hospitals and they're saving lives. You know. So what do we have to run? What a great line.

Alex Ferrari 37:11
That's an that's so but it's so true. And you see all these? I mean, I can't stand working with first ladies who are yellers and screamers. I'm like, if you're yelling and screaming, you obviously don't know what you're doing, in my opinion. Like, it's enough. Yeah, you should, you should be able to do that job without yelling and screaming.

John Lee Hancock 37:27
Yeah, it was a great, it was a great film school for me, because I could just sit there and ask him questions. I didn't want to bug him too much. But he figured that I was not a writer that was going to be an obstructionist, who was going to go Whoa, she's supposed to say, and tomorrow, not tomorrow, you know, I wasn't going to be that person. Right. And then so, so I would ask him questions. But also, importantly, Kevin, who had just won an Academy Award for directing as well, with Dances with Wolves, they both just won in the last three years. So I had two Academy Award winning directors, you know, to talk to. And Kevin said, at one point, before we started, he said, You write like a director. And I said, That didn't sound like a compliment. And he goes, No, I don't I don't mean that. What I mean is you have a very strong visual sense that comes from the pages Do you want to direct? And I said, Yeah, eventually he goes, you should direct this movie. And I said, Well, we get this eastward guy, he just won an Academy Award, I think we should stick with him. And and Kevin said, No, you should prepare to direct it. You know, what, you know, you know, the scenes, you know, what the call sheet says, We're shooting tomorrow, if you'll come up with shot list, or thoughts, and lenses and things like that, I'll talk with you in makeup. In the mornings, you bring your stuff and we'll talk about it. And it was fascinating, because, you know, I'd bring my stuff and and Kevin would go Yeah, I'm with you until here, I would do this differently. Or I would do that differently. And sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I didn't. And then you get to go watch Clint actually direct the scene. And he sometimes it would be like, that's exactly the way I was gonna do it. You know, and other times. It's the opposite of the way I was going to do it. But I think it's better. So this was such a great film school for me between those two guys being so generous.

Alex Ferrari 39:23
Oh my god, that must have been amazing to to basically prep an entire movie directed paper. And then you have two Oscar winning directors to kind of want the bounce off of and the other ones that like watch them do your scene and go Yeah, I was I was I wasn't on the mark on that one. But I was right on the mark on that when he did it exactly the way I'm doing it and it was like, That must have been amazing.

John Lee Hancock 39:47
And sometimes you'd look at it and go, I don't I don't see how this is gonna work the way it should. And then you'd go to dailies right and you get you go. Oh, oh, okay. Yeah, now I get it. Now I

Alex Ferrari 40:00
get it. And that's the genius of Clint, you know,

John Lee Hancock 40:03
yeah. Yeah. And also you we weren't, you know, I was there by camera by him watching this go down. But there aren't any, there aren't any monitors that, you know, sometimes now I'll have a clam or something where he can watch in case there needs to be a timing element or something. But back then it was just sitting and watching. You know, watching the camera move and everything and just watching the actor's eyes. So a lot of times, you know, I would know what lens was on, for instance, or whatever, but it wouldn't be until dailies when I would actually see what was being captured. Right. So it was a great experience.

Alex Ferrari 40:37
Now, when you're writing, do you start with character or plot? Because I know that's a, that's a chicken and egg scenario. A lot of screenwriters start with a plot and then fill it in with characters. A lot of people start with characters and then fill in a plot. How do you start when you're writing other than when you're adapting? Obviously?

John Lee Hancock 40:54
Yeah, I, I usually kind of start with something loose plot, but very quickly thereafter, it becomes about the characters and then let the characters inform the plot. I mean, with a perfect world, it was a weird one, because I had a whole bunch of scripts I was working on and different ideas for script. And one of them was, I was interested in doing a story about an older, older Texas Ranger who's about to retire. And it's the week of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. And, and kind of how that assassination really humbled Texas, it's like, How could this happen here? Why did it have to happen here kind of thing. And to see somebody who was probably in his younger days, more, more sure of himself. And then like, a lot of us when we get older, by the I knew that the last line of the of the of that movie about this Texas Ranger is going to be I don't know nothing, not one damn thing. And that's all I knew. And so I had that when I go, but I'm not sure what the plot is. Then I had another one that was loosely based on. In in, you know, there was a kid who was abducted in our small town in Texas. And you know, so it was with guys who had broken out of prison for like three days, and he was grabbed in the morning, early in the morning. So that had that but I didn't know what to do with it. And then I had growing up I was we lived in I was born in Longview, Texas, in East Texas, and in second grade moved down to the Gulf Coast. But when we were Longview, when we were living in Longview, we were right next to a field with trees and things like that. And my younger brother, Joe, would we have read the first year we the first time we ever got storebought Halloween costume, he got Casper the Friendly Ghost. And he wore it. I mean, he must have been four years old or something. He wore it all the way through the holidays, and into the spring. And my mom finally had to cut off the sleeves to make shorts and short of it because he was worried every day. And so I had this image of him and he would be playing by himself in the Casper the Friendly Ghost outfit running around the field. So I have a Texas Ranger at the end of his career, Casper, the friendly ghost in a field, and a kid who gets abducted. And these were three different things. And they all just and that's why I'm saying it took a long time over the course of six or nine months of me just kind of figuring how they could blend together. And so that was that was the weirdest script I've done. Because that's no way to no way to write a script.

Alex Ferrari 43:32
Yeah, it's that that's definitely the hard way to go about it. Mm hmm. But so I just kind of varies bit by story by story, whether sometimes you'll start with character, sometimes you start with luck, but the loose plot is kind of where you start very loosely.

John Lee Hancock 43:46
Yeah. I mean, when we talk about the little things that can talk about that to us, it's also a story I made up. But it was part part plot and character I knew that I wanted a different third act from a lot of psychological thrillers or, or serial killer movies and things like that, because they tended to be become kind of rote paint by numbers, third Acts where the good guy and the bad guy face off. And the good guy kills the bad guy. And you know, in heroic fashion, and we go, the first two acts were far more interesting. So that was one of the ideas for that. But then I settled in on God and pretty quickly played by Denzel Washington and kind of knew that I wanted to write a movie about Joe Deacon.

Alex Ferrari 44:33
Fair enough. Now. Your first your first feature after that, that nd that you did was the rookie. Now, I've seen the rookie, I don't know how many times I absolutely love the rookie. I love that when it came out and I kept watching and watch. It's just one of those movies that when it's on, I just watch it because it just feels so good because and I and I like it more as I get older. I like I like it a lot more now. My 40s that I did when I was or even in my late 20s, but I still enjoyed it cuz it's just a great Underdog Story. How did you because that's the first jump to a major studio directorial debut? How did you jump from screenwriter to that?

John Lee Hancock 45:15
It's, that's also weird when I mean, because I had movies made and how to deal with Warner Brothers and all that I had different things, I would pitch them and I would pitch myself as I want to direct this one. And so they make a deal. It's a writing directing deal. And they're probably thinking, Well, you know, if the scripts really, really good, and we want somebody else to do it, maybe we can pay him to go away. Or maybe he'll be the right guy for it, you know. So there's, it's, they believed in me, the people at Warner Brothers believed in me and Clint vouched for me and said, Now he's a director, you should give me shots on time. So I was sitting there. So I had a couple of different projects that I was attached to as a writer, director. And I always thought the very first thing i, the first thing, big movie that I directed, would be something that I'd written just because I would have a leg up and know where all the bodies are buried and could be a little lighter on my feet, I felt. So anyway, Mark Johnson, who continues to be a friend, and who produced the little things as well and also produce the rookie, he was brought on to the rookie, as a producer, along with Mark TRD, and Gordon gray, who had initiated the project. And so Mark sent it to me, and he said, Would you do me a favor and read a script? He said, it's and Martin grew up in Spain, and didn't know much about Texas, raising kids like Virginia and Spain, were the two places he had lived his life. And then Los Angeles, of course. But he said, it, I think the scripts are good. But is it authentic? And, you know, the way that people talk? And does it feel like it's a New York version of what they think Texas is, you know, and and I said, Sure, I'll read it. And you know, and I read it and just love microjet scripts so much. And I thought how in the world that this guy from Portland, Oregon, discover West Texas, and show it off in a script in this way. And, and it's because he did tons of research, and we spent a lot of time down there. But so i got i called called Mark back and I said, the scripts fantastic mark, so don't let him screw with it. You know, it's it's very authentic. And he goes, you know, what, and you know, Mark can be very calculating and a smart producer. And in this way, he's, you know, what he goes, you've proven that you can get a job by going into a room and selling yourself as a writer, your your long past that. You want to direct you say, but you haven't proven that you can go into a room and get a job as a director. So he goes, you're not going to get this job. Because and here's why. There was it was a strike, you know, everybody's saying was going to be a strike. So you we had to finish at a certain time. And they wanted to had a very specific low budget for it. And they said, We want someone who is directed before. So it'll be tightly run and end on time and give us what we need, you know, because there's no international and sports movies, and we have to hit this budget and all that. And so he said, you're not going to get the job. But I think it's worthwhile for you to go in and think about this as a director would, and try to pitch yourself as a director. So I said, you know, what that makes, that makes actually makes really good sense. So we made an appointment. And I didn't even tell my wife, you know, that I was going in for this because I'm not getting the job. And it's just something I'm doing. So I go in, and I'm there for an hour talking about everything from what film stock I would use to lenses to, you know, the feeling I want from it, what the music should be. And you know, and they asked really good questions. And I answered honestly, because like I said, I'm not getting the job. You know, I can I can speak honestly, it's the last thing I said was I know, I'm probably not going to get this job. But don't let somebody come in and script these words. Because my Christian beautiful job, and, and they go, Okay, thanks for that. And I left and then got a call from Mark Johnson, who said, You're not you know, I hope you were serious about wanting to direct it because you just got the job. And I went, What? He goes, Yeah, he said Nina Jacobson said, I know it's the risky choice, but I don't think there's any doubt that he's the one they they've met with lots of directors that he's the one who gets the material better than anybody else. And so I came home and walked in and I go, I think I'm directing a movie, and she said, Brad's, which was this other project I had, and I go, No, it's called the rookies because what know what is the rookie? And I said, Well, maybe you better read it before I say yes to this

Unknown Speaker 49:57
because she was pregnant at the time, too. With our first kids and all that, so anyway, she read it and she said, I understand why you want to do it. And and I think you should. So we went off and I got john foresman have worked with john many, many times to be our dp he had. He had been in Michael Bay world and done a beautiful job on lots of Bay movies. But he started off doing Binney in June, and wanted to get back. Yeah, he wanted to get back into being the character guy and all that and not just the big explosion guy, because he was capable of doing all of it very well. So we could get we could afford to get john because he would cut his rate to help make him more relevant across the board as a dp and not just Michael bass be paid. But and so then other people love the script and came on board. And, you know, then next thing, you know, it's it's getting made, and we were so we're such an inexpensive, we were the lowest budget movie of the year for Warner Brothers. And they had Pearl Harbor, they were dealing with Pearl Harbor in post and getting that out. They had lots of other expensive movies they were dealing with. And so they pretty much forgot about us. We went down to the best place that we we went down to the desert in Texas and they forgot about us. At one point after about a week because they were looking they knew they would carefully watch dailies just especially those first couple of weeks to see when they made a horrible mistake hiring me. And after about a week, somebody at the studio called john Schwarzman because they had a real great relationship with john and said, john just went through all the dailies. And I think you're really good, right? And john said, Yes, they're really good. And said, so he's doing okay. And john said, Yeah, leave him alone, as we've done. So they said great, and they never bothered us again.

Alex Ferrari 51:50
And that's something that I found. And this is something that they don't tell you this is this is where the politics of directing come in. JOHN, if you would have had a bad relationship with john john could have fired you What got you fired off the EFF off that set because you'd had no no juice whatsoever. And I've been on sets before where the the script supervisor was the mold for the producer to see like it can can this guy direct. And I didn't realize that until like laters. Like later in the time that that was I was being watched. A lot of first time directors don't realize that they're especially at the studio level. I could imagine you're being watched until someone vouches for you. And, yeah, and that's why it's good to be friends with

John Lee Hancock 52:34
me. Yeah, you're right. I mean, it's, it's, it's really an integral relationship, your relationship with the DP, production designer, your costumer, you know, your production staff, your first ad, it's all I mean, all really important relationships. But when you're talking about how you see something, I, I was not the I was not the kind of guy who wanted to come in and go, you know, give me a 17 on a on a on a sandbag down here and point this way, I'm just not that what I'd rather do is talk about feelings the same as like talking to actors. I don't tell them how to act. I just hope to say something that provoked something in them, you know, that they can do so with john, it might be can we be lonelier and wider, you know? And then he would say, like a 17 and a sandbag. And I go, Yeah, that sounds great. So anyway, you know, we had a great relationship. And you know, we were together. And this was back in the days when you would watch dailies. At night, you'd finish shooting, we were out in like thorndale, a lot, shooting outside of Austin, and we drive back into Austin, and go to our facilities there where we would watch film dailies, and there would be 10 or so minutes, and we'd have some pizza and some beer and whatever, and watch dailies and really learn from them together, you know, but mostly, they were just they were really beautiful dailies mostly just patting each other on the back.

Alex Ferrari 54:07
Exactly. I want but I wanted to Disney Wasn't that a Disney release? Yeah, that was a Disney movie. So it started at Warner's and then it just got

John Lee Hancock 54:14
sent over? No, no, it was. It was always a Disney release. It was set up at Disney. Um, it was I had a deal at Warner Brothers to direct the movie, but then that one came up over Disney. Got it.

