No artist comes slip'n sliding out of the womb ready to create masterpieces. Creating anything is hit and miss -- for every amazing work, that same artist likely has ten pieces of crap that they'd happily see blasted into the Sun. For example ...
William Peter Blatty is best known as the writer of The Exorcist -- both the novel and the movie it was adapted into. The Exorcist is still considered one of the scariest films of all time. It's a pop culture legend that modern horror, with its porn-grade found footage and cheap jump scares, can only aspire to.
The face that launched a million shit-filled underoos.
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Blatty, despite a critical reception in horror that Stephen King can only envy, was never a horror writer. His specialty was in fact comedy. His career trajectory is like if Louis C.K. wrote A Nightmare On Elm Street. Before The Exorcist, Blatty wrote several screenplays for comedy director Blake Edwards. Utilizing Blatty's comedic prowess, Edwards was eventually given the reins to The Pink Panther, a legendary film that helped define the career of Peter Sellers.
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Though not always in ways his family brags about at parties.
Blatty wasn't involved in the original Pink Panther, but the movie was such a success that Sellers demanded that Blake Edwards be involved in his next film, A Shot In The Dark, and Edwards brought his comedy mentor Blatty along with him. Originally, this was not a Pink Panther movie, but Blatty decided that they should make the script into a sequel to The Pink Panther, and wrote it up as such.
And he's damn proud of his work. To this day, Blatty prefers to be remembered as the writer of The Pink Panther 2 than for what's arguably the best horror movie of all time.
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"*sigh* Another day, another hundred fanmails about my mother sucking cocks in Hell."
Warner Bros. Television
Hate him or ... hate him even more, Chuck Lorre is behind several of the most successful sitcoms of the last decade. If you've ever endured an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men, Dharma & Greg, Grace Under Fire, or Mike & Molly, then you're familiar with his work.
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He's had the coveted "easily-entertained people who died 70 years ago" demographic nailed down for years.
But even if you avoid anything with a laugh track, you still know his work.
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Just like Charlie Sheen's character in Two And A Half Men, Chuck Lorre moonlighted as a jingle writer. His most famous creation?
Have fun humming this, and only this, for the next month.
Back in 1987, Lorre auditioned to write the theme song for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was overlooked at first, because the band the Turtles (of "Happy Together" fame), also wanted the job. When the Turtles failed to produce anything by the deadline, the studio called Lorre and asked if he could come up with something catchy and lasting ... in 48 hours.
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"Leonardo leads, Donatello ... cleans latrines? Breaks his spleen? Gets gangrene? This is hard."
Lorre rented a cheap overnight recording studio and went to work. What he came up with may not be on par with Beethoven's Fifth, but let's face it: You can't remember your own social security number, but you still know exactly when to scream "turtle power!"
Chris Carter is the man responsible for every chill-inducing episode of The X-Files, as well as two X-Files spinoff series, two feature films based on The X-Files, and ... well, two other TV series that were both quickly cancelled. But The X-Files was so good! Carter was born to create sci-fi / horror / mystery / whatever-the-hell-that-episode-with-the-inbred-hillbillies-was-about.
"It's about creating a family dumb enough to think 'super soldiers' was a good plot idea."
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What kind of spine-chilling projects did Carter work on before he hit his magnum opus? Here you go:
Honestly, the incestuous rednecks breeding their quadruple-amputee mother was less creepy.
Chris Carter wrote for Disney, and worked on several decidedly un-spooky kids' programs like Rags To Riches (the source of that almost overwhelmingly '80s clip above), as well as Walt Disney's Wonderful World Of Color and a TV movie called Meet The Munceys. Try to watch this clip with the X-Files theme in your head:
Directed by The Crack-Cocaine-Smoking Man.
Carter finally worked up the nerve to pitch his own pilot to Disney, which was called The Nanny. (Not the Fran Drescher nightmare; even he's not that twisted.) We don't know what it was about, but we can presume that whatever the X-Files guy had in mind wasn't exactly Disney's cup of tea, because they passed on it. Soon after that, Carter pitched another show to Fox, this one about two FBI agents battling aliens and their own awkward, sweaty sexual tension. The rest is TV history.
Filmmaker J.J. Abrams rocketed from obscurity into fame in the early 2000s as the creator of the TV series Felicity, Alias, and Lost. He followed those with the films Mission: Impossible III and Super 8, and was ultimately given the helm of the Star Trek reboot and then the upcoming new Star Wars film, which is like coaching the Red Sox and the Yankees at the same time. If you graphed his career trajectory, it would look like an upright hockey stick.
