Danilo Bach (1st of March, 1944) is an American screenwriter and producer. He was an Oscar nominee for best original screenplay for the movie “Beverly Hills Cop”.
You made a great carrier in Hollywood. Did Hollywood change?
I expected something different, and I had something different when I entered professional filmmaking. I entered it in 1969 – 1970’s. That was the first time I saw anything I wrote. Hollywood was different than it is now. With the globalization Hollywood has changed enormously. One of the things that was very active at the time was that there were a lot of American young filmmakers who were going to film schools. I also went to one, to the UCLA film school. There were many others who began their carriers after they left film school. One of the earlier ones was Francis Coppola. So I guess I am just one of the people who graduated and went on, but our hope was to write and direct our own films in Hollywood. At that time there was a lot of independent filmmaking that Hollywood was interested in, to present the change that was going on in the world. Now it seems to be much more, believe it or not – money oriented, now for Hollywood to survive it needs to be globalized. It needs to make the safest possible films for the greatest possible audience. So it has changed. It became much more conservative as an industry, and a lot of the energy and pioneering is missing.
Do you think that making real art in Hollywood is possible today?
Well, you’ll have to tell me, but I think so. There are two things: one of them is that there’s the art of melodrama, which is the traditional Hollywood film that’s just well made, well written, that tells you a story while involving characters. Than, in the other hand, there is even beyond that, a much more specific art that you get with the avant-garde filmmakers, which are very special, both in the States and wherever else. So, I think it is possible to make real art in Hollywood, though it’s very difficult. If you are young, starting out, talented enough, I think it’s possible.
Can you tell us about your beginnings?
I wasn’t planning to go into filmmaking although I always loved film. I did graduate and finished my graduate work in England, at Oxford. Than I decided I would give it a try and come back to try to do what I think was my first love – which was film, and that’s when I went to UCLA. I wrote some scripts, I made some student films at UCLA, but I wrote a graduate script for which my friends though it was good enough. They showed it to a very successful screenwriter at Hollywood who recommended me to an agent. The agent read it and said “Yes, I’d like to represent this.” I wound up being option, which means not really bought, but more like a down payment on a script. It did not get made. From then on, other people read my work and they hired me to do various scripts. After that pattern continued, evidently my work was over a high enough caliber, or was pleasing enough that I continued to be hired. Also, I wrote my own original screenplays, and that’s actually what drew me to the attention of Paramount when they were thinking of making a film called “Beverly Hills Cop”.
Do you think you need something else beside talent, to succeed in Hollywood?
Yes, definitely you need luck. A lot of luck! There are some very talented people who have not quite had a success issue. You have to have a lot of what I would say is “drive”, but you need to be completely sure of yourself. It’s much more helpful to be completely sure of yourself and not listen to what anyone else is going to tell you it’s (not) possible. Just charge ahead. The people who have been very successful are very talented people who had that ability to jut say “it doesn’t matter what you say, I am going to do this somehow and I will prove myself.” Sometimes there is someone not so talented who do that, and you never hear of them again, but it just takes luck.
You are an Oscar nominee. Do you think it’s your biggest achievement?
I guess it is professionally. Unfortunately, one of the secrets of Hollywood, unfortunate and open ones, is that for writers of screenplays – quite often we write screenplays which never get made, or at least haven’t been made to date. Perhaps the proudest thing I’ve written is owned by someone who has long since died, or passed through the company which is no longer existing, and I was paid for it but it can’t be made because the rights are tied up.
To answer directly your question – yes the “Beverly Hills Cop” is certainly the project I am the proudest of. I’m proud I’ve been the part of the whole process.
How did you collaborate with the directors, in general?
In general, they do have remarks, and you should really listen to them because if you don’t give them what they want, they won’t listen to you anyhow and they would just sort of say “thank you very much and goodbye”, and hire someone else. It’s either that or you are persistent and smart enough to convince them that you're right, and that they should reconsider their ideas. Sometimes that happens, and than it’s a very good relationship, but it doesn’t happen that often.
Which collaborations you loved the most?
I think I enjoyed the most working with Ridley Scott. You knew, whatever you had on paper, or discussed, he was going to put on the screen, and it was going to look the way you both seen it. He was just very enjoyable to work with. I’d like to work with him again, but I think he is quite busy with his many films and his production empire, however we haven’t run into each other much since than.
While writing, what happens when you have a blockade, and you just don’t know what to write anymore?
Than it just doesn’t happen. You would be amazed with how much a deadline eliminates the block. You will do whatever it takes in order to write. The problem comes when we have this tradition in filmmaking called “notes”, and that’s when the producer, the studio, the director, everyone sees what you’ve written, and then they all give their notes and comments. You may not agree with all of them, somehow it slows you down, but then you realize how you can try to please them and yourself at the same time, and be true to the story that you are telling. So the answer is that I can’t afford to be blocked.
During the process of writing, do you let your characters surprise you?
When you are usually paid to do work by a studio there is not so much surprise because they had given you the material, or they have a book that they want you to adapt. In that case you pretty much know the direction you are going to. You can’t be too surprised by the characters because it upsets the people who hired you and they say “this character should be different”, unless you discuss your idea with them of course and they agreed to change that specific character.
Can you compare regular writing and screenplay writing?
Regular writing is in a sense much more word detailed, specific and comprehensive. Screenwriting is like an architectural blueprint. It’s where visuals and dialogues dominate with the description of character. If you have a lot of help in making a film when you write a screenplay you don’t have to explain everything. You can just describe that the setting is like “Cetinje in the fall”, and then the art director and the production designer do research what that looks like and build the set, or alternatively film it there. So you don’t really have to describe all those things unless it’s to set a mood. It focuses on the narrative, characters and the dialogue.
Is there some movie quote that you will remember always?
There are so many, and they are clichés nowadays. I think my favorite line is in “The Unforgiven” that Clint Eastwood directed, when his character before gets killed says “I don’t deserve this”, and Hackman before he shoots him says “Deserve has nothing to do with this.” It’s a statement of faith in life, and a very memorable line.