Alex Ferrari 54:27
Okay, so it was

John Lee Hancock 54:29
Yeah, it was Disney. Got it. Got it. Got it. Got it. And I felt bad because I said I'm going off to direct a movie for your rival studio. And I had a great relationship with Warner Brothers. And I had a little tiny office. It was just me and an assistant, a Xerox machine by a bathroom or something in it was no no great shakes, but I loved it. And I said I called Warner Brothers and said, I'm about to go off and do this movie for Disney. And so I probably should clear out so you guys can get somebody else in here. And then by that point, I had, you know, 500 books in there on the walls and stuff. And they said, No, you know what, don't worry about it. It's fine. It's no big push, we'll,

Alex Ferrari 55:09
we'll figure something out.

John Lee Hancock 55:10
We'll figure something out. And so then I came back from directing it, and then started feeling still worse about going to the one and so I said, Guys, I'm gonna, I'm going to give you your office back. So anyway.

Alex Ferrari 55:20
So the rootkit comes out. It's it's a fairly big hit, if I remember it was it was it did very well, the box office. Yeah. And that, of course, it went when something when something makes money in town. everybody's like, oh, you're now the new darling. Everyone wants to take you out on a dance if he wants to. He wants to date you, and all that kind of good stuff. And you jumped into a fairly large project, let's say called the Alamo. Yeah. Which was, I mean, I mean, the rookie is a very, it's a small film, comparatively, it's this character piece. Right? Not this giant, you know, that, you know, extra 1000 extras and horses and all this kind of craziness. How did you jump from? Not only that, the budget to that you're talking over $100 million budget at that point? How did you make that jump? And how did someone because it's one thing to make a hit at a 20 million or $50 million budget movie. It's another thing to give somebody their second film 100 grand. And by the way, I had the same I had the same question for Edwards, a wick, when he went from all about last night to glory. And his story was fantastic. But I want to hear yours. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

John Lee Hancock 56:38
Well, mine was I had a good time with Disney. And Disney really loved the rookie, and it did well the box office and made money for him and all that. And they had set up the Alamo there. The time it was just called Alamo and was originally a script by les bohem. Who's there's a friend of mine. And and it had gone through rewrites. And Ron Howard was attached. And it the first thing that happened was Ron Howard, who I knew, you know, some we met several times, and I like Ron a lot. And he called me said, Would you do me a favor? And we've I mean, I've looked at his movies, and he's looked at my movies, and he's, you know, he tried to help each other out? You know, since then, but, um, he, he called him, would you read a script for me, because I know you're from Texas. And, and I just want, I would just love your read on it, because I'm not sure how to wrap my arms around this one. And so I read it, and we had, you know, some discussions about it. And, you know, stuff that I said, I think he might push this a little bit more lean into this a little bit more and, and some of those kind of things. And he said, Okay, thanks. And then they had a falling out at Disney over the radii. And Russell Crowe was was loosely attached at that point. And he was going to play Sam Houston. And so then what happened was, it was going to be R rated. And then Disney said, it's such an expensive movie, it was like $100 million movie, that we can't afford to leave all that business behind. We need this to be pG 13. And so Ron, you know, said Well, I kind of whatever, I'm gonna do this, I kind of want to do an R rated movie. And, and I think he actually in his head was thinking, I'm not sure I want to do this movie. Anyway, he had another one called the missing I believe, with Tommy Lee Jones, and Kate and chat that he didn't said, but but he stayed on as a producer. When Disney came to me and said, Deke cook came to me and said, Would you consider doing the Alamo? Because at this point, they already had started building sets. And you know, it was something like 60 acres of sets in the hill country outside of Austin. I mean, this is like, the way they used to do it in the olden days. This is no VFX you know, really, it's, it's these are actual buildings, that Michael Coren with our brilliant production designer designed and laid in and then there was waterways he had to create and all this stuff anyway. So they asked me, you know, if I'd be interested, and I and I said, Yeah, but I need to do a rewrite on the script. I mean, I am interested, I'm intrigued. And they said, Would you so we had a couple of discussions about that. And then they, they said, Would you go down and we have a production designer and we have a costumer already on the show have been working for many, many, many months. Could you go down and see what they've done? And of course, you can bring your own people in or whatever, but just, you know, go see what they've done. And I said, Yeah, I'm interested in directing this Ron called. And he said, the only thing I would ask is that you, you absolutely have the right to bring your own people in, but go look at what they've done first, just to see, and then then you know, then get rid of them and hire however you want, but just go see what they've done. So I went down to Austin, and went out and saw those brilliant sets being built and all the progress and then went to the warehouses and warehouses filled with, with Mexican army uniforms and swords and scabbards, in good, and went to the ranch, where all the horses were that we had bought for the movie. And it was just, I was a kid in a candy store. And so one, I certainly wanted Michael and Daniel to stay on if they would, and to then I sat down to do a pretty extensive rewrite on it. To make it the story that I I kind of wanted to tell.

Unknown Speaker 1:00:55
And Disney was was great. I mean, they were great every, every step of the way. And they were and they were lovely in post too. But I would say shooting the movie was as much fun as you can have. I mean, it's daunting, you know, you're, you're driving out to the set, and you see 50 trucks, and then some days we go, we've got, you know, 2000 extras today, it started getting dressed at 1am just so they can move them all through. And you know, there were days when I think we fed 3000 people. And it's, it's daunting, but it's also it feeds your ego in a kind of a good way to say I'm up for this, I can do this, you know, and and had a blast making the movie. And then we had a very short, I mean, something Clint had told me that I didn't listen to what he said. He told me and I was about to go off and do it. He said, just make sure you've got plenty of time in post. He said when you in by that I mean, not only the number of days in post, but make sure you're not driving toward a release date. Because you just you want to make sure that the movie can be the movie it wants to be and then you after you do that, then you decide when you're going to release it. And it was scheduled for a Christmas release, Christmas Day release. And I essentially had less time on that movie in post or close to the same amount of time as the rookie. And you know, it just the footage alone going through the footage is Oh, man completely different than in coverage? Yes, yes. So yeah. And so we were racing racing and to meet the Christmas deadline, we need to start having previews. And so I had a cut of the movie. That was a little a little a little long, probably, you know, but I still I hadn't finished editing yet. I said, Well, let's put it together. And then we'll learn from the preview, thinking, yeah, it's not gonna preview through the roof, because historical epics never do. And, anyway, so we had that first preview, and I said, this will help me know what 15 minutes I want to cut out and where it's going to feel slow and all that stuff. And we tested and I believe we tested a 69 which for historical epic is not bad. And I think master and commander had tested within those two weeks as well and it tested similarly to it. But you know, Tom Rothman looked at that number and said, well, it's a historical epic. It's, I think it's a great movie. It's Keep going, keep going, keep going. And Disney coming off. You know, my, my success with the rookie was thinking, how come we're not in the 90s? They were like, well, you're never gonna get the 90s with this, you know, it was supposed to be an ambiguous ending. I mean, Texas was born through through blood, and it's somebody to rogue and some of it's definitely not a rug. It's a I mean, it's a story of a Mexican civil war is what it is. It's it's not it's not jingoistic patriotism, which I think in some ways Disney was hoping for and counting on, you know, that maybe they didn't read my script. But. But, again, they were completely kind and tried to be helpful, but it was just post was a nightmare. I learned a lot from that, which is trust your gut.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:18
And, yeah, I just find it fascinating jumping from something like a rookie, to something like the Alamo, which is so much more massive. And on the set, like you were talking like you're driving by and there's 50 trucks and you're feeding 3000 people. I imagined that there's a certain amount of stress and pressure that you feel and you feel that stress and pressure on your I'm assuming you felt that same stress and pressure on those days are doing your first feature, different stress and pressure because this is your first time. When you're at that level. How do you process that kind of pressure because you'd literally have $100 million plus budget on your, on your on your show. welders plus the PNA, that's going to be another 50 million or whatever it is now probably more than the budget itself for pnn, these kind of giant movies. How do you deal with that? And how does that how do you not only deal with it, block it from the creative process, because I can imagine that pressure can just collapse on you and just hurt the creative process. And I've seen that happen. We all seen that happen throughout history to some directors, under that pressure, you can see the movie just suffers, because it just couldn't deal with it. How did you deal with it?

John Lee Hancock 1:05:29
Well, I, I think, because it was early in my career as a director, I didn't think about it too much. I mean, ignorance.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:37
Ignorance is bliss.

Unknown Speaker 1:05:39
I didn't consider I knew it was an expensive movie, I knew I didn't want to waste Disney's money. But to their credit, they never, were constantly reminding me either, you know, they choose to do the work, do the work, do the work. And, you know, our schedule was sufficient to the task. And you know, it was always about making the very best it can be, and, and a great crew and great actors and all that good stuff. So I didn't think about it too much. Until it until post probably. But more than anything, I mean, it's the same if you're doing if I can do this, or the rookie or the Alamo, I mean, the sun comes up, the sun goes down. And this these are the hours you have to you have to capture what you need to capture. And the rules are the same. So you know, you have common traits with you know, the person doing a student film, you know, they've got the same limitations, they've got a budget, they've got rentals on their camera, the sun comes up, the sun goes down.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:37
It's simple. It's so dope, basically, for a dress was bliss, and you didn't think about it too much. So you actually sat down and started watching this footage, you're like, holy crap, this is a big movie.

John Lee Hancock 1:06:47
Well, I knew it was I knew it was one of those things where it's like on the set, it would be. I mean, when we had like the storming of the north wall, and we shot that for, gosh, so many days, I think maybe two or three weeks or something because we're lots of little intricate details. But it was just so fabulous. Because we'd be out there at night. And I would talk to we had all our historians and stuff at the Toluca Battalion, they're going to be coming from the from the northwest here, then they're folding in the cannon back there that and we would block this. And we would block it until lunch, right, you know, in the middle of the night. And we say okay, now we now we've got we've we're going to do, we've got 12 cameras capturing this. Some of them are in ditches, some of them are hidden here, we've got a big Dolly, we've got 155 feet of Dolly track, it's undulating, and going up and down, and all this stuff, and so we get it all set. And then we do we can go to lunch, we come back after lunch. And sometimes before lunch, we would just do a let's do a quarter speed, you know, you're not running full blast, you're just jogging so that we can start to time out the dollies and look at the lens and help help the operators out. And I think there was there were certain days, we had 12 cameras, and all the monitors set up and I was like, you feel like you're directing Monday Night Football, it was like, you'd have to watch them all back. So anyway, so

Alex Ferrari 1:08:10
lunch, a good f go to D

John Lee Hancock 1:08:14
walk, you know, you know the sweet spot for like, where it's coming to the place where the guy's gonna fall in the ditch on the camera, and they're at it. But it was a blast. And so we come back after lunch and go, Okay, let's give it a shot. And we would just do the whole thing. And then, you know, run out of film and say, Okay, let's reset the squibs. Let's do all this stuff. And we'll go one more time. And you'd say you do two texts in a day, it takes all day long. And you get great stuff. And then what you do is that, then what you do is you know the next day you come in and go, Okay, now we got to be more precise about this and this and this and this and you start breaking it up into pieces. I mean, you know, making a film is a little like a giant mosaic. Because on the day you go there's a blue tile, and there's a green tile and here's a white tile and I need more yellow here. And you're right up next to it attaching all these it's not until you're able to step back and see it you've got Oh, I see what it is now. So it's it's difficult. But the fun part of directing is that you have to keep your head down on today's work but also keep checking the horizon to make sure that you go in the right direction.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
right because sometimes you you keep your head down to like oh my god, where am I am in Toledo when I really wanted to be in Vegas.

John Lee Hancock 1:09:33
Exactly. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
Now after after the Alamo. He took a little bit of a break. He took like about five year break in your career, or at least three years at least from release to release. And then that little film called blindside, the blindside shows up. How did you get involved with that film and and that whole story.

John Lee Hancock 1:09:53
It was you know after the Alamo I was beat. It was a long process and it had taken its toll on me emotionally, physically, everything. I also had small children. So I thought I want to go and shoot do another 100 day shoot where, you know, not that anybody was calling me to beg me to do it. But I'm just just saying, I don't know, I don't want that. And I was also writing a lot. And so I was getting jobs writing and was able to stay home and be with the kids and all that. So at some point, when I did the blindside, the writer from the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein contacted me and said, so you were in? So you've been in director jail for three years. And I go, I didn't know really I said because I was still getting I was still getting offers to direct stuff, but it was just nothing that I wanted to do. And and I said I didn't know I guess it's I'm glad again, ignorance is bliss. I was just writing and working and it's not like I wasn't making money and all that and staying home and so

Alex Ferrari 1:11:04
it just everyone's clear Alamo wasn't Alamo wasn't a blockbuster. It didn't. It didn't do well at the box offices. That's why you work that's why they've considered you and blocked in director jail. And we've all heard I've heard of director jail when I talked to Kevin about Waterworld. He was like, I understand, like you mean, there is there is a thing called director jail. And you do get kind of put into that for a little bit. But you had the blessings of being a writer. So you can constantly be writing as well.