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Or a lightsaber powered less by the Force and more by pure cash.
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No one bats a thousand. And so, in between creating genre-defining blockbusters, Abrams wrote a film starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover. No, we're not talking about Lethal Weapon 2. We're talking about Gone Fishin'.
He was too old for this shit by the first day of filming.
Don't remember it? You're among the lucky. The movie opened alongside The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and settled on a Rotten Tomatoes score of four percent. Leonard Maltin gave it his worst possible score, saying simply, "This film really smells." In terms of critical response, it holds an exalted position beside Jack And Jill, M. Night Shyamalan's later work, and the Star Wars Christmas Special.
Gone Fishin' Pesci earns a criminal record way earlier than Goodfellas Pesci, though. So there's that.
Luckily, it seems like Abrams learns well from his mistakes. But still, maybe we should all prepare for an Ewok singalong come 2016.
Charlie Kaufman is best known for his quirky, cerebral comedies like Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, and Adaptation. If Liberal Studies majors bothered to own a TV (and stopped telling you about that fact long enough to watch a movie), Charlie Kaufman would be their favorite screenplay writer.
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This despite looking like a makeup-free Pennywise whenever he shaves.
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Kaufman started his career on the mostly-forgotten vanity project of one of comedy's most swept-under-the-rug personalities: Dana Carvey. In 1996, Charlie Kaufman was brought on board The Dana Carvey Show and wrote some material for it, though whatever edgy and subversive sketches he might have created are unfortunately lost to history. The show opened with a sketch featuring Carvey as Bill Clinton breastfeeding a litter of puppies, and so was understandably shitcanned after seven episodes.
Which is like one episode in terrible human comedy years.
Still, the show buffed the resumes of several entertainers who have enjoyed much more enduring careers than the ill-fated Carvey. Alongside Kaufman, the staff included Robert Smigel, Louis C.K., Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert, as well as folks who went on to create 30 Rock and Community. Apparently, Dana Carvey was the idol who needed to be sacrificed in order to create the comedy of our era.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
John Ridley adapted the script of 12 Years A Slave from the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup. The film tells the true story of Northup being kidnapped and forced into slavery for the aforementioned 12 years. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2014, and is right up there with Schindler's List in the all-time greatest movies about horrific, depressingly awful stuff that it's impossible to make jokes about.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fifteen hours of staring and crying later, we're still no closer to a punchline.
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Before 12 Years A Slave, Ridley worked on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. We're not going to trash-talk the epic saga of Will Smith's cross-country journey of redemption, but it ain't no 12 Years A Slave. The theme persists: Ridley was also a writer for 2005's short-lived TV series Barbershop and the 2002 blaxploitation spoof Undercover Brother.
It stars Deuce Bigalow and Deuce Bigalow 2 star Eddie Griffin. He's undercover, and he's a brother. And it's considered to be ... actually not that awful. But you'd assume that a tortuously gritty pre-Civil-War-era slave drama wouldn't even mingle with an afro-sporting Blaxploitation parody and a Hypercolor-sporting sitcom -- much less have come from the same place.
A place where white people can go fuck themselves, certainly.
John Hughes is 1980s comedy. He either directed or wrote National Lampoon's Vacation, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, and Home Alone, as well as many others. In short, if it had a stupid haircut and you laughed at it, John Hughes probably did it.
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And wore it.
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A screenwriter named Edmond Dantes achieved fame in 1992 for the dog-themed family comedy Beethoven, and followed up with the Owen Wilson movie Drillbit Taylor and the Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy Maid In Manhattan.
"In a world where we're supposed to pretend Jennifer Lopez is plain and dumpy ..."
What does Dantes have to do with John Hughes? Were they partners or something? Nope: The Shyamalanic twist is that they were the same person all along.
Hughes wrote a shitload of scripts in his life, and not all of them were up to par. But that didn't stop him from selling them. For those screenplays that he didn't think were quite good enough for the Hughes legacy, but not unprofitable enough to seal in a locked container away from prying eyes forever, he used the pseudonym Edmond Dantes, named after the main character of The Count Of Monte Cristo. Holy shit, was Beethoven John Hughes' revenge on the world for outgrowing his '80s comedies?
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