Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, the scribe and script-doctor who made his bones penning such James Bond films as "Diamonds Are Forever," "Live and Let Die" and "The Man With the Golden Gun," has died at 68.

Known for his trademark light and breezy writing style, Mankiewicz once said he had endured snickers for his association with the sexy Bond films. He told the Miami Herald in 1987: "I don't apologize for entertaining people."

In 1978, Mankiewicz received a controversial credit for rewriting the 1978 Richard Donner film "Superman" and its 1980 sequel. Donner hired him to rewrite the impossibly long script (by "Godfather" scribe Mario Puzo), and stayed with the project for more than a year.

At the time the script drafts combined were more than four hundred pages long (an impossible length to shoot) and Donner felt they were much too campy as well. He brought Mankiewicz aboard to do a complete overhaul in terms of length, dialogue and tone.

Mankiewicz stayed on the production for more than a year, assisting Donner in other departments as well. Donner referred to him as a "creative consultant."

The Writer’s Guild strenuously objected on two grounds; first, that the traditional script arbitration process was being bypassed and second, that Mankiewicz’s credit came after the original screenwriters and not before them, implying that his contribution was more important. The dispute went to a legal hearing. Mankiewicz won.
His credit remained where it was on "Superman: The Movie," but he agreed to have it come just before the listed screenwriters on "Superman II." In the 2006 documentary "Look, Up in the Sky: the Amazing Story of Superman", Mankiewicz accurately describes "Superman: the Movie" as a three-act play exploring Superman's three separate worlds, describing the film's depictions of Krypton as "Shakespearean", Smallville as comparable to the works of Andrew Wyeth and Metropolis as a place where sarcasm flies.

"The Writers Guild didn't want to give him a credit, but he definitely deserved a credit," Donner told The L.A. Times on Monday. "I probably wouldn't have made the movie if Tom hadn't come on to rewrite it."

In addition to working and developing ABC's "Hart to Hart" for Aaron Spelling, Warner Bros. signed Mankiewicz to an exclusive deal and kept him busy “fixing” films. He wrote scenes for Steven Spielberg’s "Gremlins," Spielberg and Richard Donner’s "The Goonies" and John Badham’s "WarGames." He next wrote the first draft of Batman, the opening film for that successful series. Then Richard Donner brought him onto "Ladyhawke," the medieval romantic fantasy starring Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rutger Hauer. He received shared screenplay credit and a separate credit as “Creative Consultant.”

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  1. Great stuff.... that I was not aware of. Some good movies in that bunch.

    Thanks for keeping me up to date on these things :-)

  2. I too can endure Snickers... or Marathons as we used to call them in Blighty ;)

  3. Yes, there should never be an apology necessary for entertaining people.

    I know a script doctor and he REALLY deserves the credit for his "creative consultancy" work!

    Sad. RIP Tom Mankiewicz.

  4. Yep, that's a shame. I remember going to all the Roger Moore 'Bond' films as a kid with may fanatic cousin. That's nice that Donner backed him publically like that.

  5. Oh, that's too bad he died. And the need to endure snickers. I'm glad he didn't apologize for entertaining people. I can't believe someone would . . . well, I guess I can. I've read a book before and asked myself how the hell someone spent millions marketing "that crap" while my AMAZING book hadn't been published yet? Snobbery is relative I suppose. =D

  6. I love that clip! Especially the old cars! Tom Mankiewicz was very good at what he did. And 68 is too darn young. Great work, Ant!

  7. That was a lot of files in one guy's case. A heavy resume, indeed. It amazing the people behind the scenes in these stories that you never really think about. 68 is not nearly old enough to have it end.


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