John Lee Hancock 1:11:32
And I'd always wanted to I'd never been a person, then still haven't been who wants to go movie to movie to movie to movie? Mm hmm. Not not Tony Scott, who's going to be in postman one in prep, and another, you know, rest in peace, Tony love, Tony, that he was. That's what Tony did is just keep going, keep going, keep going. And I like to recharge and write, and think about stuff and figure out what I want to do next, because it's two years of your life. And you know, I don't like to wake up at four in the morning. So if I'm going to choose, it's got to be something that I'm going to be invested and interested in for two years. And so sometimes it's hard to find those things because something's you go. This is a great script. I'm not sure I'm the right person for it. And I think I would get bored with it after nine months. So anyway, one of the things that came to me was a producer and Gil Netter had secured the rights to Michael lewis's book, The Blindside. And I'm a big Michael Lewis fan, and, you know, read everything he writes. And he sees fantastic. And I was, you know, and so I was gonna get the book and read it anyway. It's Michael Lewis. And the call came, would you like to read, you know, read the book. And, you know, they want to gauge my interested in in adapting and directing it. And so I thought, Well, yeah, I'll read it. I'm going to read the book anyway. I don't want to do another sports movie, though. I said, I don't want to do that. I had talked to Ron Shelton, once, and we were on a panel together after the rookie and baseball movies and all that, you know, and he said, okay, you made it out unscathed. The movies, Greg. Don't ever do another sports movie. I said, What what? He goes, Nah, man, you get into a rut that nobody thinks I can do anything with sports movies now. So he goes, just be be cautious. Be careful. So here comes I'm not gonna do another sports movie. But I read it about halfway through I go, I've got a, I've got a specific take on this. And I think I think I've cracked it. They're probably going to disagree. It was over at Fox. So fun. I will have a meeting. I went to have a meeting. I love the book, went to have a meeting pitched an unconventional mother son story. And they, you know, eventually they said, yeah, we want you to do it. So we had meetings and meetings and meetings meetings and talking about it. And then I wrote the script. And it became and everybody loved the script. But it became obvious that something happened along the way there when I first finished it. Julia Roberts was very interested in it. And Fox was desperate to be in business with Julia Roberts. So it might as well have not been called the blindside, but instead, Untitled Julia Roberts project. And I met with Julia who was awesome. And we had several meetings about it, and she was interested. And then finally, she got to a point she said, I'm not sure my head's in this, and you need to make this movie because the scripts great. And she said, I feel a little bit of Erin Brockovich in it, and I don't want to I don't want to do that to this character or to your movie and and she also had small kids and you know, all that and so I got it completely. So she was out. And at that point, Fox became less interested in the movie. And it was obvious they weren't going to make it and and so al-khan who I knew the guys at our con because Mark Johnson I produced along with Jay Russell, my dog skip weed, which was our one of our cons first, maybe maybe their first movie, and it made money and we made it for $4 million, or something, you know. So it made money and continues to make money that it's the little dog could. But so I knew them, and they read the script and loved it. And they said, if you can get it out of Fox, we'll do it. And so we negotiated a very strict turnaround situation from Fox where we had to be in production on this certain day, or flick reverted to Fox back to Fox, who was thinking about, they were thinking, well, there are more men in their 40s that will make this movie with than women in their 40s they will make this movie with so they said, make it a father son story instead of a mother son story. And I said, that's, it's it's not the truth. It's not the book. You know, it's, you know, alien to he would fly here and kick your ass. So anyway, thankfully, we got it up and running very, very quickly. And you know, and then Sandy was in it, you know, that was great. I was it was a great experience making the movie. Nice. Nice to be on a set again. We were in Atlanta.

I was loving it. I had no idea. I thought it had commercial instincts, and potential. But you never know, you know, how's this all going to come together? I knew that I that Sandy had essentially just kind of taken over Lee into a. She talked like she walked blacker. She wore her clothes, the watches everything the rings. They're all you know, based on Leanne's actual stuff. And she had Leanne read the script for her out loud, just so she could have things and we ended all the lines and, and all that kind of stuff. So it was a it was a great experience. And then, you know, we had our little movie and it tested through the roof. And it was a crowd pleasing kind of feel good movie. So it needed to Warner Brothers opened it wide. And that first weekend I remember, it was Thanksgiving. It opened, like on Thanksgiving day or the day before Thanksgiving, or whatever. So we had a long extended weekend, Thanksgiving weekend. And the studios would come out with their projections, you know, every studio would make the projections on their movies and other movies around town that were passed around by getting Jeff Blake. And so Warner Brothers. Like Fox said, the projection for the blind side is $12 million. I'm making that up. But it was something like that, which would have been for our budget would have been made it a success. But and then somebody else I think it was Sony maybe said 15. And then Warner Brothers came out with their projection and it was 20. And the thing is, what studios do is they don't pop up their own movies, they would rather project low. And you know and not get people to overly excited. So my agent, David O'Connor, at that time when he saw the projection from Warner Brothers at 20. He said they think it's going to do 25 or they wouldn't have put 20. No, it's and the other thing was we opened we were supposed to open originally this the following spring, but a slot opened up with Warner Brothers. And it was going to be going opposite. Oh gosh, what is the vampire?

Alex Ferrari 1:18:49
Oh, what are the Twilight series?

John Lee Hancock 1:18:51
Yeah, quite quite the first Twilight. Oh, you know. So they said, Do you want to open it? And so that I was like, well, we're not going to win the weekend. It didn't matter on our budget. And so we we went into that the reports were good, the reports were good. I was hoping that, you know, at least the minimal would be Fox Fox this projection to 12. And it did 34 million

Alex Ferrari 1:19:17
and that was a monster it was

John Lee Hancock 1:19:19
and then it gets the kids it just never went away six different times. It outperformed his previous weekend during its run, which is I never heard

Alex Ferrari 1:19:29
it's staggering. I remember that with like home alone. Like Home Alone came out and then like it kept growing and people were like what and Titanic kept rolling. You like what the heck's happening? No, no Blindside was an absolute smash hit. And then you get an Oscar nomination. And then and then Sandra wins the the Oscar for it. And it must have been you must have been on cloud nine. During those times.

John Lee Hancock 1:19:49
I wasn't it was one of those ones because there was no expectation with it. I thought it was a nice movie and a good story. And I thought this has commercial instincts. We'll see. And then it never we never talked about awards or anything like that. It was just the movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:06
Sports movies sports movies generally don't Yeah, yeah, definitely don't get that kind of

John Lee Hancock 1:20:11
reaction. And there was no like press stuff going on for it. No push for anything for awards. And I remember at al-khan and Warner Brothers, they said, you know what we everybody's talking about Sandy Bullock. Like she, you know, she went get a nomination, we should probably put some bucks into pushing this a little bit. And remember, the first thing was a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres party. This for Sandy, you know, didn't it was all press people and stuff. And it was, and people were over the moon for, you know, for the movie and for her performance. And then it was just by surprise, all of a sudden, it was like, How did this happen? You just get swept along, you know, and you go, Wow, this was kind of great. And I told me why I said none of this will ever happen again. You know, the idea of this movie making this much money coming out of nowhere, and coming out of nowhere for an award season that are so calculated, I mean, award season, it's like months, months, months and months of preparation and laying the foundation to leave at the right time and get nominations and this just happened.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:17
Yeah, it is a once in a career kind of situation to say the least. Your two next films, which are Saving Mr. Banks and the founder, you tackle again real life characters and stories with with tackling, Saving Mr. Banks like well, Disney must have been daunting. Just to, to portray, I mean, you're working with Tom Hanks, and Emma, Tom, Emma, and it just must have been amazing. How did you like approach trying to bring what is there to the screen with?

John Lee Hancock 1:22:02
People The first thing was that, you know, the script Kelly Marcel script was fantastic. And even though I'm not a huge fan of Mary Poppins, or musicals, or any of that kind of stuff, I was just really drawn to the Father daughter aspect of PL travers. And, and the fact that it was her movie, and this was just two weeks in the life of Walt Disney really, you know. So I think I didn't think about it that much. But, you know, the first thing that came first name that came to mind, of course, was Tom Hanks. And then you know, we that we cast Emma first. And then Emma was there, and she's great and perfect for it. And then everybody started talking around town about it. And Tom, you know, wanted to meet. And so we met and, you know, I was prepared for tons of different questions and things like that, or, because that's a daunting task for for him. You know what Disney's never been played?

Alex Ferrari 1:22:59
Right, exactly. And then if there is anybody that can pull it off.

John Lee Hancock 1:23:03
Yeah. You want someone you want someone who is I wanted? I wanted to need an icon playing an icon. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:11
Yeah, you can get an unknown for that.

John Lee Hancock 1:23:12
Yeah. And he all he said to me was all this stuff in the script that shows me smoking, and shows me, you know that I have my scotch at five o'clock. And I curse a couple of times. And I curse a couple of times. Just make sure that just tell me. Is that going to stay in the script? Because I'm really drawn to this. I'm drawn to Walt Disney's a human being not an icon. And I said, Yeah, it's gonna stay in or I'm out too. And he said, he said, Let's shake on it. So we shipped on it. He said, Okay, let's do it. That was it. It was like a 10 minute meeting. That's Yeah. And it was wonderful. That was so much fun. We had so much fun making that movie. And the movie turned out, turned out, turned out great. I'm very proud of it. And then wonderful. The founder was also one where the script came to came to my desk, and I read it really liked it. But I thought, you know, I've already done all these real life characters, but I felt like that nobody really knew or looked at Ray Kroc the way they did it, Walt Disney or something, you know. And there was also something about the script Rob Segal wrote, it was beautiful, where I was pulling for this guy in the first half of the movie, and then actively rooting against him. And I thought, that's an unusual high wire act to try to pull off right. And in the in the first person that popped into my brain was Michael Keaton, you know, because there's some similarity and you know, how he and croc look and all that, that just it he's Michael's a great salesman, and I mean, that is in the nicest possible way. There's something about him, there's an energy that he's selling you whether it's he's telling you a joke, or whether he's talking about a movie, there's an enthusiasm there. I thought man he is he is. He's this guy. He's this guy. And he wanted to make sure that it was awards and all portrayal. He said, we're not going to shine him up at the end. I go, No, no, not at all. I want you know, he said, but I want to be true to him. I want to be true. I want to make sure that we under everybody understands what a complicated individually is. He said, because there are things about Ray Kroc that I greatly admire. I mean, everybody said, even his enemies. They never met anyone who worked harder.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:27
And how was a when and how he was like, in his mid 50s, right when he launched started.

John Lee Hancock 1:25:31
Yeah, yeah. I mean, he was at an age in his early 50s, maybe 54. I can't remember now, where all his friends were retiring. Because this was back then, you know, you've retired at 55. And he felt like that he had had some success in business. But it never really rung the bell. He ended that one thing and he thought, why not me? How come not me? I work harder than everybody. I had these ideas. I you know, I push them. The multi mixer, the folded up table that he's just trying, he's just hustling, hustling, hustling. And I love that about Ray Kroc. But, uh, but yeah, I mean, in the end, so anyway, I liked it. And, you know, we did do a rewriting on it. And Michael said, Yes. And we was a little tiny movie we did. And I love that movie. Yeah, and I love

Alex Ferrari 1:26:21
I always love characters, or I love movies, where the villain turns into the hero or the hero turns into the villain, or they jump back and forth. It just makes it so much more interesting to watch. Because you're right, Ray, you're rooting for him at the beginning. But towards the end, you're like, he's destroying these. The McDonald brothers. Like he's like stealing them. It's under from under their feet.

John Lee Hancock 1:26:43
Yeah, no, I always thought of it as deck of a Salesman with a very different ending Willy loman takes over the world.

Alex Ferrari 1:26:49
Right. It's that's essentially it. It was it was it was a remarkable, remarkable film. Now, your latest film, the little things. I mean, you've got three, arguably three of the most powerhouse actors and hot work in Hollywood today, Denzel Jared. And I always forget his first name. Rami Rami. Thank you, Ronnie. Who have just these powerhouses. I have to ask you. How do you direct? Three, just powerhouse actors in one scene? Because there's a couple of times in the movie that all three of them are together? Yeah. How do you direct those scenes? Because you got three? Are they all same schools? As far as acting your concern? is one more method now? Because I hurt themselves much more method or less? No, he's less method. But there's just a different style. So how do you direct that?

John Lee Hancock 1:27:40
I think I mean, every actor is different. I mean, in some ways, in some way every actor is method and if they have a method to get them to the character that they need to play, right. In terms of it being method, Jared is probably more traditionally what we think of and that he stays in character. And we didn't have read throughs or rehearsals with Jared and Rami and Denzel, where they met in real life. When they met Albert sparks played by Jared he was Albert's barmah. And when Albert's farma saw saw, saw they had a scene with Adele was not Dinsdale. It was Joe Deacon. And so that just elect electrifies everything that everyone does, everyone is different. I mean, it's just in you kind of have it's in some ways, being a director is like being a really good coach. And I think I learned more about directing from having had some good coaches, where do you got a locker room of people that all have different interests, some of them don't necessarily get along, but they have to unify for a period of time, you know, to go and accomplish the goal. And some of them and you know, and some athletes need praise and some need challenges. And suddenly, you know, these two guys obviously, there's, you know, it's just a it's just a conversation. I mean, they're all just, they're juggernauts. So So I mean, I just love watching them all act. So for me, it wasn't about maneuvering them in any way, one way or the other. It's just we'd already talked about everything we do. I mean, I spent time in prep with those guys.

Alex Ferrari 1:29:15
So it's I imagine watching like Emma and Tom working on saving on Saving Mr. Banks, and watching these guys. You must just have like, as the little boy in you, who wanted to be that director must be like, like this going. This is awesome.

John Lee Hancock 1:29:32
I remember one day, early on. My, my old friend, Bradley Whitford who's also in the movie came up to me. And he goes, man, you're directing, Tom. How cool is that? That's pretty cool. It's pretty,

Alex Ferrari 1:29:50
it's pretty darn cool. Like Clinton, like Kevin Costner is like, I just want a poster with Clint Eastwood that it like the little boy and I was like, I I need

John Lee Hancock 1:29:58
this movie. Yeah, no. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, just those guys too. Sometimes it was just you forget the cut. And that was the same with the little things I would just, you know, we did go on and on, I'm just watching denza work or Jared rommy work. And the scenes over it, I'm just letting them roll Indians or anything else, you know, I gotta know, man, I just, I just love watching you act. So

Alex Ferrari 1:30:26
just to join the ride and just join the ride. Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions, asked all my guests, some quick questions. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?

