The Two Hollywoods: The Screenwriters; Shane Black; Harmony Korinevia The New York Times
By Lynn Hirschberg
Published: November 16, 1997
Shane Black, at 35, already holds the record for the biggest script sale in movie history: $4 million for ''The Long Kiss Goodnight.'' Maybe he shouldn't have been the one to arrive first, but here he was, in the empty dining room of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, waiting for Harmony Korine, the 23-year-old writer and director of ''Gummo,'' whose indie career took off two years ago with ''Kids,'' for which he wrote the script. Korine is running about 45 minutes late, which is what you'd expect: he enjoys his reputation for trying people's patience.
Black, who also wrote the scripts for ''Lethal Weapon'' and ''The Last Boy Scout,'' likes to be thought of as a rebel, but he's making millions in the studio mainstream. When Korine does finally arrive, looking as if he just fell out of bed, the two begin a colloquy that is not only about screenwriting but about identity.
Korine: Here's the big difference between us -- rich [pointing at Black], not rich [pointing at himself].
Black: No, no, no. Pal, you're in for some big dough.
Korine: I doubt it. I'm not really so interested in linear storytelling -- like, beginning, middle and end. Or the idea of some kind of contrived plot. The only thing I remember about films are scenes and characters. So when I write movies, I'm basically writing only things that I want to see, with nothing leading up or nothing following. Just those scenes on their own.
Black: But even in your film ''Kids'' there is suspense. Which means the story is going from A to B. You're waiting to see if something's going to happen. In other words, it's not just shot in random order over a few months. You find out this kid has contracted H.I.V., he's trying to scam on this 13-year-old girl. And the suspense is, Is he going to give AIDS to this 13-year-old girl? And people are waiting to see the story unfold. So I think there is a narrative that's very strong.
Korine: Yeah, there was with that. I mean, I wrote it for someone else. Basically, for me the plot of ''Kids'' wasn't what was interesting. That just gave me an excuse to show these scenes. Collage is the ultimate art form of this century. Film is the great art form of the century, and most conducive to a collagelike style. But collage still has yet to take hold in film. Everybody's still making these really simple kind of ----.
Korine: Formulaic. No subtext. Everything is just easy, basic, minimum, no personality.
Black: You're right. There have been no good movies in the last few years. I do think the challenge, in a way for me, is to write a narrative film and when you finish watching it you feel like it's a collage. You tell the narrative, you tell the story, but you feel like you've created this tapestry. But it also has a shape, a story. So I think there's a middle ground that I try to strike. It isn't quite as revolutionary as where you go. But it's certainly in that direction -- and away from where everyone else seems ready to go, which is, setup, payoff. You know, He's afraid of water, oh, and at the end he's swimming in water -- oh, my God. I hate that stuff.
Korine: I never think about the audience. Never. I mean it's never even occurred to me, ever.
Black: You won't go to see ''Jurassic Park'' or something, a Spielberg film, just to have fun?
Korine: I think it's important that there are films like that.
Korine: Because I do think that kind of mindless entertainment -- I think that's important. I think that there's a history of that. I don't think that every movie should be something that smashes you in the head or teaches you something or is revolutionary.
Black: Are you trying to teach things with your film?
Korine: Oh, no, no, no.
Black: I think about the audience in the sense that I serve as my own audience. I have to please myself the way, if I saw the movie in a theater, I would be pleased. Do I think about catering to an audience? No. Do I think about satisfying people with a good story? Yes. But I would never compromise anything to accommodate what I perceive to be the demands of the public.
The worst of the action films are the ones where everything is one shout from beginning to finish. And there's no differentiation between beats, like small or big, or quiet or expansive. It's all just one loud shout. And by the end, the audience has been beaten in the face so many times, you could blow up the Taj Mahal and they'd go, ''O.K., that's nice.'' Because they've seen so much. They're just dead. We're in a culture where people want to be deafened, apparently. And there's an elegance, which is somehow missing. It used to be that when people talked, they talked in a very communicative way. They varied their tone, they varied their pitch. Now they just yell at you until you fall down. And that's what I don't like. But my films are bombastic enough. I mean, I have no business trashing other ----.
Korine: What are your movies -- ''Lethal Weapon''? And ... what else?
Black: ''The Last Boy Scout.''
Korine: Oh, yeah. I saw those.
Black: ''The Long Kiss Goodnight.''
Korine: I don't remember. I don't think I saw that. Who's in that one?
Black: [laughs] Nobody saw that. That's cool. I understand. Believe it or not, I'm really only interested in doing my own thing. I've turned down lots and lots of work. Things that could have made me some money. But in the long run, you look at each of these films and I really think I made the smart move by turning them down.
Korine: I'm making my films the way I want to make my films. I'm happy, I can sleep at night. [pause] Actually, I can't sleep at night. I am an insomniac.
Black: I don't sleep that well, either. [pause] Man, I mean, I used to think I was sort of rebellious. I'm sitting here feeling like a hit man talking to Mother Teresa.
Korine: What do you want?
Black: I'm still finding it. I'm still finding what it is I want to write. It's, like, the next thing I do, I don't know what it's going to be, but it's going to be different from what I've done before. You look at Lawrence Kasdan, one of my favorite writers. He wrote ''Star Wars'' movies, he wrote ''The Accidental Tourist,'' ''Body Heat.'' Who knows, you might write a romantic comedy.
Korine: Sure. I never say I won't do anything.
Black: A romantic comedy without a narrative? [laughter]
Korine:: I'm not setting anything in stone. I always liked the idea of going against, or going back. That's interesting to me.
Black: What has been the reaction ... I mean, since you've done ''Kids''? Obviously, you got a lot of attention. Did your life change?
Korine: I don't live in California. So I have no friends in the film business. I don't know anybody.
Black: That explains it.
Korine: Completely. Also it's my work to make everything seem as if it's not written, as if it's just happening. But everything is totally thought out and written.
Black: So you do believe, not in narrative, but in control from start to finish of a film?
Korine: Oh, yeah.
Black: Would you ever want to work with an established movie star?
Korine: Personally, I have no interest in it. I have no interest in anyone that's, like, a professional. The idea of being a pro or someone who does it over and over again ... it's a job. Actors, to me, they fail to startle.
Black: So Kevin Costner comes to you ----.
Korine: [laughs] Maybe. I mean, I wouldn't ... I mean, I would do something with him. Like, if I felt like I could make him do something he'd be embarrassed about or something, you know what I mean? And I like Tom Cruise. I had the idea of making ... did you ever read the Guinness Book of World Records? There's this great photo of Eddie Gaedel. The St. Louis Browns once paid a midget, Eddie Gaedel, to go up to bat. ''Don't swing, just let him throw the ball'' -- and that's what he did. So Eddie Gaedel walked to first base. I want to write a movie about Eddie Gaedel and have Tom Cruise play him on his knees. [laughter]Source