Roy Scheider Discusses Badham and O'Bannon.
When it came to conflict on Blue Thunder, there were some reported skirmishes-including remarks in STARLOG interviews-between director John Badham (STARLOG #70) and screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (STARLOG #71).
"Blue Thunder went through a lot of changes," Scheider concedes. "The script I read was not the script which ended up being shot. They had two more writers come on and then a third. Then, they went back to the original two guys who got the screen credit (O'Bannon and Don Jakoby). I mean, what attracted everyone in the first place was what really made the story good, so they went back to the drawing board." (Scheider discusses Blue Thunder in depth in an interview in STARLOG #73.)
O'Bannon was offended by the ad-libbed dialogue Badham encouraged the actors to deliver. The screenwriter, who recently directed Return of the Dead from his own script (FANGORIA #40), took the ad-libbing as an insult to his writing.
"Much of the stuff between Daniel Stern (of Diner, see STARLOG #74) and myself, you know that bullshit macho dialogue in the helicopter, was mostly ad-libbed stuff. John Badham encouraged us to do it," Scheider explains. "He did that because it worked for the film. It helped establish a relationship and that's hard to do on paper."
O'Bannon's displeasure baffles Scheider.
"Since the movie did about $80 million worldwide," the actor says, "I don't think Dan O'Bannon should be too unhappy. I know far a fact that John never treated those guys with anything less than respect and invited them to the set and showed them dailies.
"As a filmmaker, I think John is a little more sophisticated about how things will affect an audience than they (O'Bannon and Jakoby) are. And I'm a guy who believes that the writers are absolutely the number one creative force in any movie.
"I make it my business to meet the screenwriter, because where are you going to find out more about your character than from him?" Scheider continues, "You discover what compelled him to write the screenplay in the first place. If I like the script, and I chose to do it, it means that I like the character to begin with and anything I bring to it is just an embellishment on what the writers already have. So, I don't have conflicts with writers."
Scheider can sympathize with a writer's position in a film's hierarchy and the anger that sometimes results when an actor "takes over" a role.
"How would you like it if you wrote the movie, and they cast the part, and the actor signs a contract to play the character for X amount of dollars and on the first day of shooting, he says, "I don't like the character." How would you feel?" Scheider argues. "So, an actor can't do that, he can't say, 'Wait a minute. I'm not playing this guy because I have a better idea.' That's why some actors get fired the first week of shooting."