John Lee Hancock 1:30:37
I think, knowing what you want. And then presenting it to the world is, knowing what you want is one thing, announcing it to the world is a harder thing. Because when you're starting out, you can say somebody said, Mike said, I want to I want to direct movies, and they know it in their head, but they don't are not prepared or ready to answer, announce it to the world. because there'll be scoffed at or there'll be, you know, yeah, right, or whatever. And we're all fragile. So I would say, knowing precisely what you want, and then announcing it to the world. I would say, john Sayles told me many, many, many years ago, he said, if you want to be a writer, right, if you want to be a director, direct, because that was what I did, you know, back in New Jersey, or wherever it was, he said, you know, if I wanted to write, I would write something or somebody else would write something or whatever, I'd write something. And then I'd get my friends who were actors. And then I would say, okay, we're going to do this in my living room. You know, but I would be directing. And he said, it's just, it's vitally important not to wait around for someone to go, yeah, you who really haven't directed you should direct this movie. Because it just, it doesn't doesn't happen. So yeah, I would say, Do you've got to, you've got to, if it's the thing that you would do for free, then you're in the right business. I mean, it's, it's, you know, it's got to be a hobby that you're hoping to make a living at something that you love, so much you do for free.

Alex Ferrari 1:32:09
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Mm

John Lee Hancock 1:32:18
Hmm, that's a good question. Don't talk so much. I sometimes have a tendency as you have you seen in the last hour and a half, to flap my gums too much. And I should, you know, I should listen more. And I try to remind myself to listen more, especially in conversations with, with actors, and when you're working on a movie, or you know, someone's reading your script for you. You know, to give you notes on it, it's, it's and also to ask more questions, not just go Yeah, I like that, too. And here's why. It'd be like, did it seem this to you didn't seem that to you. I mean, asking questions and listening to answers, I think is, is you get you get further ahead. That way then

Alex Ferrari 1:33:12
yapping on like I do. And last question three of your favorite films of all time.

John Lee Hancock 1:33:18
Hmm. Well, that's a rotating list. It depends on your mood. It depends on what you're in the mood for on the day today. I really love a named Mike my Corporation after a line of dialogue from Badlands, so I'll throw that Terrence Malick Badlands in there. I love Love, love the conversation, which is my favorite couple of film. Let's see Gosh, a third one. Man, so many so many. Love lonely are the brave love. The conformance Bertolucci's the conformist. Love the whole, the whole run of Michael Ritchie, movies, the candidate is, I think, a brilliant movie because it started out as satire. And now we'd look at it and it was just present. You know, it was a documentary. It's a documentary now. Yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:34:15
But, yeah,

John Lee Hancock 1:34:17
That's a lot. But yeah, those are a few.

Alex Ferrari 1:34:19
It has been an absolute pleasure talking to you this, this this last 90 minutes. I truly, truly appreciate you taking the time. And and sharing sharing your journey with with filmmakers of the of our tribe. And hopefully this will continue to inspire some people down the line. So you have been making some really great movies over your career. I hope you can continue to make many, many more in the future. So thank you so much, sir.

John Lee Hancock 1:34:41
Me too. Thanks for having me, Alex. I appreciate it.

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BPS 114: The Craft of Screenwriting Tentpole Films with Boaz Yakin

We have for you on the show today screenwriter and director, Boaz Yakin, The writer behind The Punisher, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, The Rookie, & Safe and directing, The Fresh, Remember the Titans and the comedy-drama, Uptown Girl among others.

Growing up in a talented theatrical family, it was only natural for Yakin to pursue a life in film or some sort of performing arts. His dad, who was a teacher at Juilliard and a theater director enrolled Boaz into the famous Stell Adler script analysis class when he was only 17 years old. Thereafter, he tried out film school at US City college, later transferred to NYU, before quitting school after his first script was auctioned and got him in the door at 19 years old.

At age 22, Yakin wrote his first produced film, Marvel’s The Punisher. When Frank Castle’s family is murdered by criminals, he wages war on crime as a vigilante assassin known only as The Punisher.

In 1990, Yakin co-wrote one of the action films of the times, The Rookie, starring star boy Charlie Sheen, and Clint Eastwood who also directed the film.

But his big hit came right after, FRESH, Yakin’s directorial debut is an emotional coming of age story, that offers a realistic glimpse of the dangerous life in New York City’s projects during the crack epidemic.

Michael, nicknamed Fresh, a 12-year-old kid running drugs for gangsters, notably Esteban, inspired by the chess lessons of his father, an alcoholic speed-chess master played by Samuel L. Jackson. Fresh devises and executes a brilliant plan to extricate himself and his drug-addicted sister from their hopeless lives.

Next up for Boaz was directing the box-office smash REMEMBER THE TITANS.

Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington shines in REMEMBER THE TITANS. Based on real events, this remarkable story celebrates how a town torn apart by friction and mistrust comes together in triumphant harmony. After leading his team to fifteen winning seasons, beloved football coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is demoted and replaced by tough, opinionated Herman Boone (Washington).

How these two men overcome their differences and turn a group of hostile young men into champions is a remarkable portrait of courage and perseverance. You and your family will never forget the Titans!

His blockbuster smash, Now You See Me featured big industry names like Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, etc. The $75 million budget film grossed $351.7 dollars.

The plot follows an FBI agent and an Interpol detective who track and attempt to bring to justice a team of magicians who pull off bank heists and robberies during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

Boaz continued his blockbuster ways by working on the $200 million tentpole film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

A young fugitive Prince and Princess must stop a villain who unknowingly threatens to destroy the world with a special dagger that enables the magic sand inside to reverse time.

Boaz and I chatted about his creative process, the business side and political side of screenwriting and directing in Hollywood during this conversation. He was extremely raw and honest about what it really is like working inside the Hollywood machine.

Enjoy this conversation with Boaz Yakin.

Right-click here to download the MP3



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Alex Ferrari 2:15
Now guys Today on the show we have Writer Director, Boaz Yakin. Now Boaz has been a successful screenwriter and director in Hollywood since the early 90s. He wrote a couple of my favorite late 80s early 90s films The Punisher starring doff longeron and the rookie starring Charlie Sheen and Clint Eastwood. He made his directorial debut with his first film fresh which you wrote and directed, and went on to direct Remember the Titans and writing scripts like uptown girls Dirty Dancing Havana nights, the Prince of Persia, the sands of time, the blockbuster smash, now you see me and directing films like safe with Jason Stapleton and the family film, Max. And that's just to name a few. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Boaz and just going into the weeds in regards to his creative process, the business side and politics side of screenwriting and directing in Hollywood. And to be honest, he was extremely forthcoming, raw and honest about what it really is like working and building a very stellar career in Hollywood. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Boaz Yakin. I like to welcome the show Boaz Yakin.

And how you doing, buddy?

Boaz Yakin 3:43
I'm great. Thank you for having me, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 3:45
Oh, man, thank you so much for being on the show, man. Like I was saying, before we got started. I'm a fan. I've been a fan of yours for a while of films, you've written songs you've directed for sure. And it's, you know, it's, I just wanted to have you on the show to talk shop, man.

Boaz Yakin 4:00
Thank you. I'm glad to do it.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
So. So um, so first and foremost, how did you get into the business?

Boaz Yakin 4:07
Wow. Now this is a long time ago. Right? I know.

Alex Ferrari 4:11
You were only 25 bucks. How is that?

Boaz Yakin 4:13
Yeah. I haven't seen that for a long time. I, I was, you know, I grew up in a very with a very theatrical family. So it's kind of a family business. My father's a teacher at Juilliard and a theatre director and I always had that in my life, you know. And, in fact, I was lucky enough that when I was in high school, my dad got me into Stella Adler ad with a great acting teacher Stella Adler's script analysis class when I was 16 0 17. She never let anyone my age. See her classes and that was probably the most important school I ever got. was hearing her break down plays from the social Economic, religious personal perspective. And it really filled me up even as a teenager with an appreciation and a love for writing, even though it was ostensibly an acting class. And I thought I wanted to become an actor and I didn't get into Juilliard. And almost immediately after I went to film school, I went to a US city college because my grades were so bad in high school, I had to go to City College, and then I did get into NYU for a year. And this is a long time ago, this is the 80s. Now, what I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand, who are younger, is it screenwriting and getting into the movies wasn't as popular of a thing back then, as it is now. So for instance, I could get into NYU with grades that were pretty shitty. Today, I would never, ever get into Tisch, like with the grades that I got into Tisch with in the 80s, right. And I, I remember, my some teacher, one of my film teachers gave a course, a few days of how to get into the movie business. And it was all about like, you know, getting into a production company and working in internships and all this kind of stuff. And I have to say, I had a panic attack, because I hate real work. And I kind of attacked him after class. And I was like, Dude, what do you do to be a movie director? I can't listen to all this production companies. And he was nice enough, he said, Let me take you out to lunch. And he took me out to lunch. And he told me that a lot of directors start out as writers it was editors decides that I can do that. Right. So I actually wrote a screenplay on my spare time, when I was a sophomore at NYU. And my dad knew a guy who knew a guy, you know, and I'd sent him the script. And next thing I knew an agent from LA was calling me up saying I want to, I think I can option your script. And he did, he auctioned it. And I optioned it to a producer who had, at the time was already older and had produced some big films like he had produced the exorcist and a couple of things. And I auctioned the script. And I ended up moving to Hollywood, at like, 20- 19 years old actually left school. And I was terrified. But I came out here to work. And I started a career very, very young. I didn't the script never got made that it up. But it got me in the door, took a while for me to get stuff made. But I got in the door, and I started working, that must have been like 1986 or something.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
So the film that you wrote your first produced credit that I saw, which is because during that time 88, 89 I was working with a video store, I was still in high school. So between basically between 87 to 93, I'll go head to head with anybody in general pursuit, as far as film are concerned. So you made a few films, or you written a few films during that time. That was the hidden one of them being you wrote the first Punisher

Boaz Yakin 8:07
Yeah, I did. Was I mean, it was rewritten, rewritten by the producer would have been a lot better if it hadn't been but

Alex Ferrari 8:16
the theme of the show I hear,

Boaz Yakin 8:18
yeah, well, no, sometimes your shit, isn't that good. And someone else makes it better. I mean, that's happened to me once or twice. But but that time, it was just that Yeah, I was very young. I was like, 22. And I pitched them The Punisher idea. No one was making superhero movies at that time. In fact, you know, and, and it got made, it got made

Alex Ferrari 8:41
within a pitch the Punisher, and then then they went, they called up Marvel and said, Hey, can we get the rights to me?

Boaz Yakin 8:47
Yeah. And remember, at the time, Marvel, no one was making Marvel movies they were making like Captain America, and like weird rubbers are so bad. Like, and it was like, did you know so no one was making Marvel movies. Basically, yeah, I pitched the Punisher to this mentor of mine, who was a producer as well as a writer, and took it over to new line or new new world new worlds pictures, not new world pictures. And they went for it. And I wrote it. And what was interesting was that a lot of the time, their concern was it was to comic books. Right? Meaning that like, he had a skull on the shirt and all this stuff. So they changed a bunch of that stuff. And then very shortly afterwards, the Batman film The Tim Burton did, came out. And sort of right, they were around the same exact time or right afterwards. And it sort of changed the game in terms of what people were willing to do and how they were willing to approach it. But yeah, that was my first produced credit.

Alex Ferrari 9:45
So that for people not around at that time, in 1989, which is an amazing year for films. You couldn't walk the street without seeing a bathroom somewhere.

Boaz Yakin 9:57
Yes, that's right. Very big.

Alex Ferrari 10:00
It was everywhere. And it's so funny like punishers alerts and comic books. But because Batman is not comic books at all,

Boaz Yakin 10:11
But they really went for it with that with that version of the film. And that kind of opened things up for people a lot.

Alex Ferrari 10:17
Yeah, and that's, that's something a lot of screenwriters starting out have to understand is when you are, and even when you're more established you once you sell that script, unless you're a producer and or director on it, the powers you kind of let go, it's like you put it out.

Boaz Yakin 10:34
You know, I mean, obviously, I've managed to move into directing, after some years and all that. But one thing that I always, at the time when I was young, and I wrote scripts, I found it very painful to like write something and then have it taken away and completely reworked by somebody else. At this point in my life, when I'm writing a, quote, unquote, studio type film or something like that, I just for It's been years now I just want to do a draft or two, and then please fire me and take it. And like, you basically know that unless two or three other people rewrite your script, it's not going to get made

Alex Ferrari 11:17

Boaz Yakin 11:18
So when you're dealing with more personal films, with independent films, that's a completely separate story. When you're dealing in the studio system, you do a lot better for your health and mental well being understanding that you're part of a factory, that there is zero personal element involved, that you have to just be willing to like do your best as a craftsman and a professional, which doesn't mean you're not doing good work, right? It just means that you're treating it as a craftsman and as a professional, and hope that whatever combination of elements comes together and that they go make it somehow and that you make some money. But as a young person, you have this dream as a writer, whatever, that somehow Your voice is meaningful and that the film is going to reflect with it. Forget about it. So you know that that's definitely a learning experience. I think that screenwriters go through.

Alex Ferrari 12:13
Yeah, cuz everyone can, I'm going to be Storkin or I'm going to be Terrantino no first script out. I'm like,

Boaz Yakin 12:18
Well, but don't forget that Quentin direct his own movies. He's a filmmaker, right? PT Anderson direct his own movies. Wes Anderson direct his own room, right there. If you're going to be a script writer, it's a whole different story. You may be Aaron Sorkin you know, some of it, you know, he was also for the most part, someone who did television. I mean, he did a few features, right. But his his real, his real kind of claim to fame is television. And in television, the writers can, which is very different than feature films. That is a different world when we talk about TV, and now TV is much bigger, right? Like network, like, the writer in the writers room. And the executive producer is a different story in movies, the writer is not in the same position as the writer isn't in television.

Alex Ferrari 13:06
So then after the Punisher, you do another one of my favorite films of that time period, which is the Rookie with ..., it was in my mind,

Boaz Yakin 13:15
it's hard for me to talk about these things, you know what I mean? But like, Okay, why not?

Alex Ferrari 13:21
And the rookie, in my mind, I remember it fondly. I don't I don't want to watch it again. Right now, because I love the memory that I have of it. And then you know, start start a Clint Eastwood and a young, a young Charlie Sheen. So it was it was a warner brothers film, it was it was a studio project.

Boaz Yakin 13:39
Yeah. And look, I have to say I'm grateful, immensely grateful for it in the sense that like, first of all, it was I was 23 years old. It was a lot of money. And not just that, Clint was incredibly generous with me. And allowed me to watch him direct the whole film. I was there behind this, that the monitor the whole time and never spoke. But I got to watch his process. I got to see the way he ran a set, I got to understand the way he set up shots and constructed sequences. And it was an incredible film school. For me, it was probably the greatest film school I've ever had was just to sit behind Clint and watch him direct the whole film. And, you know, there's not a lot of actually, as I've learned, there's not a lot of filmmakers that would even allow a writer on set for more than two minutes, or two days, you know, and the fact that as long as I shut up, he let me sit there and just watch every day was was really something and when I directed my first film, so many of the lessons that I learned from from Clint Eastwood were there. So I'm forever grateful for it.

Alex Ferrari 14:52
And it's so funny because I was talking on the show to John Lee Hancock, who also did a movie with plant called a perfect world and he did yeah. The exact same thing he did with John Lee was just like, now I'm hearing it. And I'm hearing these stories as I'm talking to people who have worked with him. He does that for writers. And he didn't leave you and young people, just writers who were directors yet.

Boaz Yakin 15:15
Yeah. And he's he's very generous and very giving. And the thing that was really interesting about watching him direct. One of the things that's amazing, and really was something I learned from, aside from the creative aspect was how drama free Clint is, and how much he likes a drama free environment and how little he'll tolerate, you know, excessive, you know, emotions and like, and I appreciated that I love a quiet professional environment without drama without bullshit, you know, and I've had it, because I'm not Clint and people create that, you know, but as an aspirational work environment, it really did teach me a lot. But the other thing that's interesting about and I know this is about writing, but that's really great about watching Clint work is that Clint does very, very little planning, right? Like sometimes he'd show up on the set, and it would pick up or he'd go in a location scout and he'd see the set for the first time on the location scout. And he would basically plan out how to do a scene on the way to work, right? He didn't have a lot of shortlist, no storyboards, no nothing. And what that did was it created an environment where essentially, you're watching the person construct the scene right in front of you, right? There's nothing more boring than to watch a director's coming in with all of this planning and all the storyboards and everything. You're basically watching something that's completely pre planned. I mean, it can be fantastic, right? But with Clint, you really got to watch him create the scene on the spot. So you learn. And what was interesting for me was that like, after a few weeks, I could literally tell you where he was going to put the camera next from what to like, and be right 25 to 30% of the time, like, because I started to understand the process of how something was constructed. You know, and it really was an incredible film school on that particular way.

Alex Ferrari 17:16
That's amazing. That's an IT he did he directed he directed the movie too, right.

Boaz Yakin 17:20
Yeah, he starred and directed it.

Alex Ferrari 17:22
He directed Yeah, because it well, we could talk about calling for hours. But that's a whole other. That's a whole other show for another episode. Now, how did you make your jump? Because I know a lot of screenwriters listening to like I want to direct How did you make that jump from that to fresh which is your directorial debut?

Boaz Yakin 17:39
Well, what really happened was, you know, I am, you know, when you're young and kind of like your life is like that John Fabra movie in LA what was that movie?

Alex Ferrari 17:49
It is Swingers were

Boaz Yakin 17:49
Swingers, right? Like, yeah, like, that's literally what it was like to be 20 something in Los Angeles at that time. And you I didn't even enjoy that movie, because I was just kind of like, this is not like, it is boring. Like what happens when I walk outside? You know, now you watch it. You're like, God, super entertaining. And then, you know, but at the time, it was just like, what this shit like, no, but But anyway, that's it pretty much exactly what our lives were like. So I had a number of friends that I was making at the time, right? And a couple of my best friends was like this, this guy called Scott Spiegel, who co wrote Evil Dead two with Sam Raimi. And my friend Lawrence Bender, who was just an aspiring producer at the time, and, and I had put them together, I knew them separately, and they made Lawrence produced this little horror movie Scott did on Trudeau. Right

Alex Ferrari 18:39

Boaz Yakin 18:40
And after the rookie got made, honestly, I had gotten to a place which is, by the way, still, what I struggle with all the time in this creative field that we're in is that, you know, I started out trying to write commercial films and action films and all that, but I very quickly, so quickly, because I was only barely 23 realized it's not very much what I wanted to do at all with my life. And actually, I decided to quit the business and go live in Paris and write a book like, like most young Americans off to try and do. But before I left, I put together Scotty and my friend Lawrence, and I had met Quentin Tarantino through my friend Sheldon. And both Scotty and I were like, I was like, you gotta meet Scotty and Scotty actually ended up becoming friendly with Lawrence. And he introduced Lawrence to Quentin. And so while I'm in Paris, Lawrence and Quentin went away and made Reservoir Dogs. And I really had wanted to leave the business and so on. And I did write my book that never got published. And when I came back, Lawrence and Quentin had finished the movie and it had gotten some kind of like some real hype behind it. And it was Lawrence who pulled me back in Lawrence was kind of like Boaz. If you read the script, I think that we make can make for a low enough budget. I think I can get the money for it and so I spent half a year or however long researching and writing trash it took me a while on that one It took us a while to find the funds some French financing and we made the movie but that's that's how it came together It was actually Lawrence who pulled me back in after I was going to quit you know?

Alex Ferrari 20:21
Yeah. And from what I heard is more inset that as legend goes more into the one that'll quit and Hey, give me a minute. I'm gonna see if I can find money he's like, Man, I'm just gonna do this 50 grand with some friends on the weekend it that's why

Boaz Yakin 20:35
That's actually true Lawrence connected with Monte Hellman and with I think Lawrence pulled in Harvey titled said give me a little time. And he pulled on Harvey Keitel and managed to make the movie for like a million something rather than 30 - 40,000. So the Lawrence was the Lawrence was instrumental in that.

Alex Ferrari 20:52
Now, I'm one of the films that you directed that I absolutely adore. And I've seen as participant encounters Remember the Titans. It was just such a wonderful, wonderful film. How did you get involved in that because you didn't write that one right? You were just a director?

Boaz Yakin 21:07
I mean, I did rewrites But no, I look it was I had made I had made fresh. I made a movie about a frustrated Hasidic housewife with her nasal webinar called a price of always a popular genre. Backdrop is pasta has Coulter box office go frustrated see them. Although they didn't really did one on Netflix this this year that got a lot of attention, I have to say. It's called was it called Unreligious or something that I don't remember. Shira Haas was fantastic. And anyway, but um, I was actually in a position where I was having a hard time as I always find myself a hard time getting anything made. The Bruckheimer people reached out to me about the movie, and frankly, I would, you know, the truth of the situation is this. None of the big directors that they wanted to, for that movie, were willing to do it because Disney was only giving them a very limited budget. So the usual Bruckheimer suspects, you know, Tony Scott, people like that, we're just like, I'm not gonna do this,

Alex Ferrari 22:13
I don't, I don't get I don't get up for less than 100. Now

Boaz Yakin 22:16
He was doing what he does sometimes, which is he then looks for like an independent, whatever, someone that he can bring in. And I needed a job. I had no interest in making a football film or a Disney film. And that, you know, but I recognize that if I didn't try and do something like that, that I was going to be in trouble. And I kind of audition for it. I The script was like, 140 pages long. And then one weekend, I kind of cut 40 pages out and restructured things and showed it to them. And they were like, Okay, you've got the job. And I went in and I made it. I wish I had been less conflicted about it and enjoyed the process more, it was very challenging to make a film that became like, by far the most successful film I could have made. And it was the film I was the least interested in, in many ways at the same time, you know, and that's always a blow in some way. I wish I had handled it better. And with a little bit more fun and grace, but I it's it's sort of what, what ended up happening.

Alex Ferrari 23:22
Yeah. And it wasn't, it was a fairly big hit. I remember,

Boaz Yakin 23:25
I was a huge hit, and it's very watchable till this day. So

Alex Ferrari 23:30
I mean, I could turn it on with my girls. And we just watched it, it just, it's just such a it's just that that twist the heartbreaking scene and you're like, Oh, my God, like there's still emotion, so much emotion in that. And what was it like working with Intel on that project and directing it? Once you're, you're out? You got to? You got to two features under your belt at that point, right? And then yeah,

Boaz Yakin 23:49
mismatched features.

Alex Ferrari 23:50
Is that right? So then you got Denzel who was Denzel at that time, he still stands out.

Boaz Yakin 23:54
He was Denzel. He wasn't Denzel post Titans and post training day which he made those two movies one two punch really solidified themselves, like the major star, but at the time, he he still was, you know, he still was Denzel Washington. And you know, I, I can't say that. It's like, I direct you basically just where are you going to be you know, and then Okay, let's make the medium shot and but, you know, we he knew what he was doing to an extremely high degree. I think he was seeing the same movie as I was, you know, and so it went pretty smoothly in that regard.

Alex Ferrari 24:35
Now, let me ask you, when you when you write, do you start with character? Or do you start with plot? I always look at the question.

Boaz Yakin 24:45
I think I always start with character. Always except the man even, except for when I'm trying to come up with a more commercial Hollywood type idea. Then sometimes you think about plot, no, of course, plot always involves character in the sense of, there's this guy, or this gal who does this, and this is their problem. And this is what they're trying to solve, oh, it's about a spider fell out of the sky, you know, I don't know, it's always a character. It's always a human being. But, you know, with a more sort of, quote, unquote, commercial ideas, you know, you tend to think more of the situation. You know, and and I think with more personal work, you think more about the emotional and kind of his social emotional situation and the person's. But it does always start with with the character.

Alex Ferrari 25:38
Now, what, what advice would you give writers who, to on how to write a good protagonist? Something that like that can drive that story?

Boaz Yakin 25:49
Wow, I mean, that's such a personal kind of a thing. You know, I mean, I don't even know how to advise someone on something like that. Not not being evasive. But I do think, I guess, I mean, again, it's different when you're writing a studio film, and when you're writing a personal kind of a piece, it's quite different, although maybe certain similar rules apply, in terms of not being boring, and so on. But I think a strong connection to what that person wants, and meet, or at least what that person is searching for, even if it's unspecific. Right, because I mean, I think that's the thing that I think is sort of frustrating about trying to write commercial films or is that, you know, people are always asked to kind of come up with a very specific want or need or desire that somebody has. And if a person isn't driven in a particular direction, people have very little patience for it. Whereas I find that a lot of times, human beings, right, we are in an ambivalent state. And that a lot of stories that are interesting to me are about ambivalent people who are in a particular cycle of their lives. And somehow something happens to them in that space, that moves them into recognizing what it is that they are needing or wanting, or connecting to, and so on. But I always find myself starting from a very ambivalent state. And I think it makes for interesting pieces, but it makes for pieces that take more patients in the opening stages for an audience to get into, does that make sense?

Alex Ferrari 27:42
It makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense. One area that that is not really talked about enough, I think with screenwriters, and I think this is where screenwriters and filmmakers for that matter, get sideswiped in our business is the politics behind the scenes, the stuff that you have to deal with, about how to get that how to get us to finance how to how to deal with personalities, how to deal with ego, how to deal with agendas. Do you have any advice? Because obviously, you've been able to navigate these waters

Boaz Yakin 28:14
Not so well all the time. I mean, when you think about the fact that I've been in the film business for 30 years

Alex Ferrari 28:21

Boaz Yakin 28:22
Like, the amount of scripts that I've actually had out there that got made or that you know, hey, the most personal work I've done, I paid for myself. Like the to like the movie, I just made a Viva this other movie I made it's very dark and painful and personal death and love. I paid for them with my life savings, no one finance them. You know, and not not a lot of people do that. And the last one I did before that this little strange little kitsch horror movie thing I did called boarding school. Like, I paid for a ton of it. Not all of it, but for a ton of it. And it's it's very, like, it is very challenging. And, you know, making a movie, even a lower budget movie. That's the thing, right? That that's the thing that's so difficult with our business, right, is that it takes so much money to make a movie, even if it's a small film, right? Even if it's a few, even if you're talking about a mic what they call a micro budget movie. Hey $150,000 in the real world is a fuckload of money, right? And people don't want to give you their $150,000 any more than some big company wants to give you $15 million. Right. And everyone wants to know there's going to be a return on their investment and Odetta. And it makes for a completely uncreative not risk taking, not kind of encouraging exploration environment, especially here in the states where you have no funding from like the government or anything like that, right? So there is no Lars von Trier here. There is no, there is no Thomas vinterberg here, right like it. There are good filmmakers here. Right. The Cohens are incredible. But somehow that filmmaker has to find the Zeitgeist that that work, they have to fit their work into an environment that makes a certain amount of money, right. And they have to, you can't really explore or, and fuck up and discover the way you can. And other art forms the way writers can, or painters can or even musicians can write. And it makes for a very boring array of work.

