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Adventures in the Screen Trade

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  2,772 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Now available as an ebook for the first time!

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
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Paperback, 594 pages
Published March 10th 1989 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1983)
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On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
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5th out of 379 books — 132 voters


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Community Reviews

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Scurra
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
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Michael
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
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Molly
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
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Scott
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
Linda Robinson
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."
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
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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
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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.
Rickeclectic
Jun 11, 2009 Rickeclectic rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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Mike Hankins
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
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Paul Lyons
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 writer...as 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
Kara
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
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Heather Cawte
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
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Justin
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
Unbridled
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
Laura
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
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Susan
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
Twobusy
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
Joshua
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
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
Rory
Jan 13, 2010 Rory rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Todd Martin
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
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Albert Alla
Part Hollywood memoir, part commentary on craft, this is a very interesting book for anyone interested in how movies are made, and a fascinating read for anyone who wants to know how the stories themselves come about.

For me, the book's highlight came at the end, when Goldman introduces a short story, discusses how to adapt it, adapts it, and then submits it to different professionals, who give him bloody useful comments. There I was, right with Goldman, thinking it was a great script, and in a m
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Gwen Burrow
Hollywood is crazy. That a single movie has ever been a success in the history of the world is a miracle when you look at how many cooks are fighting over the broth. William Goldman (writing in 1982) also lit my interest in a number of old flicks which I never would have watched on my own because the gunshots sound so fake.
Chad Shuttleworth
I just finished reading this book for the third time. A friend had borrowed it many years ago, and when he gave it back, I thought I might enjoy it once again. I did indeed. This is a fantastic "behind the scenes" look at the film industry, written from one of my favorite screenwriters. William Goldman is witty, intelligent, and a great story teller. Even though some of the information is dated, as far as who is and is not a star, and what movies are currently in style, I can't imagine anyone wh ...more
Robert Poor
"Nobody knows anything." That is novelist and screenwriter William Goldman's lesson learned from fifty or so years in Hollywood. (Except for maybe Joseph Levine, the indie producer who made, among other movies, "A Bridge Too Far." Joseph seems to have the business side of the movies perfectly wired.)

A fun, easily readable backstage account of his time in Hollywood, making "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "All the President's Men," "Marathon Man," and of course "The Princess Bride." Great an
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Gideon
This book is everything. A couple years ago, when I first moved to Hollywood, everything in my life turned to shit in a rapid and spectacular fashion. Tight on cash, heavy on fear and unfamiliar with the creative and personal humiliation writers are paid to endure, I lost it. Nightly, I lurched out of bed into darkness, full of animal panic, terrified, confused and painfully alone.

And then, I read William Goldman.

You know how in 'The Princess Bride' (which Goldman wrote) Peter Falk is the incarn
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Hanna
Probably it's dated in terms of advice other than the time-honoured wisdom stuff. There are better practical guides but this book is worth it for the anecdotes and the author's witty and fluid style. If he wrote the phone book, I would read it.
Lisa
This would be a great book for the aspiring screenwriter--genuinely helpful. Also good are the inside stories on Goldman's career--he wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, and other great movies. Unfortunately the book was written before he wrote the screenplay for his novel, The Princess Bride. Much of the book seems dated, but if you're interested in writing for movies or TV, this is a must-read. Goldman is one of the greats. I see that he has a ...more
Jack Gattanella
"I personally do not believe that you can tell if a movie is 'good' or 'bad' when it comes out. All you can be sure of is this: Does it 'work' or not? For audiences. Perhaps it was possible once to make a sound judgment as to quality. But now, with the enormous amounts of money spent on advertising, with the unending 'hype' that accompanies each release, the film itself becomes obscured."

William Goldman wrote this in 1982, and its one of those pieces of wisdom - simple and to the point - that st
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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
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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.” 130 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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