RIP Carrie Fisher: Secret Genius Script Doctor
We tend to only associate creative people with their most successful work. American Graffiti may have been awesome, but George Lucas will always be known for Star Wars. J.K. Rowling continues to write novels, but she'll always be the lady who gave us Harry Potter.
But creativity is a fluid beast, and sometimes actors, writers, and directors branch out to pursue projects that seem to be the exact opposite of what they're good at, and they experience a level of success that can only be described as "unfair."
Carrie Fisher Helped Write Half Of The Movies You Saw In The 1990s
You might recognize Carrie Fisher in one of her many varied bit roles, such as the nun in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the therapist in Austin Powers, or Phoebe Cates' best friend in Drop Dead Fred. If you're into celebrity gossip, you probably know about her brief marriage with Paul Simon. She's pretty accomplished off the screen as well, having written a novel and an autobiography. But she's perhaps best known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, and honestly if you didn't know that, you're either 85 years old or you grew up in a bomb shelter.
"I- uh- need to go back to the shelter to ... check on something."
But long after she played our favorite member of space royalty, Fisher was hard at work rewriting the scripts for dozens of big movies, including Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and yes, the Star Wars prequels.
"Bullshit!" we hear you declare. "I don't see her name anywhere in the screenwriting credits of Lethal Weapon 3, a list of names I committed to memory long ago!"
"Besides, the real unsung hero was uncredited oboe soloist Tom Boyd!"
The thing is, unlike novels and that weird webcomic your cousin publishes on DeviantArt, screenplays are rarely written by a single person. While only one or two people may get credit for it in the film's final list of credits, uncredited (but well-paid) script doctors are routinely brought in to punch up dialogue, resolve plot holes, and sometimes rewrite entire swaths of the story. It's sort of like when your less-literate friends ask you to help them with their cover letters.
Fisher was one of Hollywood's top script doctors for 15 years. Some of her more famous movies include the aforementioned Hook, Sister Act, Last Action Hero, The Wedding Singer, Coyote Ugly and Scream 3. And yet, not even she could save the inexplicable dialogue that came spilling out of people's heads in the Star Wars prequels.
"I don't like this dialogue. It's course and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere."
Unfortunately, she's since given up the work, saying that times have changed and studios are wanting people like her to do punch-ups for free, because they apparently feel that Fisher needs to build up her resume. Instead she's banking on reprising a role from a science fiction trilogy she starred in back in the '70s and '80s.
The Wacky Dean From Community Wrote An Oscar-Winning Drama
If you recognize Jim Rash, chances are you know him from Community, the show that will never die, no matter how much its fans beg for it to be put out of its misery. Rash plays the school's dean, a man who is over-the-top ridiculous, even by the standards of a show that's featured multiple school-wide paintball wars and Chevy Chase's hilarious racism. Rash's completely absurd character single-handedly keeps an army of costume designers employed.
And an army of fan fiction writers.
When he's not using literally any excuse to wear insane costumes, Dean Pelton is sexually harassing Joel McHale and making terrible administrative decisions. So naturally, when Rash decided to expand his career from acting into writing, he wrote an Oscar-winning drama about a troubled man who learns that his dying, comatose wife has been having an affair.
The Descendants was a somber, highly acclaimed novel that Rash and his comedy writing partner somehow decided would be the perfect subject matter for them to develop into a screenplay. The movie does have some funny moments, but ultimately it's still a drama about a man with a family full of sycophants, children that don't get along with him, and a dying wife who cheated on him with Matthew Lillard.
Even Lillard is upset by this.
Rash's adaptation (which was his very first script) won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and The Descendants was named by many critics to be the best film of the year. And this wasn't just a flash in the pan by some comedian taking advantage of terrific source material -- Rash's next film, The Way, Way Back, was an original dramatic story that premiered at Sundance and is currently sitting at an 85 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is our responsibility to assume that Rash does all of this dramatic writing in between takes on Community while wearing a Tina Turner costume.
A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Wrote Spider-Man 2 And John Carter
Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose work has received widespread critical acclaim. Chabon's most famous work, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, is about two young Jewish men who invent a superhero who punches Hitler in the face. Also it's about love, losing touch, the impact of war on creation, and all sorts of other deep introspective stuff that Pulitzer-winning novels tend to be about. Another one of his books, Wonder Boys, was made into a film which features Spider-Man having sex with Iron Man.
This isn't what we meant when we said we wanted Spider-Man in the Avengers.
Perhaps inspired by the fact that Tobey Maguire did a good job of reading words written by Chabon, and the fact that Chabon's Kavalier & Clay was tangentially about a superhero, Chabon was asked to write a draft of Spider-Man 2.
Chabon's version of Spider-Man 2 featured a younger and drug-addicted Doc Ock in a love triangle with Mary Jane, a $10 million bounty on Spidey's head, and an actual reason for Spider-Man losing (and ultimately regaining) his powers beyond just "needing to believe in himself." Obviously, none of those ideas made it into the finished film, but enough of Chabon's draft was used to give him a story credit, and director Sam Raimi liked Chabon enough that he wanted him back for Spider-Man 3. But Chabon was busy, so instead we got the worst Spider-Man movie ever made. In retrospect, Chabon might have come up with the "busy" excuse after seeing all the ridiculous nonsense the producers wanted to cram into that petrified anal belch of a movie.
We're not saying it's fair to blame Chabon for not saving us from this, but we're going to.
Chabon was next tapped to do a rewrite of John Carter, truly a task more befitting of his Pulitzer Prize-winning credentials. You'd think that would be the sort of project he would work on in secret so he could use the cover of night to hide his shame, but he's actually quite proud of John Carter and has expressed interest in writing a sequel, if only Disney would return his phone calls.
