Writers have always been the victims of a cruel stereotype. In movies, and in books, they have been portrayed as luckless, lost souls who live in poverty and never win the love of the women they desire. This pitiful image of writers may be true of some but not all, however a film would never hold the viewers attention for very long if it was about a normal man living a normal life.
With a plethora of films about writers, our fascination with these creative beings seems unending. Here are some of the best films ever made about writers.
1. Wonder Boys
One of the most unforgettable dramas, Wonder Boys is a great story about a writer facing a myriad of problems. The unfortunate and somewhat depressing character Professor Grady Tripp is played by Michael Douglas. His wife leaves him, he has yet to finish his next book which is already over 2,000 pages long and his mistress, the chancellor of the college, falls pregnant with his child.
In addition to this he becomes involved in a crime when his student James Leer, played by Tobey Maguire, kills the chancellor’s dog and steals her husband’s most prized possession – a jacket worn by Marilyn Monroe on her wedding day.
Based on a novel by Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys is highly entertaining with its twists and more importantly its intriguing characters.
Starring: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes
This critically acclaimed romantic comedy won several Academy Awards in 1999 and is deservedly one of the best films about a writer. It makes no pretences of being historically accurate, even though several of the characters did indeed exist.
Shakespeare, played by Joseph Fiennes, is suffering from writer’s block that is until he finds his muse in Viola de Lesseps, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. As with any good love story, the plot is filled with dramas preventing the two lovebirds from being together.
It is witty and is slightly facetious with its references to the Bards works. Light-hearted and almost believable, the script is brilliantly written and the actors superb in their performances.
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson
This movie is inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, the renowned fiction writer of books such as The Metamorphosis and The Trial, however it is not an actual portrayal of the man’s life.
Played by Jeremy Irons, Kafka is an insurance clerk during the day, while writing his stories in his spare time. Fate finds him becoming involved an underground organisation when he investigates a conspiracy after a colleague mysteriously disappears.
There is a foreboding atmosphere throughout as the story exposes a web of deceit and crime. The cinematography is brilliant, while the story is strong, mixing excerpts from Kafka’s works as well as true events. It is not your standard crime story but certainly one to watch.
Starring: Jeremy Irons
Based on the true life romance between British writer C.S. Lewis, played by Anthony Hopkins, and divorced American poet Joy Gresham, played by Debra Winger.
The movie begins with Lewis, the author of such classics as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, who has a comfortable life but also a loveless one. He meets and marries Gresham, however this was a marriage of convenience enabling her to remain in England. Slowly they fall in love and when they learn of her cancer, Lewis’s world shatters.
Shadowlands is powerful and emotional as it explores and reveals their love and personal growth as they cope with her terminal cancer and inevitable death.
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger
One of the most completely original screenplays written, Adaptation is humorous and thought-provoking at times.
Charlie Kaufmann is a screenwriter hired to adapt a book called ‘The Orchid Thief’, by Susan Orlean, based on exotic plant collector John Laroche. As Charlie struggles with the adaptation, he enlists the help his twin brother Donald who is an ambitious screenwriter. The story becomes more and more entertaining through a series of mishaps and discoveries and it is totally unpredictable.
Nicolas Cage is completely brilliant in the role of both Charlie and Donald; while Meryl Streep, who plays Susan Orlean, shows her true talent as a comedic actress.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep
6. Barton Fink
Set in 1941, John Turturro plays Barton Fink, a young playwright from New York who is hired to write scripts for a movie studio in Hollywood. His life is turned upside down as he finds himself living in a fleabag hotel and is struck with writer’s block.
The situation is worsened by continual interruptions by his next door neighbour, an insurance salesman played by John Goodman. The film’s plot takes on a new direction when Fink discovers the corpse of Audrey Taylor next to him the morning after they have made love.
Barton Fink is utterly brilliant as it contains elements of comedy, film noir and horror but like most Coen films it does not fit into any distinct film genre.
Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman
The movie is based on the biography of Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellman. The film explores the life and troubles of the famous poet and playwright who wrestles with his homosexual desires during his marriage to Constance Lloyd. He eventually has a very public affair with a vain young man called Lord Alfred Douglas which results in his imprisonment.
With superb performances by Stephen Fry who plays Wilde, and Jude Law who plays Douglas, the film is a compelling watch as you follow the tragic life of this genius from his rise to fame to his imprisonment and unjust demise.
Starring: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Sheen
This biographical film follows the events that took place during Truman Capote’s investigation and writing of the book, In Cold Blood.
Set in 1959, Capote decides to write a non fiction book on the murders of the Clutter Family in Kansas after reading about them in a newspaper. Initially the police are uncooperative in assisting Capote in his investigation and in his desire to interview the murderers; however he befriends the lead investigator, Alvin Dewey and gains access to the murderers.
Capote both recounts the dramatic events through the trial and eventual hanging of the convicted and it reveals the personal dramas and conflicts with Capote. It is riveting film and Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered an outstanding performance, well deserving of his Academy Award for this role.
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Geoffrey Rush plays the Marquis de Sade in this disturbing fictional tale. Although there was a Marquis de Sade, this film is not a historical retelling and is purely fictional. Incarcerated in the asylum at Charenton and forbidden to write his sadist and what is perceived to be evil books, the Marquis refuses to stop publishing and uses any means possible to write his manuscripts.
This incendiary literature is smuggled out of the asylum by laundress Madeleine LeClerc (Kate Winslet) and subsequently published. When his latest work, Justine, achieves great success on the black market, the authorities do all they can to destroy all the copies of the book and to silence the Marquis.
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine
This beautiful and compelling story is based on the play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan, by Allen Knee. It is semi-biographical and tells of the events in James Matthew Barrie’s life which inspired him to write the children’s classic, Peter Pan.
Following the poor reception of his latest play, Barrie (Johnny Depp) meets the Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her children in a park and befriends them. He finds inspiration for his new play, Peter Pan, by playing the Llewelyn Davies children but unfortunately his attachment to the family is met with condemnation by Sylvia’s mother and his own marriage ends in divorce.
This film is a perfect blend of fantasy and reality.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet