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Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,551 Ratings  ·  191 Reviews
From the writer of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men and Marathon Man, Oscar-winning screen writer William Goldman presents his memories and views of movie-making, and of acting greats such as Redford, Olivier, Newman and Hoffman.
Paperback, 418 pages
Published March 1st 1996 by Abacus (UK) (first published 1983)
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Feb 04, 2016 julio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
dishy, delicious, and—shockingly—very, very useful.

a couple years back i thought i'd move to hollywood and write movies for a living.

i love movies.

i write good.

what could go wrong?

everything. everything could go wrong.

because being a screenwriter is exactly like john august describes—except with a simply staggering amount of asslicking and a dash of despair he's too genteel to mention.

the stories, people... the stories. actors are appalling people—and so are studio execs.

Jul 22, 2008 Scurra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Nobody Knows Anything.

Goldman could almost have saved us the 400-pages of what is still one of the most insightful books about the movie-industry, and just printed his Law on a single page at the front.
But then we'd have missed a glorious roller-coaster ride through Tinseltown stuffed to the gills with anecdotes of such toe-curling detail that you believe every word.
And even now, 25 years later, it still all rings true. Read it, and you too might understand how lucky we are to get the occasiona
Dec 05, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps the best book about screenwriting and the film business ever written.

Oscar winner William Goldman, who wrote such classic films as HARPER, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, MARATHON MAN and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN shares his unique, often difficult, experiences working with top directors, producers and stars like Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier.

If survival in the Hollywood film industry is possible, then there is no better "survival guide" than
Seth Madej
Man, William Goldman makes himself out to be a real asshole. He's so irritating, in fact, that after a two-week break away from Adventures in the Screen Trade I cashed in with over 100 pages left, because I couldn't stand the thought of going back to have him bitch at me like my worst film school instructors used to, bitter that a lack of work forced them into talking about their job instead of doing it.

Goldman launches his first fart rocket within the opening 20 pages, tattling four anecdotes t
Mar 18, 2013 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a true insider's look at the screenwriting business (from the writer of All the President's Men, Marathon Man and – interestingly, the novel of Princess Bride) and interesting for anyone who writes or likes movies because - yes, there are fun gossipy asides about Hollywood (Robert Redford had ego!), but it's focus is on what makes a good story and how to write one that sells as a screenplay. They're not always the same thing.

Two big bonuses of this book: Goldman provides his entire scre
Linda Robinson
Sep 06, 2009 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Goldman is incredible. Prolifically incredible. In several genres. I read this book on 3-18-97 straight through. I know I did because I wrote this quotation:

"Nobody knows anything.

Again, for emphasis...

Nobody knows anything."
May 07, 2014 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A glorious tour of the sausage factory with a guy who breeds champion hogs. That's the image that came to mind as I finished this funny, authentic look at the movie business by a celebrated screenwriter (and novelist). Bill Goldman is painfully frank about his struggles, his weaknesses, and the seamy underbelly of the business that has paid his bills for decades. Writing in the wake of the "Heaven's Gate" disaster which shook the confidence of almost everyone in Hollywood (1982), Goldman still m ...more
Joy H.
Added 7/22/08.

EDIT 4/7/13: VERY interesting and told in an engaging manner. I enjoyed this book.

William Goldman is the Hollywood screenwriter who wrote "The Princess Bride". Screenwriting is not an easy profession because it's filled with all kinds of frustrations and set-backs.

ADDENDUM - 2/27/16:
PS-The title of this book is a PUN on the title: "Adventures in the Skin Trade, a collection of stories by Dylan Thomas.

PPS-More about William Goldman from WIKI:
Jun 11, 2009 Rickeclectic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: film folks, writing folks
Recommended to Rickeclectic by: noone
Shelves: film
Good, chatty, casual book about screenwriting by someone who has done very well at it. The book may seem a bit long but it is actually sort of 3 books. One about Goldman's history with screenwriting. One that is the Butch Cassidy screenplay and one that is an actual effort to adapt a short story to a screenplay and then get it critiqued by film folks.

Goldman wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, All the Presidents Men, etc. etc. He is an insider and has very good insights and a
Mike Hankins
Sep 25, 2010 Mike Hankins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I once met Mark Waid (prolific DC comics writer) and asked him if he had any advice for aspiring writers. He told me anything he would say was in this book, that he reads this book once a year, and any aspiring writer would do well to do the same. So I took his advice and immediately picked it up. While I don't read it every year, this most recent reading was my third time, not counting the numerous times I've gone over certain sections for reference.

