Articles – Q&A with Jeffrey Caine / Writer


1)   Did you always want to become a writer?

Ever since I can remember.

2)  What jobs did you have before making the transition into being a fulltime writer?

I taught English in schools and colleges.

3)   What were the main obstacles you faced when starting out?

Negligible income and a family to feed on it.

4)   Do you write every day? Or stick to a routine?

When I’m working on a script, every day is my routine. I write mornings only and think thereafter – consciously and subconsciously.

5)   What do you find is the hardest part of writing a screenplay? And what’s the most enjoyable?

The hardest part is planning the story and character arcs and the sequence of scenes, deciding where they’ll be set and the content of them. I find dialogue relatively easy, and that’s the most enjoyable part.

6)    If there was a piece of advice you could tell your younger self when starting out, what would it be?

Prepare for disappointment. Most of the screenplays you write will never see the screen.

7)   Do you have any tips for upcoming writers? (could be in terms of the process, the industry or anything else)

See (6) above. Also, try not to imitate other films or second-guess the current market: by the time you assess its needs they will have changed.

8) How did you become involved in writing the screenplay for Goldeneye? What was that whole process like?

Barbara Broccoli had bought an option on a novel of mine and hired me to adapt it. Then I wrote an original screenplay for her. When she needed a page-one rewrite on the Goldeneye draft she came to me.  Afterwards, for no valid reason, MGM gave the script to others to rewrite. It’s happened again to me since on another studio movie. It’s the way the industry works. Don’t fight it, accept it as the price of doing business in Hollywood.

9)   How do you work when adapting a novel? It must be difficult in deciding on what to put in and leave out, whilst staying true to the original story.

I’ve just spent quite a bit of time writing the talk I’ll be giving on October 25th at the London Screenwriters’ Festival. My subject is “Ethical Adaptations” and the talk will last a full hour. It’s really too large a subject to go into here but the very short answer is: put the film’s needs before those of the book.

10)   Which one of your scripts and films are you most proud of and why?

Of my produced films, I suppose The Constant Gardner came closest to being the film I’d written; but I prefer, as pieces of writing, two or three of my scripts that were never produced.

11) If you could have written any script, what would it have been?

Tough one. I imagine the question means “Among existing produced film scripts, which would you be proud to have your name on?” rather than “Among existing films, which would you have liked the chance to write?”

Here are a few, in no particular order: The Apartment, Lawrence of Arabia, Cool Hand Luke, Spartacus, On the Waterfront, The Lion in Winter, A Man for All Seasons, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, Shakespeare in Love, The Best Years of Our Lives, Ace in the Hole, High Noon, Midnight Cowboy, Rain Man….