Mel Brooks Produced The Fly And David Lynch's The Elephant Man
Mel Brooks is the genius behind every one of your grandpa's favorite movies. Brooks is a legend in the industry, having produced some of the most memorable comedies of the past half century. His credits include Blazing Saddles (the only Western comedy that has ever worked), The Producers, Spaceballs, and the powerful Academy Award-nominated drama The Elephant Man, which solidified director David Lynch's career.
Which can be summarized by this screenshot.
Brooks also found time to bring us the schlocky, mid-80s, body horror reboot of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum in various stages of oatmeal makeup.
In the bathroom scene, you can see a can of Quaker Instant next to the penis jar.
How did Brooks, the man responsible for a scene in which a bunch of cowboys sit around a campfire and fart continuously for a solid minute, come to produce an art house drama and a grotesque horror film, two genres firmly outside of his wheelhouse? Well, Brooks' wife, Anne Bancroft, wanted to direct a semi-serious film, and Brooks wanted to support her. But because he had spent the last couple of decades building up a reputation as a comedic filmmaker, he was worried that anyone seeing his name attached to the project would make them think it was another Mel Brooks comedy. So he created a production company with the innocuous name of Brooksfilms, although in retrospect it was maybe a little on the nose.
After that movie was completed, Brooks found that he enjoyed being a producer, and he had the script for The Elephant Man, a drama about the real-life "Elephant Man" Joseph Merrick, in hand. Brooks really wanted to make the film, but he had no idea who to hire as a director for such a dark, surreal story. Then he saw David Lynch's Eraserhead, and the universe made the decision for him.
"There is no God! Also, I should hire this guy!"
Realizing that the quite possibly insane Lynch was the best man for the job, Brooks hired him and somehow convinced studio executives they could make a profit off a movie about a man with brutal physical deformities (and also convinced them to OK Lynch, a student director whose only film at that time gave you the same feeling as watching your mother breastfeed Sasquatch).
Finding himself comfortable in a side job of turning nightmares into reality, Brooks then teamed up with David Cronenberg to remake The Fly. This time the battle with executives came over the casting of Jeff Goldblum, who had never played a lead role. But once you've convinced people to hire David Lynch, Jeff Goldblum is easy mode. Cronenberg got the biggest commercial hit of his career, and Brooks got to laugh himself to sleep on a giant pile of money.
The Writer Of The Frozen Soundtrack Wrote Music For The Book Of Mormon And An R-Rated Puppet Show
Even if you're some kind of alien who has never seen Frozen and couldn't care less about the eternal bond of sisterhood, odds are you still know at least the chorus of "Let It Go." A song hasn't permeated our collective cultural consciousness this deeply since the world demanded to know who let the dogs out. That's all thanks to the songwriting duo of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who in addition to the inescapable "Let It Go," also penned that song where the male lead confesses his love to his reindeer, that weird number where the trolls try to get the two main characters to crush pelvises, and all the other hits.
And in addition to creating the memorable songs for a modern-classic family film, Robert Lopez also contributed music to The Book of Mormon, a Broadway musical about Mormons getting scripture shoved into their assholes, and Avenue Q, a show about puppets having sex.
The Book of Mormon is a musical about religious hypocrisy and repressed homosexuality. It was written by the creators of South Park, and is about as far removed from Frozen as the sandstorm sequence from The Mummy.
Meanwhile, Avenue Q is a puppet show filled with songs about depression, existential angst, drugs, porn, masturbation, loud sex, and the uselessness of English degrees. Just try to imagine Elsa singing "It Sucks To Be Me," or the loveable snowman Olaf belting out "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist."
Lopez actually got his start doing PG work -- before Avenue Q, he pitched "Kermit, Prince of Denmark" to Sesame Street, who turned it down because, in their defense, a Muppet version of Hamlet would've been fucking weird. So Lopez shrugged his shoulders and made Avenue Q, a Sesame Street parody, instead -- at which point we assume Disney executives saw that Lopez had worked on an award-winning musical and said, "Hey, he should make the music for our next princess movie!" Because there are only four musical writers in the world at any given time. It's like a Highlander thing.
The Creator Of The Infamous Gore Film Re-Animator Wrote Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
In Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Rick Moranis accidentally shrinks his children with science, dooming them to wander through the backyard and try not to get eaten by a scorpion. It spawned a handful of terrible sequels, including Honey, I Blew Up The Kid and Jesus Fucking Christ, Honey, Maybe It's Time To Stop Building Lasers in Our Fucking House, and it was written by the same man responsible for a movie that features a severed head lusting after an unconscious girl half his age.
"Hey girl, you want to pick me up and get out of here?"
Stuart Gordon isn't a household name, but gore hounds know him for his violent, ridiculous, and extremely family unfriendly horror films. His best-known movie is Re-Animator, which takes a story by H.P. Lovecraft and turns it into a goofy comedy with so much fake blood it makes Friday The 13th look like a quiet, subdued character study. As the title implies, a mad scientist reanimates dead people, and while we don't want to spoil too much for you, things don't go as planned. To give you a sense of its tone, at one point that disembodied head we mentioned earlier performs nonconsensual oral sex on the girl. There's no amount of wacky mugging from Moranis that could make that work on family movie night.
So how did he wind up making a kid-friendly comedy? According to an interview Gordon did, he and his filmmaking partners wanted to work on something that their kids could actually watch, so they came up with the idea for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and sold it to Disney. Despite the fact that it's a family friendly Disney comedy, Gordon considers the movie to be just another horror film, which makes total sense when you consider the fact that it contains nightmarishly gigantic insects and a scene wherein Moranis nearly devours one of his children.
For more odd times famous people branched out, check out 7 Famous Artists You Didn't Know Were Perverts and 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About.