Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
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Monster: Living Off the Big Screen

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Monster is John Gregory Dunne's mordant account of the eight years it took to get the 1996 Robert Redford/Michelle Pfeiffer film Up Close & Personal made. A bestselling novelist, Dunne has a cold eye, perfect pitch for the absurdities of Hollywood, and sharp elbows for the film industry's savage infighting. 192 pp. Author tour & national ads. 25,000 print.
ebook, 224 pages
Published May 2nd 2012 by Vintage (first published 1997)
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Hank Stuever
As a Didion fan, I loved this deep-dive into the tales of woe she and Dunne endured as Hollywood screenwriters/script-doctors. This came out years before we dismissed such sagas as "first-world problems," but it's apt.
Tony Perez-Giese
This book makes screenwriters look like beggars on the street, but instead of asking for a quarter, they're begging for a quarter-million dollars. Although I think the intent of the book was to show how frustrating the screenwriting process can be when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, my takeaway was that life for a writer in Hollywood is nothing more than a never-ending scramble for cash so as to afford that second apartment in NYC and the beach house in Malibu.

I was really disappointe...more
Emma
I'm always fascinated by anything that details the behind-the-scenes mechanics of a process, and particularly to do with writers and film. I'll read anything about working Hollywood, pretty much. Monster strips back to how a screenwriter negotiates and operates, but not so much what motivates him (Dunne, I mean specifically). I was also interested in this, like many people, probably, because of reading Joan Didion's wonderful Year of Magical Thinking, and wanting to know some more about their li...more
Howard
A sort of date-book/incident account of the eight or so years JGD and Joan Didion spent working on the screenplay for the movie Up Close and Personal. It's interesting enough if behind-the-scenes movie-industry stuff is already of interest to you, and for the first half or three quarters of the book, it feels like you're getting a glimpse of the real people behind the gossip you read.

But.

Dunne sets this up with himself and his wife as the long-suffering heroes of the story, the ones with integr...more
Bryan
I came to Dunne through death, his death as described by his wife, Joan Didion, one of the greatest writers of our time. The Year of Magical Thinking captivated, moved, destroyed me and I wanted to know the man that held her heart. And here, in what is clearly a lesser work of an accomplished though work-a-day author, I get to see the other side of the partnership. There is a familiarity and warmth. I like this man though he is different than myself is fundamental ways.

The book, in and of itsel...more
Raza Syed
At least judging from this somewhat lazily, if entertainingly, written production diary of the 1996 Pfeiffer-Redford sudser "Up Close & Personal," the late John Gregory Dunne had less in common with his wife, Joan Didion, than with his tediously self-promoting brother Dominick. Catty score-settling, name-dropping and inexcusable factual lapses (movie titles incorrectly recalled, productions attributed to the wrong studio) aside, and the lamentable absence of Didion's brand of stately dry-ice...more
Hannah
I enjoyed this one and it was a quick read, chronicling Dunne and Didion's eight years of involvement with the screenplay that eventually became "Up Close and Personal." it was fascinating to see how, through Dunne's very thorough notes, a story goes from one thing to another in the process. Totally worth a read if you like knowing more about what goes on behind the scenes in Hollywood (the book is a who's who of late '80s- early '90s execs), or if like me, you just love Dunne and Didion and wan...more
Jeff
Brutally honest true story about the eight years of Development Hell that preceded the release of the forgettable film "Up Close and Personal". The writers of the project face let's say three epic struggles:

1) Following the contradictory demands of a shifting cast of executives, producers, and directors,

2) Ensuring the script was mediocre, as opposed to awful,

3) Getting paid for the work which everyone knows they did.

Recommended to anyone who thinks they really want to know how sausage is made.
Jessica
Quite interesting view into the whole screenwriting process. Dunne has a clever voice, and as an avid Didion fan, I enjoyed the glimpses of her in the book. I even Netflix'd "Up Close & Personal" afterwards, itching to see it again after reading all about the screenplay and casting and opening weekend. Have a whole new outlook on screenwriting now.
Amy Wolf
Great backstage book from a writer who, in collaboration with his wife Joan Didion, developed a fair amount of screenplays, including Up Close And Personal. Great stories of dealing with idiots, being sent off on the wrong track multiple times and making money for work which is never produced. Literately told.
Tim
Someone recommended this to me as a great book about "the business", but what I found most interesting was learning about Joan Didion's husband, who she chronicled so much in "The Year of Magical Thinking".
Jill
This book unveils the less pleasant aspects of life as a screenwriter. Funny and well written, a must read for anyone aspiring to a job in the film industry. Also undoubtedly entertaining for those that want a behind the scenes glimpse on what it really takes to get a movie to the screen.
Rheo3000
If you ever use the phrase 'too many cooks spoil the broth' and the person you say it to says, "Too many cooks spoil the broth, what does that mean?" go to the library, find this book, check it out and make them read it. It sounds like being a script doctor is the definition of that phrase.
Andy
It's a solid book. The writing isn't exceptional, but the narrative about writing the screenplay for Up Close and Personal is fascinating.

It's a good way to learn about how movie credits are negotiated, and doesn't seem to have an agenda about it.
Craig
A good description of the process whereby a not very good idea is transformed over many years and many rewrites into a very different not very good screenplay. The money's good though.
Ben
Very much a diary, with some interesting personal moments related to this and a series of film projects, but just as much documenting of health problems, travel, etc.
Dev
A tepid account of the writers inability to write action flicks, and a fairly interesting account of what it takes to write a rom-com that's trading off real people.
Susan
Fascinating behind-the-scenes account of what it's like to write a screenplay. Seems incredible that any movies are ever made.
Theresa
Should be required reading for anyone interested in dramatic/collaborative writing.
Benedict Reid
A pretty good exploration of the writing of a main stream hollywood movie.
Mark
I forgot both games of this double header
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John Gregory Dunne was an American novelist, screenwriter and literary critic.

He was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and was a younger brother of author Dominick Dunne. He suffered from a severe stutter and took up writing to express himself. Eventually he learned to speak normally by observing others. He graduated from Princeton University in 1954 and worked as a journalist for Time magazine. He m...more
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