Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Monster: Living Off the Big Screen” as Want to Read:
Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Monster: Living Off the Big Screen

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  174 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
In Hollywood, screenwriters are a curse to be borne, and beating up on them is an industry blood sport. But in this ferociously funny and accurate account of life on the Hollywood food chain, it's a screenwriter who gets the last murderous laugh. That may be because the writer is John Gregory Dunne, who has written screenplays, along with novels and non-fiction, for thirty ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 17th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Monster, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Monster

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 369)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Hank Stuever
Aug 28, 2013 Hank Stuever rated it really liked it
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.
Byron Brubaker
Jan 22, 2016 Byron Brubaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Gregory Dunne and his wife Joan Didion have co-written many scripts for Hollywood. Dunne relates, in great detail, the process of making the movie Up Close & Personal. He writes about what is required of a screenwriter in making a movie. He explains the relationships he and his wife had with agents, producers, directors, actors, legal departments, and studio executives. With this particular movie taking eight years from beginning to end to make, Dunne has time to delve into other book a ...more
Tony Perez-Giese
Sep 12, 2014 Tony Perez-Giese rated it it was ok
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
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
Mar 21, 2008 Howard rated it liked it
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.


Dunne sets this up with himself and his wife as the long-suffering heroes of the story, the ones with integr
Aug 20, 2007 Bryan rated it liked it
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
Keenan Powell
Apr 16, 2016 Keenan Powell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
How the sausage is made in Hollywood, the gristle and bone being that of the writers. It's the screenwriter's observations of taking one movie from concept to completion. The movie was ultimately titled: Up Close and Personal with Michele Pfeiffer and Robert Redford.

If it weren't for unions, Hollywood writers would never get paid.
Nov 02, 2014 Mary rated it liked it
A very interesting story of the machinations behind the making of the film "Up Close and Personal." Although a relatively slim book, this was almost as enjoyable as other classics of the books-about-film genre like William Goldman's "Adventures in the Screen Trade."
Raza Syed
Nov 26, 2008 Raza Syed rated it liked it
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
Feb 01, 2012 Hannah rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2010 Jeff rated it liked it
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.
Nov 14, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
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
Feb 04, 2013 Amy Wolf rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 03, 2008 Tim rated it liked it
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".
Sep 21, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 05, 2011 Rheo3000 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 30, 2007 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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.
Feb 10, 2008 Craig rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 30, 2015 Amelia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book got to be as tedious as the experience Dunne is describing. Also a bit too Hollywood "insider-y" for my taste. I'll stick to Joan's writing from now on...
Feb 12, 2010 Ben rated it it was ok
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.
John Devlin
May 20, 2007 John Devlin rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 16, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Fascinating behind-the-scenes account of what it's like to write a screenplay. Seems incredible that any movies are ever made.
Jan 31, 2010 Theresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-books
Should be required reading for anyone interested in dramatic/collaborative writing.
Benedict Reid
Aug 11, 2011 Benedict Reid rated it liked it
A pretty good exploration of the writing of a main stream hollywood movie.
I forgot both games of this double header
Tam Yak
Tam Yak marked it as to-read
Sep 25, 2016
Caitlin marked it as to-read
Sep 22, 2016
BookDB marked it as to-read
Sep 14, 2016
Stefan Fergus
Stefan Fergus marked it as to-read
Sep 13, 2016
Roni rated it liked it
Sep 10, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 12 13 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Hello, He Lied and Other Tales from the Hollywood Trenches
  • Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete, Step-By-Step Guide for Writing and Selling to the Movies and TV, from Story Concept to Development Deal
  • Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns
  • The Rest of Life: Three Novellas
  • Fletch Won (Fletch, #8)
  • The Ferrari in the Bedroom
  • My Avant-Garde Education: A Memoir
  • The Way We Weren't
  • Adventures in the Screen Trade
  • Between Panic and Desire
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favorite Music Scenes—from Punk to Indie and Everything in Between
  • It Wasn't Always Easy, but I Sure Had Fun
  • Shooting to Kill
  • Our Gang
  • Generation S.L.U.T.: A Brutal Feel-up Session with Today's Sex-Crazed Adolescent Populace
  • You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again
  • After Henry
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 about John Gregory Dunne...

Share This Book