Alex Ferrari 30:53
So when you talk about politics and trying to get your stuff work, like, I would easily say that 90% 95% of what I think the most interesting stuff I've written is never got to the light of day. Now, am I saying it's great, or that that it up? No, not at all. It's interesting, though. And that doesn't really cut it in our particular field, because people have to feel they're going to make money off it. So it's challenging. And if you want to be a script writer, and if you want to sell your work, and if you want to be a solid, you know, you have to make sure your work can fit stars in it still till this day, and that actors who have some kind of a name are going to want to do it. It has to sort of fit cleanly into some kind of genre that people feel they can make money from. And, you know, anything that isn't that is very infrequent.

Right? And even when you were coming up, I mean, look, can you imagine taxi driver? Or Raging Bull? Getting finance today? I mean

Boaz Yakin 31:58
No, no, the differences. I mean, we all know that, like movies with the actual budgets that feature, you know, production value, and all that, that you can make with certain stars and all that in the late 60s 70s, very early 80s, that doesn't exist anymore. They take more chances with streaming shows and things like, you know, the taxi driver of then became the Breaking Bad of today, right where you have? No, but I will say this as much as they take chances. And they have like, you know, dark protagonists and things like that, right? All started by the sopranos, I suppose, right? Like and all that. The fact that these things need to go on for three, four years, to me inherently saps them. Have for me personally, have a genuine creative perspective. So at that creative art, I guess it's such a silly word artistic or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 32:59
I understand what there's like, like, there are there, there's this film, there's a shows that just go go go go. But something like Breaking Bad. Who this event actually said it this is this is the arc. It's five seasons, this is how long they wanted.

Boaz Yakin 33:12
I mean, five fucking seasons of it. Like, I mean, it's a good, right. But after a few episodes are like I get it, he's breaking bad. I mean, what more do you need? Like, what can you say in five years that the Godfather two couldn't say in about three hours? And I'm not saying you know, and I don't know. So. And by its nature, it becomes diluted. There's like a ton of directors, even if some of them are very good. There's a writers room filled with writers

Alex Ferrari 33:42
a different vibe.

Boaz Yakin 33:43
It's a it's a product of some kind, it can be wonderful. It can be a great show that people love, like the wire or whatever. But it's still a product, a corporate product. Whereas there is still something to an individual film, you know, whether you're watching, you know, the master by PP Anderson or Grand Budapest Hotel, by west or some where you go. It's a piece, it's other piece. It's complete in a division, its perspective, it says what it wants to say. And that's it, you know, that that day is close to being done. And it was certainly easier in the 80s was already getting more difficult than it was in the 70s. And in the 60s. That now I think it's completely shifted.

Alex Ferrari 34:34
Well, I mean, if you look, if you look at Well, first of all, I think that one thing you said the product television is it's close to a product as we can create in our industry. Because you know, like that bottle you're drinking from right now that's a product. It's a battle. It's a price you make it for certain costs, and you get certain you get, you know, markup and that's it. Television is the closest thing we have to that that's why they just keep pumping them out because you can keep pumping up product product.

Boaz Yakin 35:00
A lot of super talented people doing it. Oh, and making high level writing high level work apps. And yet, there's something about it.

Alex Ferrari 35:11
No, I get I get you. But if you look, you're saying that, you know, you were sent mentioning Wes and MPP. And these guys, I'm noticing that films that actually get some budget, have some star power is rarely the young, unknown directors anymore, or even the young, you know, maybe have one or two, it's the colon, that it's the guy that came up in the 90s. In the early 2000s. The had those they came in at that right time, and they're there, they've got the keys to the castle to keep doing that. I mean, Woody did it for

Boaz Yakin 35:45
Well, you know, what happens now? What happens now, it's sort of like, you know, it's what happened was, like, because the corporate structure is become so overwhelming, like, right, like, you can't be a robot, like, you can't be the class anymore. And like, do four or five album and then finally, like, the media realizes, oh, shit, the class is awesome. And then put them on a tour with the who were already bloated and all that stuff. And then the class basically fall apart. But they've had like five fucking class albums before they, you know, the rock, the Cavs Bon Iver commercial, and it's done. Right. Right now, if someone does something successful for two seconds, Disney marked like big jump on these kids. And some kid who just did like, you know, a great first Sundance movie or whatever it is. The next thing you know, is they're directing like some gigantic Marvel movie they've been set or a jurassic park or whatever it is. And that's also what people want, like, people are starting to approach this idea of making their first film or whatever as this sort of like, entree into like, the main corporate product. And so you get good first films still. But you almost never get to second, or third or fourth, right? It's like if you went and made Reservoir Dogs, and the next thing he did was direct, you know, Captain Marvel, whatever, you would have never gotten Pulp Fiction, right? Never. And that's the difference is that people are still making Reservoir Dogs here and there or, you know, their versions of it. that no one's doing the second one and the third one and the fourth one that really allows a voice to grow. That's what was had that PT Anderson Wes Anderson, Quint, the Cohens huge, I mean, they're the best American filmmakers right now. Like, today, you do one thing, that's good. And the corporations are just all over you. And it's super tempting. You can't blame somebody. And it's getting harder and harder to get financing for second and third films, right. So essentially, it's almost like a little beauty contest making that first films like this little beauty contest, so that you get picked up by the corporations.

Alex Ferrari 38:08
And it sucks. No, and it's really good to like right now. So if today, Joel and Ethan, bust out blood simple, then the net, they're there on a Netflix series, or they're they're doing a Marvel film or or they're doing a gritty Star Wars Show. I mean, it's, you don't get

Boaz Yakin 38:29
And what's kind of, I don't need to go dark with it. But what's kind of depressing is how much what once was like a synopsis he asked and kind of like, film lover community, right has basically been co opted by the corporations into becoming this sort of Geek community that just like, will argue about, you know, how big hammer should be or whatever it is. And they genuinely care about this stuff. Whereas once that type of person was caring about, you know, what the next Scorsese movie was, or what the next parent you know, Terrence Malick movie was and now it's become this kind of I don't know what you even call it,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
It's, it's like it's a different thing. I mean, it's the basically now people listen to like, Oh, these two old farts are just talking about the good.

Boaz Yakin 39:28
I I enjoy. It's like, the thing that that I find difficult is that it's not like is that people have the priorities are so weird. It's like, people aren't looking at like these gigantic entertainment. Like we used to look at these gigantic studio entertainment movies, whether it was Indiana Jones or whatever. In the day. It's like, oh, man, this is so much fun. I'm like, this is so much fun. It's so entertaining. This is great, like fun product, but I'm going to put my attempt Going into something else, my attention, my critical faculties, my discernment, my my real focus into something else as both a fan, a critic, a, you know, a creative person. But that level, I mean, their level of attention paid to stuff that's essentially well made version of McDonald's hamburgers. It's like, and the kind of discussion that that gets is what has flipped from the way things used to be. So anyway, folks getting around to shipping,

Alex Ferrari 40:40
I mean, but there's still the Criterion Collection for the rest of us. And we get it. And we get to do that still. And I remember like, I had my laser dip. And I had, you know, with with Scorsese commentary, and Coco commentary, and Dracula, and I'm listening to them. And that's the cinephile in it. But yeah, it's, it's just a different world. And there's nothing that's been wrong,

Boaz Yakin 41:00
I have to admit that as an American. I mean, not to be like that. America bothers me. Like, my brother. And I just did this deep dive again, into like, how yummy is Jackie's entire, you know, old one, or smorgasbord? Or smorgasbord. You know, she's a genius of some kind, right? And he's a genius. And he is a popular filmmaker. I mean, he is the Disney of Japan, like he is the Spielberg and Disney wrapped up into one of Japan. All over the world. His movies are like enormous. And in the States, finally, because of like, they're on Disney plus, whatever, you know, people have finally seen a little bit but no one talks about it. Right? Like, that's not what people do here. I'm not saying it's not possible to make beautiful popular films. But I just feel like our particular culture and our particular filmmaking culture is is is pretty frustrating. I get it. I get it on in 10%. I understand exactly what you're saying.

Alex Ferrari 42:08
And we can keep going down this path for a while but

Boaz Yakin 42:12
Okay we'll go with another path. What path would you like to go down?

Alex Ferrari 42:16
So now the you actually wrote a sequel to a beloved classic called dirty dancer, and you deserted dancing Havana nights now? I particularly liked. I liked it a lot, because I'm Cuban. But you know, Viper,

Boaz Yakin 42:31
Really talking about things I'd rather not talk about anytime.

Alex Ferrari 42:36
I loved it. I thought it was a lot of fun. watching that.

Boaz Yakin 42:41
Glad you did.

Alex Ferrari 42:43
Apparently, I'm the only one is what you're saying.

Boaz Yakin 42:46
I think you're like the only one. Like I find it very difficult that it's on my IMDB page. And when I do when and when I do something else people always like Oh, the guy who wrote Dirty Dancing too. And you're like I did a fucking written you know? Wish. I know I come off like the crankiest person in the world. I'm not really but here's something is difficult talking about screenwriting. By the way,

Alex Ferrari 43:14
Sure go ahead

Boaz Yakin 43:18
as script writers, we have to make a living. Right. And I say this, you know, in thought, like, we have to make a living. There are a few brilliant people, like Quentin or PT, or whatever that everything they like to do is what other people like to see. And they managed to like, right? A lot of us have to make a living, because this stuff that we make our independent stuff isn't as successful, blah, blah, blah, you've got to keep a roof over your head, right? And what you can't do as a filmmaker is having non diploma, right? You can't have a non diploma, like when I do rewrites for Jerry or for whatever My name is, you know, jack Ryan, you know, and when I do my own stuff, it's Bo as a key because there's a lot of egos involved and a lot of people's pride involved. Right. And so like if you're going to do a rewrite for a producer on a project and everyone Hey, my name is good enough to be on this movie. What your net, it's not good enough for you. You know. Larimer McMurtry said something really interesting in this book about script writing he wrote called stone plan. You know, and it's like a series of essays about filmmaking. He's a fantastic novelist is right. And he's written some beautiful scripts. That's not really been his focus, but so he has some interesting and always funny and biting stories about Hollywood. And the thing that he says it's so interesting for anyone who takes Script meetings or tries to get jobs in the screenwriter or whatever is that there's this sort of illusion in our business, that you need to be passionate about the material that you're working on. Right? That like, when you're going to take that writing job for that script about the dog who flies and saves the day that you can't come in there and say, yeah, you know, I'd like to do this, because I just got a kid and I need to build an addendum to the house, and I can really use that. $150,000. So, yeah, I'm down to write the story about the dog with the cake. Right? You have to come in there and be like, you know, when I was a kid, I had a dog. And, and, and you know, and the dog died when I was 14. And I realized that dog meant so much to me. And I can really identify with this material, I think it's going to speak to everyone who loves it. Right. Right. And as Larry McMurtry says, some of the worst work ever done has been done by people passionate about that work. And some really incredible work has been done by professionals who, you know, decide not to do and who decided to do something because they needed to pay the rent and put their craft and imagination and intelligence do it, and fucking knocked it out. Right? Like, like whoever wrote, I don't know, anyway, I'm not going to get into specifics, but there's a lot of very good commercial work that's been done by people who did it with a sense of commitment, and and, and intelligence and professionalism, but not because they were dying to tell that particular fucking story, right. And I think that that sort of illusion that we need to create that we're so passionate about everything we do, because otherwise you won't get hired, basically puts people in a situation where a lot of the work that you see like a lot of you know, an A name on a script, like whether it's dirty dancing to or whatever it is, it's like, yeah, you know, you did a job, there were four writers on it, what your, what that piece ended up being has very little to do with what you actually wrote and maybe recognize three words of it, and some structural changes that you put into it, that were deemed significant enough by the Writers Guild committee to give you a credit, right? And you're happy about it, because it means you get residuals, and you got a credit. And that means you might get another job, right? But does it reflect you as a creative person? No. And you could argue, well, then don't do the jobs that don't reflect you as a creative person. Right? If that's going to be something difficult for you later on in life, don't do that job. Don't do things that you don't believe in. I get that point of view. I know people who haven't done it, and I've done well, I know people who haven't done it and are like, out of the business. And for me, it's always been this sort of juggling act of trying to find a way to do things that I like to do that really do reflect my perspective. And things that you go back. If I don't make some money this year, I'm fine. Oh, you know, this thing? Yeah, sure. I'm down. I know how to do that. Right. And that's the thing, that being a professional, you know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 48:16
I love I love that you bring this up, because it is a almost a myth, that the struggling artists that so passionate about everything they do, and you know what, of course, you know, at a certain level, your private things and things that you do are at that, like, I'm passionate and passionate. But man, when I was coming up, I would take jobs directing stuff that I'm like, I don't want you know, or I would do, I would do post and I'm like, I don't even I don't even want my name on. You know, but it was it was it was a paycheck, and you have to do and that's what a professional is. Yes. Like you said, there are those few geniuses who gets do both, but that those are anomalies. You know, the Coen Brothers barn anomaly. pcns is an anomaly Wes Anderson's an anomaly Tarantino's an anomaly, these guys are anomaly in our business. So for the rest of us, sometimes you got to take jobs that you might not be happy with, or do something else, or figure another way out to tell your stories. I mean, I know the duplass brothers, they just dropped their budget down to a place where like, I could do whatever the hell I want. And they just go out and do it. Great. If that's the kind of storytelling you want to do, and that makes you happy as an artist. Great. I mean, I heard the story when the duplass brothers were brought into Marvel, and they were offered a movie and they're like, yeah, we're good. Yeah, we're, we don't want to do that. Because they understood what was that going to be entailed? Let them kind of talk about today. But that is a myth that needs to be broken that you like it's all about the passion and it is about the passion but man you got to eat sometimes man or Yeah,

Boaz Yakin 49:45
I mean, look, I I just made a film that really was that. I mean, I basically I lucked out, in the sense that this movie that I wrote, I every once in a while I write something I'm like I have right so I wrote this piece. A dance movie about the this thing called a diva about the difficulty in being both in your masculine and feminine self and the struggle in that regard. So I did a story about a couple where I had four actors playing two people, a man and a woman playing each of the two characters. It's a dance movie. It's a sex movie. I mean, it's it's fun. It's so much sex and dance and experimental

Alex Ferrari 50:27
disulfide argument 500 million worldwide box office.

