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Adventures in the Screen Trade

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  7,971 ratings  ·  379 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published March 10th 1989 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1983)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting, William Goldman

Adventures in the Screen Trade is a book about Hollywood written in 1983 by American novelist and screenwriter William Goldman. The title is a parody of Dylan Thomas's Adventures in the Skin Trade.

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, an
Julio Genao
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Melissa McShane
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We've been listening to As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and it got me thinking that I hadn't read this book in many years, though I loved it the first time. So I bought a copy and dipped into it over the course of four or five days. Goldman's insider's approach is still compelling, though I wondered how much of what he says about how Hollywood works is still true 36 years later. It's also interesting to note some of what he failed to predict, from his assum ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-stories, memoir
Goldman is one of the best storytellers this country has produced, which may seem a bold claim to some, but it happens to be true. His most famous axiom, that “nobody knows anything” is one of those things that grow truer with time and experience. Goldman was referring to success in the movie business, the idea being that when something worked and was a hit, it just kind of worked and nobody really knew why, though everyone with a hand in the production would claim otherwise.

This collection of a
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The recent sad news of the death of William Goldman reminded me of an episode (October 2017) of the wonderful Backlisted Podcast about his book Adventures in the Screen Trade. What better way to honour the great man's memory than by reading this book?

As a successful screenwriter and novelist, William Goldman was perfectly placed to write one of the definitive insider accounts of Hollywood. If you like cinema then this is a fascinating read. Although written in 1983, with many films he cites from
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it
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 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."
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sean O
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was an entertaining book, but it didn't know what it wanted to be. A primer on how to hustle as a screenwriter? Amusing anecdotes about the movies he's worked on? A script workshop for tourists and beginners?

Yes all of these. Good, but not great. It could have been split and expanded into two better books, imho.

For fans of Goldman: He's a good writer and an entertaining read.
Stephen McQuiggan
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
One thing is clear from the beginning - Bill loves the movies. You would have to, I mean really really really have to, just to put yourself through the torture of writing for them, because that's the message that comes out of this again and again - prepare to be shat on. This is a gentle book; world weary, with a big heart. After detailing the vast amount of work it takes to bring a script all the way to the big screen, it's no wonder Goldman gets so angry at the Auteur theory. My only gripe abo ...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:
May 07, 2014 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
Jeffrey Powanda
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: movies
A delightful hodgepodge of Hollywood miscellany from the famed screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote Harper, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, and many other great movies. This book was originally published in 1983.

The book has three parts:

Part One: Hollywood Realities—Goldman's scathing take on the stars, studio executives, directors, agents, and producers of Hollywood.
Part Two: Adventures—Goldman's personal adventures
E. Nicholas Mariani
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully humorous, oftentimes sad and elegiac account of show business through the eyes of one of its most renowned screenwriters. From "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to "The Princess Bride," Goldman has had a career most writers could only dream of, with the scars to prove it. Anyone who has ambition to pursue a career in the movie industry (especially writers) should do themselves a favor and pick up this book. If your passion and enthusiasm are unfazed after wading through Goldman' ...more
Stephen Selbst
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Adventures in the Screen Trade is a funny and honest look at Hollywood by one of its finest writers. Goldman's credits are legendary, two Oscars, for the screenplays in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men, and many many more.

Goldman starts by telling readers that Nobody Knows Anything in Hollywood, by which he means that the movie business is extremely hard to predict, marked by frequent failures and occasional big hits. That combination leads to high turnover in the
Mario Russo
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Goldman takes us to very entertaining book of memories about his experience in the "screen trade" highly recommended.
"Example: Back in the late sixties, Life magazine, then a weekly, had a performer on its cover who they said was the biggest movie star in the world. I was meeting that day with the head of one of the biggest studios. I asked if he’d seen Life. He said he hadn’t. I told him what I’ve just told you. And then I asked if he’d care to guess who the performer was.

“Newman,” he s
Noah Gittell
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books about filmmaking I've read. The last third in particular wowed me. In it, Goldman presents an old short story of his, writes a screenplay of it, deconstructs the difficulties of writing that screenplay, shares it with some technical masters (including director George Roy Hill and cinematographer Gordon Willis), and gets their thoughts on how they would interpret it. It's an incredible education. ...more
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
After reading this very good look at how movies get made, it is kind of amazing that any truly good movies ever make it to the finish line. The book is written with humour as you would expect from the author of The Princess Bride. It includes the entire screenplay of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, followed by a section with Goldman's opinion of what worked and what didn't. A fascinating read.

A favorite paragraph:

"Whoever invented the meeting must have had Hollywood in mind. I think they sho
Dec 30, 2019 added it

“I believe as a writer that all the basic human truths are known. And what we try to do as best we can is come at those truths at our own unique angle, to reilluminate those truths in a hopefully different way”
Bob Box
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read in 1983. Fascinating look at screen writing from one of the best. Goldman wrote Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and All the Presidents Men among many others. His famous Hollywood quote "In Hollywood nobody knows anything". ...more
Suman Srivastava
Aug 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last section of this book where he goes from a short story to a screenplay and then tears it to shreds, is brilliant. That should be a textbook for writers of all kinds, but especially for people who want to write for films.
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Boomer educational
Sakib Ahmed
William Goldman is a major A**
Sep 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Weird how he turns out to be the helpless/hapless victim of every story.
Matthew FitzSimmons
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even after almost 40 years, it still feels largely fresh, insightful, and smart. Should be required reading for anyone interested in Hollywood.
Doug Stotland
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
The chapter on Butch Cassidy is an all timer. If you are a film lover you will enjoy this memoir. WG has a delightful matter of fact way of describing situations that made me laugh aloud more than a few times. I learned a lot about making movies and a ton about screen writing.
W.  Frazier
Aug 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

At first glance, this book is that dusty bargain bin reject, a totally out-of-date, academic-leaning, screenwriting textbook (with typos in the Kindle edition) - heck the author even muses on the merits of On Golden Pond and Chariots of Fire as current releases (1982 for those wondering). However, this book delivers gems. The author, a top screenwriter, lets loose on the essentials of movie making. And his thoughts (now with lots of hindsight) are really spot on. There are so many good takeaways
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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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“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.” 183 likes
“Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.” 69 likes
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