This book is a treasure, not just for writers
Paul Lyons
Jul 20, 2012 Paul Lyons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very much enjoyed William Goldman's honest take on Hollywood and screenwriting. It was interesting to read ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE 30 years after it was written, as the entertainment business has changed so dramatically since 1982. Goldman's prose is fun, educational and entertaining. There is no doubt that he is a great evident not only in the book he has written, yet also in the BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID screenplay that comes with the book, as well as an excellent s ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
I thought this book was brilliant! It was insightful and told of a not unglamorous view of the perils of Hollywood, but more of a realistic take on the stars, directors, producers, and a vast number of technicians and artists that people the sets of the movies. This from the point of view of Mr. William Goldman, the man who wrote the screenplays to such classics as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "A Bridge Too Far", and "All the President's Men".

There isn't a whole lot of gossip, which I a
Heather Cawte
Mar 21, 2011 Heather Cawte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. Although it was written in the early 80s, so much of what he says about the film industry still seems to hold true.

The first section explains how a project is put together, including some horror stories of projects that took a lot of everyone's time, effort and money and still didn't end up getting made.

The middle, main section deals with some of his screenplays - massive hits such as 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and 'A Bridge Too Far' - and explains how each fi
Dec 13, 2012 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I have much to say that hasn't been said repeatedly below but yes, this is an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the craft of screenwriting and yes, it's kind of crazy how well it holds up 30 years after it was written. I live in Los Angeles, in the heart of the filmmaking industry, and it seems all I ever hear about is how that industry is going down the toilet. Well, in this book Goldman also laments how the industry is going down the toilet, how they are making fewer and fewer ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting, William Goldman, c1983
Abstracts: No one knows the writer's Hollywood more intimately than William Goldman. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels, Goldman now takes you into Hollywood's inner sanctums...on and behind the scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, and other films...into the p
Dorothy Bandusky
This book is a memoir of the author's experiences as a screenwriter. Screenplays are also analyzed and a production designer, cinematographer, editor, composer, and director each offer their feedback through interviews.

While I appreciate many of the pointers the author gave regarding writing, I found his frequent strong language tiresome (surely a writer of all people could communicate better) and overall the book had a dreary undertone.
Rebecca McNutt
Adventures in the Screen Trade is an informative and interesting book showing the reality of the film industry, written by author and screenwriter William Goldman. From the film Magic (1978) to The Princess Bride (1987), Goldman has had a hand in the business constantly, and this book, though slightly out of date, is still relevant and good to have.
Wasn't sure what this was before I started reading it but I quickly remembered the buzz from its original release (early 80s), notably his (now famous) quote about Hollywood: 'Nobody Knows Anything' - which is directed to executives particularly, but everyone in the business generally. And if you've seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie recently, you'd probably find it hard to refute that this is still the case in Hollywood. The book is entertaining, the 1st 2 parts being reflections on the business ...more
Feb 16, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2003
Like The Princess Bride, I read this book, just to say hello, inbetween others.

