The Irish Times has a story by Donald Clarke about the dissatisfaction of screen writer Neil Jordan with the final versions of the TV series Riviera episodes now running on Sky TV. According to the IT story, the final versions reflect substantial changes in Jordan’s script although he is still shown as scriptwriter on the screen credits along with co-writer John Banville.
The story then proceeds through a history of similar past disputes, including screenwriter/novelists such as Gore Vidal and John Steinbeck whose final scripts were substantially altered. There is also a discussion of how a new position known as “showrunner” has appeared in some TV film credits, apparently indicating a position between (or perhaps above) writer and director/producer.
The concluding discussion relates to the script that was used for the final version of the 1981 Granada TV film of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited:
Thirty-five years ago, John Mortimer received enormous credit for adapting Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited for Granada television. Much later, Jeremy Irons told this writer that the script had been largely junked. “I tell you a secret. It wasn’t Mortimer,” he said to me. “He wrote an eight-hour script – or maybe a six hour one. We were shooting it, and then the financiers said: ‘We don’t like the script.’ They felt it had lost the Proustian quality. They were going to withdraw their money. Our producer said to them: ‘Don’t worry. We understand’. We went to Malta and we just had the book in our hands. John really only did a bit.” If you want total control, write a novel.
Mortimer didn’t make much a fuss about the final version even though he was shown as writer in the credits. Because it was considerably longer than what he had written, fewer changes were needed in the story which ended up relying much more heavily on the text of Waugh’s novel than Mortimer’s script. As to whether “total control” over a story rests with the author, Evelyn Waugh would disagree with that over the story that was filmed in 1965 based on his novel The Loved One or the 2008 film version of Brideshead Revisited.
This is a reminder that the 1960’s adaptation of The Loved One will be shown on the Turner Classic Movies channel later this week: Thursday, 29 June at 1030pm Eastern Time.