Boaz Yakin 50:30
Exactly. I i. And you know what, I, I got a surprise check. from years ago from this little comedy I made for a for MGM called uptown girls. were like, 15 years later, money that I didn't realize I was owed, suddenly came to me. And I was like, I'm making my movie. And I took that money. And I put it into making this movie. And I made it and i and i love it. It's unique. It's different. It's personal. If I had $20 million, I would just make 20 of these things and not give a shit who saw them or who didn't? But I don't. So after you make one of those things, suddenly you're like, Oh, fuck, what do I do? I guess I got to find a way to build again, to pay the bills, and to make sure that I can make another film or whatever it is. So it's this constant dance, you know?

Alex Ferrari 51:37
What I love about you was and what you're because, again, from if someone just let's say your IMDb, they just like, Oh, well, he's this and he's doing that. And you're just like, Look, man, I pasted this myself. I'm an artist. I'm still I'm still hustling. I'm you're still doing it the way you want to do it. The normal the normal mind. And I always tell this filmmakers, it's been the worst that we're we've been infected. It's a horrible disease that we have, because it lies dormant for years sometimes, and then comes back up. The normal human being would have seen that check and said, Oh, good, I could put it away. And they asked for security. Maybe I can invest it. You said, I can make my movie. That's what I love about that. I love about you.

Boaz Yakin 52:20
Well, yeah. And you know, I mean, I think the other thing that is very, again, we're not talking about our outlier, don't makers who both do exactly what they want to do and get funded funding for it and all that. But I think that a real hole that people fall into. And maybe it's good, I think in some ways, maybe I should have done a little bit more of it. But I it always freaked me out is that when you find a way that you're successful, you make Remember the Titans or whatever. The next thing you're offered is like 10, big sports movies or like another job. And I had that opportunity after that movie. And I kind of freaked out. And I was like, This isn't who I am, this isn't what I want to do. And if I go down this road, I don't think I'll ever remember who I really am. So I pulled back and tried to do my own thing with moderate levels of success, rather than, you know, pursue the thing that's most comfortable. And that makes me the most money. And I'm not advising it to anyone. I'm not advising it to anyone. But I am proud of the fact that at my age, and after doing this for a long time, I'm still when I can pull it together, experimenting and trying things I've never tried before, and trying to do things that are off the beaten path, rather than just sort of perfecting this thing that I quote unquote, know how to do over and over and over and over again, may be great for some people, and some people may be creatively inclined in that way. But I find that very uninteresting. You know,

Alex Ferrari 54:01
What i what i respect about what you're talking about what you're saying what you're doing is that you're still willing at this stage in your career that you've been in the business for a long time, you've done a bunch of stuff, you're still taking the swing at the bat, you're still taking swings at the bay at the fete where a lot of guys. And a lot of a lot of professionals who are at this point in their career. They just want to say say I'm just gonna do I'm gonna do the sport.

Boaz Yakin 54:23
I know people who want to stay safe the minute they do their first thing that does well okay, I've known a lot of people like that. Honestly, now that I'm getting older and I'm like starting to look at that like oh my God wouldn't be nice just to be on a beach in Hawaii for the rest of my fucking life and stop with this shit. Now, like go oh my god, what am I an idiot? Like? I think a million dollar good. You know, like, I would have been nice to have some money to buy that fucking house in Hawaii, right? Instead, I made this RTS movie that no one's ever gonna see. So it is it is it's a mixed bag but you know the Truth is, as someone dropped the check on me tomorrow, I would turn around and make another movie with it. Right? Yeah, I wouldn't like Hawaii. So maybe that's something.

Alex Ferrari 55:12
But that's the sickness. That is the sickness of being an artist, you know, and being a brave artist because there are artists who are brave and artists who are brave, and you are brave artists, no question about it. Now, you know, I was gonna ask you about Prince of Persia, was that the

Boaz Yakin 55:25

Alex Ferrari 55:26
It's a rewrite. Okay. So,

Boaz Yakin 55:28
Actually, I love I became really good friends with the guy who created the video game and wrote the first draft, right, but that's very much an example of what I'm talking about in the Hollywood world, right? Like, there was a video game. Bruckheimer bought the video game and hired Jordan was a wonderful guy to write the original script, then they hired another writer to rewrite Jordan's script. Then they brought me on to rewrite the third writers, the second writers script, I did a bunch of work on it, a couple of drafts and then went, I think this is what I got for you guys. And then they hired two other guys to come on a writing team to come on. And they wrote the rest of the way for like, the next year and a half. The movie comes out, and it's like six people have written on it. I guess they decided that what I did had enough of left in it to have a credit. And that's a credit that you have, you know, and it's interesting, because people say, Oh, you wrote Prince of Persia right now like, yeah, I mean, I guess, is there two words in that thing that I did I that, you know, I don't even think so. But that's what that particular machine is. You make money. You get residuals, you get health benefits. This is the reality, dude, this is the reality of being a writer. And you cannot fucking complain about that. I mean, how many jobs are there in this world? Other than these fucking Elan musk types, right. But how many jobs are there in this world that you work on something for a few months, you make hundreds of 1000s of dollars, you get health benefits? If it does, well, later, and ancillary markets, you keep getting checks every year for a few $1,000 that you Whoa, I didn't reach out to you pay by the you know, $20,000 for Prince of Persia came in five years later, right? fucking amazing, right? So it's a factory, it's a machine, you do it to make a living? And that's, you know, I'll never get another job again. I'm sure if any one of these people listen to this.

Alex Ferrari 57:43
Or maybe you'll get the right job?

Boaz Yakin 57:44
Oh, no, I think I think people know, I think this, which is why sometimes I have a hard time getting those jobs, you know, and care about the dog with the cake. He doesn't care about the dog with the K I don't, but I'll do a good job. If I have to do it. You know what I mean? And and, and that's the thing, look, you know, what can I say? No, I get it. So. So when you when you What was your involvement with now you see me without an original or that? You know, that's an example of a friend of mine, a very good friend who's become who's actually a great person to talk to, because he's a writers writer, my friend and record. It worked for like 10 years, and I didn't mentor him a bit and co wrote something I mentored him had a lot of years of not succeeding, a lot of years of not succeeding. And he had this idea for a script that at the time, I remember we were sitting in a car, and he called it something insane, like poof, or something like that. And he was like about four magicians who robbed a bank in Vegas. And in Paris from the stage in Vegas. I was like, Ed, the dumbest idea I've ever heard, right? Like, I was just like, don't bother me. There's no money. There's no money here. No, it was just utterly brutal, dark, personal film that I called Death and love about horrible family dynamics and stuff like that. And after I finished it, I was kind of in a place where I was like, holy shit, I don't know if I'll even know how to ever write another commercial script. Again, this is like a year later or something like that. And I was talking to Ed and Ed said, Boaz, I wrote the first 15 pages of the script. Fucking read it. Right. So I picked up Ed's first 15 pages. And I read them and I was like, ah, like, essentially, everything that now you see me became very successful, right. And second, moving on, is based on that first 15 pages of EDS, his concept. And I was like, Ed, this is a great idea. How did they do it? And he goes, and I was like, Oh shit. Like that, huh? And I was like, I guess I better get in here with you, right. And so I then got in with Ed and we basically fleshed it all out. But it was Ed's concept, right? And then I came in, and I helped him figure out how everything would work. And we came up with all the solutions, and then the theology and all that. And we wrote it. And in fact, it got sold. And it was interesting, because we had one of those moments where they finally after a few dot drafts, replaced us with someone else. And Ed was very upset, you know, he was hurt. And I was like, Ed, this means they might make the movie.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:48
And that's exactly it's like what I was telling you before, right until they hire someone else to rewrite you. That movie is not getting made. And, and they did, and they ended up making the movie. But Ed and I really created the concept, and the first draft and then they took it from there,

Did you because it's a pretty common did you go down the rabbit hole of magicians and how magicians do things like me?

Boaz Yakin 1:01:12
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. For the time that we wrote it. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
Did you interview that

Boaz Yakin 1:01:18
Expert, an expert on all that stuff? While we were writing?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:21
Do you call? Did you interview magicians? Did you talk to me? Just what kind of research did you do for that?

Boaz Yakin 1:01:26
Well, I mean, we do have the internet.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:30
There's that

Boaz Yakin 1:01:31
Which by the way, has made research a completely different experience than it used to be back in the day, when we had to go to library. He didn't call people, all that stuff, which was an interesting experience in and of itself, right? It was much slower, but in some ways richer. But yeah, there's the internet. And we also interviewed two or three magicians and blah, blah, blah, but you know, did our research.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:55
And of course, he took a couple trips to Vegas, obviously, just for research purposes.

Boaz Yakin 1:01:59
I think I've been to Vegas already. I don't know if we went there for that. But yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
But right now that you've directed the phone call max. Again, I'm now I'm afraid to ask about any buildings, right? Is that is that a film that you were like, really passionate

Boaz Yakin 1:02:14
Massacre is a film actually that it, it was sort of like me, trying to make amends in a way for myself for how I felt when I was doing Titans. Whereas I also found myself again, in a position where I needed to make a movie, I had written a movie to sell with my friend, Sheldon, an old friend of mine, who loves dogs. And I had some idea about a dog. And I was like, he was like, Come on boys, we have to write this. And we wrote this movie, and sold it to MGM, I had no intention of directing it or anything, I sold it. And about a year later, I found myself needing to do something. And the producer had actually the producer called me up and asked me to take a look at the script that someone else had done some writing on and said, Well, what are your thoughts on it? And I read the script, and I read our draft. And I was like, you know, I think if we can go back to our draft, I know how to make this movie and make it appealing. And I call them and I said, Look, if you guys want me, I'll direct this. As long as we can go back to our script, did it? And they said yes. And I went, you know what, let me just try and have a good time work with some nice people and make some kind of an appealing movie. And for everyone, I can you tell everybody what Max is about the max is a movie about what they call an N WD a military working dog. So it's about a dog that gets traumatized in Iraq and gets his his handler killed. And then he gets adopted back into society by the family of the guy of the marine that was killed. So it's about a traumatized that dog who has to sort of like, get his shit together with his family that adopted him. So it's almost like an old school 5060s Disney kind of a movie those days those Disney movies had kind of an edge. You know, like when you watch Old Yeller or something like that. He just kill that bear like that. Those boards just Gordon. Wait, that kid just shot three walls like they don't do stuff like that. And I think we are at the end What the fuck? like wtf

Alex Ferrari 1:04:27
Soiler alert for everyone who hasn't seen all yellow?

Boaz Yakin 1:04:29
Yeah, spoiler that like family movies back in those days were like definitely a lot more hard bitten than they are now. And And anyway, so it was sort of like a callback to like those 50s kind of like Disney Disney family movies, the 50s just go back to the 80s.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
Remember, Neverending Story, or secret or man? \

Boaz Yakin 1:04:50
Which one?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:51
He could have named the animated dark blue film.

Boaz Yakin 1:04:53
Yeah, that was a little harsher.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:54
That was a little harsh and neverending story that killed the horse and you're like, I'm like Are you kidding? Like never. I mean, they're, they're freaking out about the Swedish chef right now on the Muppets. I mean, can you imagine

Boaz Yakin 1:05:07
Is that the character that they say is a negative stereotype? Why they put the disclaimer to the Swedish chef?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:14
Is the Swedish chef. Yeah. See the chef?

Boaz Yakin 1:05:17
Holy shit, man. I'm in let the as you get, but this is the one area where like, I'm like aligning with all these whiners about cancer, like come on people. act as if it's,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:32
I don't want to go into that conversation because that's not what you at a certain point, you just got to go look, movies were made at a certain time. shows were made at a certain time. Just have a conversation about it. And at that time, didn't look Can you can't even imagine. Like I was watching Clockwork Orange today. And the first 20 minutes of talk of words are in our insane, In. Insane. And I was remember, cuz I saw when I was a kid, and then I watched it again as an adult. And it just it just reminded me and like, first of all, what it seems Kubrick is obviously imagine a film like that being released today. You can't allow people to lose their collective mind over that.

Boaz Yakin 1:06:20
I mean, one of my favorite filmmakers of all time is Ralph Bakshi. You know, Ralph Bakshi?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:26
I don't.

Boaz Yakin 1:06:27
He made animated films back in the 70s. And he brought adult animation into the mainstream for a minute before he burnt they didn't let him keep going. But he made Fritz the Cat. It was the cat guy. Yeah, which was based on our crumb stuff, but the great movie, but it is based on our concept. Then he made two super personal movies that are I think that just some of the best films of the 70s. One of them is called heavy traffic. And one of them is an exploration of black politics and identity. He was Jewish, but black politics and identity called coonskin, which is so Roche's and one of the greatest animated films of all time, and you watch content, and try By the way, it ended his career then in the 70s. Although you may have to imagine now, can you imagine if someone made that film today, and it's a masterpiece, it's amazing. So it's a different time, you know, then hey, maybe it's okay for a minute to absorb that, you know, to absorb this different time, but it does make for a blender stew.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:36
Oh, there's, there's no your 70s 70s 60s 70s and 80s and 90s were much more interesting.