I first read William Goldman as part of an Intro to Screenwriting class in college. This was his first book that we read. I love it all in here, not only because I spent the first part of my life wanting to work in film, and the second part in the creative nuts and bolts of advertising, but because of his style. Man has style - like a good talker, a funny guy, the type of person you invite out to the bar, Goldman tel
Jun 30, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book, it is a well written "insiders" view of Hollywood. The author not only tells stories, but he names names. Most of his stories let you know just who blew the movie or caused horrendous budget overages by their rotten behavior. He never leaves you guessing, but he doesn't do it maliciously either. He is just telling the story. And he does an excellent job just telling the stories. The book is well written, and extremely enjoyable even for someone like me who is not an aspiring sc ...more
Jan 21, 2011 Twobusy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bill Simmons has been raving about this book for years, and so my expectations were high when I finally picked up this take on a life in screenwriting by the man responsible for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, All The President's Men and many other screen classics. And did he deliver? Absolutely. While I have no interest in screenwriting per se, the book offers incredible insight into the filmmaking process — providing not just terrific and memorable behind-the-scenes sto ...more
Nov 07, 2012 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I've wanted to read William Goldman's account of what it has been like as a screenwriter [Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, Marathan Man] for Goldman and it didn't disappoint. In fact, what makes this such a delight is the fact that Goldman is surprisingly blunt with his opinions regarding individuals he's worked with on these films. How refreshing! The book isn't gossippy, it's just matter of fact as Goldman talks about his opinions on what it was like to work on th ...more
Bryan Maleszyk
Aug 06, 2013 Bryan Maleszyk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though published in 1982, the majority of this book by the writer of "Butch Cassidy" and the "Princess Bride" is still relevant today. And while minor details, like the film budgets and the stars at the time, are dated, the Hollywood machine hasn't changed much. Goldman teaches you what it means to write a screenplay whole describing the back stories behind some of the best moments put on camera, and he does it with beguiling humor and ascetic wit. You won't want to put this book down, but when ...more
Jan 13, 2010 Rory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: silver screen nuts
Oh, this was so much fun! I just Wikipedia-ed him and really want to read Which Lie Did I Tell Now, since my only criticism (and it's not a criticism, really) of Adventures in the Screen Trade is that it came out in 1983, when people still thought Burt Reynolds was hot shit. I want to read Goldman's follow-up in hopes that he lets on how much had/hadn't changed in 17 years...and how much fun it was to write The Princess Bride (book and screenplay). Anyway, if you're a fan of Hollywood stories, t ...more
Cailean McBride
Probably the most useful take-home from this by now legendary book is the oft-quoted “no one knows anything” line. The reason why it’s a meme that has had so much traction is that it obviously provides solace to the armies of hopeful screenwriters out there — “my three-hour epic about a race of sentient badgers has been turned down by every ProdCo out there but what the hell do they know?”

And it is essentially true of all creative industries. Those in charge of production, from publishing to fil
Jason Luna
May 18, 2015 Jason Luna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much like his famous screenplays and books, which he often mentions, directly presents, and at certain points seemingly fabricates on the page of this book with a magical touch, William Goldman attacks the "insider's look at Hollywood" book cliche like a screenwriter.

What I mean by that is that is, well measured, heavily researched, and structured but in such a way to surprise and entice the reader. The way he does this best is by writing the book in sections that are just different from each ot
Byron Brubaker
Jan 22, 2016 Byron Brubaker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Similar intent for this book and Monster. Adventures in the Screen Trade covers a slightly earlier period of Hollywood history (though a little bit overlaps) and was written first. Goldman supplements his own memories with many interviews of film industry people, and reaches back through Hollywood history for a revealing complete look at the elements that make a movie. He talks about who makes movies, how it all works, and specifically with what a writer must be concerned. I found his discussion ...more
Glen Engel-Cox
Nov 22, 2014 Glen Engel-Cox rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film
I had wanted to read this book for years, ever since typing innumerable papers for University of Texas Radio-Television-Film students forced to read and report on it for some beginner class. It wasn't their reports that interested me, but the fact that this text was considered the sine qua non of the university RTF world--the text that you needed to have read, because everyone else had. Goldman's credentials were substantial, having written some quite substantial films both in critical and box-o ...more
Todd Martin
Sep 26, 2014 Todd Martin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
I must confess, I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in screen writing or the nuts and bolts of the film industry whatsoever going into this book. I picked up Adventures in the Screen Trade only because William Goldman wrote The Princess Bride, and I absolutely loved The Princess Bride and I don’t care who knows it.

Adventures in the Screen Trade is about the messy business of making movies and the first thing one should know about the book is that it’s really dated. It came out in 1983 and d
Jan 03, 2015 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Steven by: David Holther
This is a great book that gives insight into the film business as it was when Goldman was the most in demand screen writer in Hollywood. He goes into the process of what makes a screenplay appealing to producers, directors and actors. He also has a lot of humorous anecdotes about on set shenanigans. He was very prophetic in that he practically predicted the current wave of "B" content (SF, comics, high fantasy, etc.) being made into mainstream blockbusters. The material is accessible and a joy t ...more
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Goldman grew up in a Jewish family in Highland Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and obtained a BA degree at Oberlin College in 1952 and an MA degree at Columbia University in 1956.His brother was the late James Goldman, author and playwright.

William Goldman had published five novels and had three plays produced on Broadway before he began to write screenplays. Several of his novels he later used
More about William Goldman...

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“Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.” 153 likes
“You don't want to be rude but you have to be careful - there are a lot of strange people out there.

(Goldman attributes this quote to Cliff Robertson.)”
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