On the first CHARLIE’S ANGELS, you came on after the original writers, and, though numerous writers worked on the script, you stayed on the whole time and were credited along with the first team (whose script, save for the opening scene, has no resemblance to the movie). On the second film you were the original writer, but another writing team came on after and shares screenplays credit. In the end, is it better to be the last writer on these types of projects?

–Barney

In the end, it’s better to be the only writer on a movie. That’s how it was with GO and BIG FISH, which turned out to be the best movies I’ve been involved with in any capacity. Unfortunately, One Writer per Movie doesn’t happen as often as it should. The problem is that any sort of absolute maxim – there must only be one screenwriter on a film – is unrealistic and probably detrimental.

The CHARLIE’S ANGELS movies show how the process works, for better and for worse.

I came on to CHARLIE’S ANGELS after the writing team of Ed Solomon & Ryan Rowe had done a draft. In fact, they weren’t even the first writers. The studio had hired others to write different versions as far back as the early 90’s. But Ed & Ryan wrote a brand new draft that had elements the studio liked, notably the opening sequence on the plane. The rest of their script revolved around cloning supermodels, and definitely reached further into the AUSTIN POWERS/MEN IN BLACK school of wide-angle comedy. I was brought on board when Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen joined the project, with the mandate of finding not just a new plot, but a new tone.

I worked for the better part of a year on the script, which very closely mirrors the final movie. Just before production began, another producerinformed me that they were planning to bring in a roundtable of comedy writers to “look for jokes.” After some heated words, I quit the project. During production, a revolving door of very talented writers came on board for a week at a time, making surprisingly few meaningful changes to the script. In the end, none of these subsequent writers sought credit on the movie, so Ed, Ryan and I agreed to share writing credit. It was all very civil.

I went into the sequel knowing it would be difficult. Although I have great affection for each member of the team individually, the combination of personalities makes it very turbulent – anyone on the production would agree with me. Both for the good of the project and for my emotional self-preservation, I adopted a judo-like attitude about my writing. I rolled with the changes, happy to try anything, and worked to build consensus among the many powerful voices. Ultimately, I was asked to squeeze the plot of the proposed third Charlie’s Angels (including the Madison Lee character) into the storyline, and I balked. The writing team of Cormac and Marianne Wibberley were hired to do the job, and did the best anyone could at an impossible task. I came back after them to patch some cracks, but ultimately remained frustrated the movie would be so overstuffed and underdeveloped.

Unlike the first movie, there wasn’t a slew of writers on the project, just two others. The arbitration for credit was remarkably civil, and the Wibberlys and I recorded a commentary track together for the DVD.

The CHARLIE’S ANGELS movies show the pros and cons of multiple writers on a project. The first movie would never have been made with Ed & Ryan’s script, so it’s hard to argue that hiring a subsequent writer (me) was detrimental. In my opinion, the second movie would have been considerably better had certain changes not been made, but if hiring other writers kept the production from falling apart, maybe that was ultimately for the best.

In the end, it’s hard for me to be too high-and-mighty about protecting the original writer. I’ve worked on BLUE STREAK, JURASSIC PARK III, MINORITY REPORT, THE RUNDOWN and other movies as the second, third or eighth writer. In many cases, it’s perfectly clear why these movies need rewriting. But I’ve refused work where I felt the studio was dumping a writer arbitrarily, and sought out the original writers wherever possible to find out what happened.