Boaz Yakin 1:07:43
Yeah. But by mid 80s, things started to go like

Alex Ferrari 1:07:48
compared to today, the 80s

Boaz Yakin 1:07:49
maybe my parents are dead, but yeah, but he's

Alex Ferrari 1:07:52
like the 60s.

Boaz Yakin 1:07:54
Like the 70s I have a by 8483 84 things were like, you know, starting to go down. I was just I was just you know, it was the kind of movies I was trying to write at the time that I was just literally watching like one of my friends and they like one of those you know, at HBO stations they have or whatever and you just flick through them and like Rambo First Blood Part Two came on. And like back in the 80s that was like actually an acceptable action movie. Like were you like, Oh, yeah, Rambo. He's fighting this. And you want it now and you're I literally with laughing out loud the entire time. I mean, it's it's a porn film. Basically. It's like just shiny greased up guy blowing apart hundreds of people and and just walking around it and you're just like, what am I even watching? What is this?

Alex Ferrari 1:08:51
If you want if you want to go down

Boaz Yakin 1:08:52
I really enjoyed it. I thoroughly enjoyed enough but I was like, it's a relic of a different time. a different mentality. a different perspective. Like it's actually surreal. The movie is actually surreal. And at the time, no one thought that

Alex Ferrari 1:09:10
I think Rambo was that there was that Rambo but then there's another film around the thing came up the same year even. That was even more than Rambo which is Commando.

Boaz Yakin 1:09:24
It came out after Rambo.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
Yeah, it came out. Yeah, around the same time. It was like a year or two different Yes, it came out afterwards. But commando is even more surreal. I mean, they literally have cardboard cutouts being blown up. In deceit.

Boaz Yakin 1:09:37
Oh, commandos. commandos, hilarious. I mean, on ramps that Rambo is a better movie in some notes, right?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:43
Rambo's the better.

Boaz Yakin 1:09:44
It was surreal. The 80s became absolutely surreal. kind of fun. Anyway,

Alex Ferrari 1:09:55
talking about the good old

Boaz Yakin 1:09:57
weird ass movies that you like, wow. We were actually trying to make those things back then and now you look at them and they're like, what is that?

Alex Ferrari 1:10:04
I remember when look when I was during that time in theory to the 80s, late 80s and early 90s I, you know, john Claude Van Damme. Steven Seagal did there was a greatest things ever for me. And I remember Bloodsport being show good and so revolutionary.

Boaz Yakin 1:10:20
The guy who wrote that as the guy wrote Max width my friend Sheldon.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:24
Oh, yeah. Oh, really? So Alright, so he wrote Bloodsport, right. I felt amazing appetite to Sheldon now. I gotta get. I gotta talk to

Boaz Yakin 1:10:34
Directed Lion Hart.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:36
Yeah, no, we I saw I spent I spent two months with Sheldon and john Claude in Hong Kong making doing rewrites on double impact. Okay, so now what do you see the writing this on your IMDb? I would be talking to you. Because I didn't get I was uncredited rewrite, but I was there. Okay, so you now Okay, so now See, see how the how the conversation has turned?

Boaz Yakin 1:10:58
Okay, so we're just gonna watch this. I'm telling anybody,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:07
Just as you make your movies for you, I make these interviews for me and if someone listens to them, fantastic. Alright. So you're in your Sheldon, here. That was a pair of Europe. Hong Kong making double effects. I remember going to the theater, seeing double impact and going. That makes all the sense. Absolutely not cost. What because jakab was that that was that? Was that a universe? That was a universe? Yeah. JOHN quad was in the studio system at that point. He hadn't left yet. He was he was working. I think it's Warner's or Sony or somebody like that. He was working. But that was a big. That was a big release. I remember that. That was what was it like being on that set? Because it was john Claude at the height of his powers. You know, and Sheldon had just done Lionheart was a huge hit for universal. Like, what was that? Like?

Boaz Yakin 1:11:56
I thought it was fun. I mean, basically, I was living in Paris. Remember, I told you I left the movie business. I was living in Paris. I was with my younger brother. He had just gotten super sick. It was winter. And Sheldon calls me up. And he's like bow, we're making double impact in at the time. I remember what was called was based on the Corsican brothers. This old Alexander Dumas story about these two twins, and they ended up updating it into Hong Kong and, and so that was like, and we could really use a few rewrites or whatever. Do you want to come to Hong Kong for a month and help us out? Right? And I was like, Eric, do you want to go to my brother? Do you want to go to Hong Kong for a month? And he's like, Yeah, what's the fuck out of here? And I was like, let's do it. So I was like, Yeah, man, let's go and they flew me into this hotel. This is before Hong Kong turned back to the Chinese. It was still a British protectorate or whatever it was called. And we just found ourselves hanging out with john Claude having dinner with bolo Yang from like, Enter the Dragon bow from Dragon. Yeah. having dinner with john Claude and bolo and bolos family and me and my brother. Were just like, Oh, my God. pinner with bolos is fucking insane. I mean, I had already known john Claude, right. Like I had been Sheldon and john Claude brought me in to help edit, re edit a movie called Cyborg, which was john Claude second. I was, like, total mess. And I cut my teeth editing, re edit, helping to re edit that movie. So I mean, I was friends. I was that was friends with those guys. And, and my brother and I spent a month, month and a half in Hong Kong. And just like, it was so much fun. We just like would write I would write a little bit in the morning, I go to that, like I try and do notes and I was there when they auditioned all this this stuntman and all this kind of and it was it was super fun. Like the culture clash of it all was super fun. I introduced Sean cloud the jungles movies, he had never seen one before. Nearly Yeah. Among amongst us guys. Like we had just seen. Better Tomorrow and a better tomorrow to I don't know if hard boil that come out yet. I mean, if the killer had come out yet, I don't think it had even come out yet. Maybe it was.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:15
That was later later. 80s.

Boaz Yakin 1:14:16
If certainly a better tomorrow and better tomorrow to had come out. And we were like john Claude, man, you've got to see this movie. And john cloud saw the movie and it's like, I have to shoot two gun. And that's why in double impact, there's a couple of couple of scenes where he's where he shoots to God, a great impression of a bah bah, bah, bah, what do you think of this idea? Bah, bah, bah. That was my conversations with john claddagh. Like, and it was super fun. It was super fun. It really was cool. So basically, your film school essentially was and why did they couldn't use what editing Cyborg that was a lot of my son's school. actually edit. So I've worked in clinics that was before and then Clint Eastwood

Alex Ferrari 1:15:03
Yeah. No cuz I remember editing, because I remember Cyborg and it was it was okay because I am. There's that there's a time a time period and die on the job on afficionado so there was Bloodsport, but before blisworth it was Black Eagle. Then came after Black Eagle, which he had a small part. Oh, no, no retreat, no surrender. Then he went into Cyborg and remember Cyborg? Yeah.

Boaz Yakin 1:15:23
You know. And by the way, I do have to take a little credit for this. He had just made Bloodsport. Yeah, we're super excited about him. Like, like cannon films, I think or whatever. And they made sideboard and it was such a complete and total it was visual, but it was such an utter mess. And they were going to basically just put it straight to video. Luckily, not straight to audio, right, but straight to video, and audio. And show them again, show them to john Claude said, Hey, do you want to take a look at this and I looked at it. And I was like, Guys, I had an idea if we can completely recut and restructure, and like re put like new dialogue on like scenes and data. And I just since it wasn't my movie, I just went in there and went crazy. I flipped the film, I reversed it. I turned it upside down and made sequences out of stuff that weren't sequences, and show them to john Claude to edit in the other room, and we were all just editing away. And then I

Alex Ferrari 1:16:25
John Claud was editing as well?

Boaz Yakin 1:16:27
Yeah, would show them in the room like composite, really smart dude. And, and, and we were at and we all like sort of re edited the movie, and I restructured it and they edit in the other room. Then I left they reshot a little ending. And they looked at it and they liked it so much. They put it in theaters. Mind you, it's not a classic. But it made money in the theaters. It made money and kind of saved john clods career. Like if that had gone straight to video as his second movie, he would have been in trouble. Instead, his second movie ended up getting a release, making a lot of money, and it just sort of took off from there. So I'm always very proud to have been part of helping john clods career stay afloat at a time when it looked a little a little shaky.

Alex Ferrari 1:17:10
It was a little bit and of course, as long as you have a split in there with I still remember that split between the two walls is a pain in the rain of good times during the 80s. Now, real quick, I wanted to ask you about your new project Bingo. called the harder they fall. Is there anything you could talk a little bit about no J visa, a producer with Lauren's on that?

Boaz Yakin 1:17:36
Yeah, what my mind and my friend James Samuel, who was a mutant comes from music, mostly, you know, he's a songwriter. And he, he directed a couple of shorts, a couple of his own videos. And he had this concept for this Western that he'd been trying to make for years. And he asked me to help him with rewrite it. He had, he had written the original drafts. And it was filled with great ideas, but a bit unruly or quite unruly. And I basically helped kind of pare it into something that I think was more like Mabel. And James then came in and rewrote on that. So we wrote, ended up writing that script together, based on his concept and the end, and they made it and they just shot it, it's, it's going to come out on Netflix at some points, great cast. And yeah, it's an all African American spaghetti western, basically. But it's going to have like a lot of music and all and he definitely has a vision and a style. And yeah, he just did. He directed it. And he it's a huge budget first directorial film, I mean, unbelievable. But again, taking those kind of chances. They're taking those kinds of risks. And I imagine it'll be fun. That's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 1:19:01
That's very awesome. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What is the biggest mistake you see young screenwriters make?

Boaz Yakin 1:19:12
Interesting, I mean, I'm gonna kind of not answer that question. Just in the sense, just in the sense. I don't tend to really focus on screenwriting in my ingestion of movies. I tend to think of it I think, filmmakers, you know, I tend to think that filmmakers I never know when I see a screenwriters name on a movie, how much of their voices in the movie or not?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:42
Or let me, let me rephrase the question. What were some of the biggest mistakes you made when you were first starting out at this?

Boaz Yakin 1:19:49
Well, nothing's a mistake you're learning. Okay, you know,

Alex Ferrari 1:19:56
you need to go through so you're basically saying we got to go through some of these hardships in order Democrats, you got to cut.

Boaz Yakin 1:20:01
Yeah, you're learning. I mean, you know, your process as a human being is filled with self imposed barriers, externally imposed barriers, some of which you cross, some of which you don't, you know, there's no mistake, right? Like, you know, like I could say, you know what, when you're writing a Hollywood movie, it's a mistake to take anything personal. Right? But it's not a mistake. You just have to go through that experience. Get your ass beat, and then somehow come out of it as either as a human being who can absorb that with a thicker skin or a deeper capacity to like, handle things or not. But there's no mistake in it. It's It's It's just the process.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:50
It's a great and I answer I love it.

Boaz Yakin 1:20:53
That's, that's my answer for your question

Alex Ferrari 1:20:55
What are the three screenplays that every screenwriter should?

Boaz Yakin 1:21:01
Wow, again, I don't really read scripts. I see films, right. Three well written films. Oh my god, there's so many well written sounds. Just pick three that comes to your head. Three well written films Ingmar Bergman's persona, yep. Mr. Bergman's scenes from a marriage, especially and winter, like, biting my bird. So, if there's another word that you want to see anything with a really well written script, watch a Bergman movie. That's my advice.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:46
Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Boaz Yakin 1:21:53
I have no advice. Make a move.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:56
Because it just don't make something write something make.

Boaz Yakin 1:21:58
Make a fucking movie. I mean, are you know, I don't know. I have no idea. I have no idea.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:06
World is so different. Now. It's just

Boaz Yakin 1:22:07
it's so different from like, I mean, I'm still trying to stay afloat in the business, right? That's a different thing. It's like trying to stay afloat. And I feel like I'm trying to reinvent the wheel for myself everyday. That's the thing that you mentioned before, when we that's what's so crazy is that, like, I've been doing this for so long. And every time I finish something, or whatever, I feel like I'm never gonna work again. Yeah, and sometimes, you know, like, right now I'm kind of in that zone, where I'm like, Oh, shit, am I ever gonna get another job? Like, Oh, my God, am I ever gonna make another trip like, and then one day you find yourself making something, whatever you're like, holy shit, I can't believe that happened. Like, I've always been really jealous of people that just seem to work, and treat it like a job. Because I always think it's a miracle every time I get a job, or every time I make a film. I'm always in shock. I'm always in shock, you know, but in terms of how you get in now, it's a totally different world.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:02
And what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business

Boaz Yakin 1:23:05
Oh, my gosh. gratitude.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:13
Yeah. grateful for everything.

Boaz Yakin 1:23:18
Gratitude to God, the Creator, the universe, whatever you want to call it, for being a part of it. Not taking things personally, no matter what it is. Understanding that nothing in this universe is personal, even if it might seem like it is. That's been the hardest. And the most important lesson for me

Alex Ferrari 1:23:39
I can I know I can keep talking to you for a long time, at least three, four hours, but I want to respect your time, and I do appreciate you.

Boaz Yakin 1:23:47
Thanks for having me, man. It was fun to talk to you.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:49
It was an absolute pleasure talking to you, man. So thanks again,

Boaz Yakin 1:23:52
down the rabbit hole of disappear.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:58
I want to thank Boaz for coming on the show and dropping his truthful knowledge bombs on the tribe today. Thank you so much, guys. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash 114. And if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast calm and leave a good review and subscribe to the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.

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