Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ghost World (screenplay book)

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 10/16/04 w/ Additional Edits.

When it was released in 2001, no one thought the little quirky film called Ghost World that was based on Daniel Clowes’ obscure comic book/graphic novel would catch the attention of filmgoers and critics as the film landed in several top ten critics’ poll. Since its release on DVD a year later, the film has often become a favorite among rebellious young women that shortly after the film’s release Clowes and Ghost World director Terry Zwigoff decided to release an accompany screenplay book on the movie featuring thirty-pages worth of material not used in the film.

The script written by Clowes and Zwigoff based on Clowes’ comic book, Ghost World is a story of two young teenage girls scouring around their bored, suburban lifestyle after finishing high school. Then their friendship is put to the test when one of them encounters a loner where amidst the changing tides of their town through Corporate America, everything begins to change. The title Ghost World is a reference to the decline of the American mom-and-pop stores and self-owned business as its being replaced by all of these corporate businesses and how people end up conforming. The protagonist of the story is Enid, a short, dark-haired, slightly overweight girl who refuses to conform to these statures while watching her best friend Rebecca trying to move on with her life in order to buy an apartment and get a job. While the film and its story is more of a black comedy, Ghost World is a story that is filled with a lot of angst and melancholia as two lifelong friends find themselves falling apart around their world.

The film’s screenplay shows many of the scenes and lines shown in the movie and the dialogue is truly confrontational which featured the two girls using profanity excessively through their angst, which was something that bothered many major film studios. The only difference between the final script in the book and the final cut of the film is just a few things that were deleted including the ending which is a bit altered in reference to the fragile friendship of Rebecca and Enid as Rebecca ends up conforming while trying to move on with her life. The only thing in the ending not changed is the last scene involving Enid’s departure that doesn’t explain things that many fans of the film asked.

Other deleted material includes a conversation with Enid and Rebecca just before Enid starts work for her brief job in a movie theater along with more abuse for Rebecca at her coffee shop job. Plus, some scenes are moved like Enid’s father talking about Maxine where in the movie, that scene is shown earlier in the movie but in the script, it comes much later. One scene that was deleted and probably for good reason was a sex scene between Enid and Josh, another character that is often tormented by her and Rebecca.  This deleted scene would cause more damage to Enid and Rebecca’s friendship, along with Enid’s interest in Seymour. Another scene that is more extended in the script is Enid sleeping with Seymour where he would talk to his new girlfriend Dana about his relationship with Enid that was cut for good reason since in the film, the audience would know what Seymour would be saying.

Aside from the film’s script, the book includes a brief comic book thing where Enid and Rebecca commented on the recent success of the film through their sarcastic, bored attitudes. Also shown are unreleased pictures from the set of the film that includes cast members Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, and many more. The book also includes an annotations section that includes commentary on some of the film scenes including some things that was a reference to the comic book.  One of the ideas for the film was getting Satanic religion leader Anton LaVey to play an assumed Satanist but he had died years before production began. Director Terry Zwigoff also talks about the character of Seymour which is actually based on him of sorts while he talks about the film’s soundtrack and music, often filled with obscure jazz records that he loved and he can’t tell ‘Nsync from the Backstreet Boys nor he cared to, especially since it wasn’t the type of music Birch or Johansson listened to.

Discussed in other sections is the film’s artwork done by Sophie Crumb, daughter of comic book artist Robert Crumb, who was the subject of Zwigoff’s 1994 documentary Crumb. A section was dedicated to Sophie Crumb and her artwork since Zwigoff felt she was the perfect person to help make the drawings for Enid and her talent really helped shape the film. Then there’s the subject of the Cook’s Chicken place where Buscemi’s Seymour worked and yes, there was a thing called Coon’s Chicken back in 1925 in Northwestern America that went out of business in the 1950s and never did change its name but only for the movie. Also included in the book are two introductions from Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes.

Zwigoff’s introduction discusses his reasons to make Ghost World into a film after reading Clowes comic book since the film was to mark his feature-film debut. Zwigoff also discussed how the story was so appealing, notably in its alienation of what is becoming a very corporate culture. Zwigoff admits to not fitting in with the world and he made the film out of a Woody Allen approach while personally thanking his cast and crew for helping him through. Clowes’ introduction discussed his first meeting with Zwigoff back in 1995 where for years, they wanted to adapt the comic into a screenplay where its first draft was finished in 1997 before several rewrites until it attracted the attention of producer Lianne Halfon, who co-produced the movie with actor John Malkovich. In the end, Clowes feels the film belongs to him, Zwigoff, and Halfon who really was there on set helping the film move forward.

Fans of the film would want this screenplay book along with those aspiring to write screenplays. Those who love to read scripts will find this to be a nice collection though it’s really more of a nice accompaniment to the film for its hardcore fans. Those wanting to learn the craft of writing can get a very good look into the structure and style of the film’s script in its format. So in the end, the screenplay book of Ghost World is an excellent source for fans of the films and those wanting to write scripts.

(C) thevoid99 2011


Cherokee said...

I have loved Daniel Clowes since I was about 12 or so years old now, (and at the time, I probably didn't even understand his writing, but he still amazed me anyway.)

I am definitely going to hunt down the Ghost World screenplay after reading this, though. It's something I have wanted for ages (ever since I saw the film years ago, probably), but I have never purchased it.

thevoid99 said...

There's a book that combines both the original graphic novel and the screenplay book all in one big set. You can find it in the graphic novels section at a Barnes & Noble though it is pricey.

Cherokee said...

That's what I meant (The book that you reviewed.) My bad, should have said the book instead of screenplay.

I have the screenplay of Ghost World on my laptop which I have read a little of and I really liked it (the ending was completely different to the final verion, though, so it was interesting to see this draft.)

We don't have a Barnes & Noble here in the UK, but I'll probably be able to get it somewhere online, thanks though!