the dialogue series screenwriter nick kazan

– . – The Dialogue Series: Screenwriter Nick Kazan

The Dialogue Series: Screenwriter Nick Kazan

With a career spanning three decades, Nick Kazan somehow comes across as a link to “Old Hollywood,” though he’s still very much active today. Perhaps the fact that he is Elia Kazan’s son also has something to do with it, though this never gets mentioned during the interview.

Kazan is an entertaining, intelligent and witty speaker, and interviewer Mike De Luca asks all the right questions (as usual). Kazan is an atypical screenwriter in that he is very much an impulsive writer, who struggles with outlines and structure.

While writing a script he will hear lines of dialogue or see scenes in front of him, without necessarily knowing where they’ll fit in the finished work or who’s saying them. In fact, his creative process is extremely close to that of Harold Pinter. His wife, screenwriter Robin Swicord (MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA), is the exact opposite: she is so structured she knows which page what story beat will be on.

Kazan is also subjected to “The Object” exercise, with fascinating results. Definitely one of the standout interviews of the series!

Kazan also has the prerequisite horror stories—he took his name off his first produced screenplay because the executives betrayed his trust, and his first (and to date only) self-directed film, DREAM LOVER, was denied a strong push even though it got good reviews and did well on the opening weekend. Luckily these negative experiences didn’t make him quit the business.

He’s also convinced that the constant tinkering which goes on with screenplays is a pernicious habit, with often destructive results. As proof of his claim he refers to UNFORGIVEN, where Clint Eastwood used the first definitive draft of the screenplay to make the film. Kazan only writes on spec nowadays, which gives him the freedom to only work on stories which really interest him.

A lot of time is spent on Kazan’s most acclaimed films, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE and AT CLOSE RANGE. As both are based on real-life incidents, the emphasis is on how these events were researched and dramatized. Kazan tells some amusing anecdotes about Christopher Walken, and reveals that his favourite scene for AT CLOSE RANGE never got shot. The main difficulty in adapting REVERSAL OF FORTUNE was that the subject matter (an appeal) was inherently undramatic, so the narrative “trick” of having the murder victim narrate the story was a stroke of genius.

Kazan is also subjected to “The Object” exercise, with fascinating results. Definitely one of the standout interviews of the series!



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