Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

This Month in Filmmaking History – December 2021 Roundup

  • On this day in history

    Hills Cop

    screenplay by

    • Daniel Petrie Jr.

    Beverly Hills Cop -

    The highest-grossing U.S. film of 1984, “Beverly Hills Cop,” premiered on this day in history. The story about a Detroit-based cop who goes to Beverly Hills to investigate a murder launched Eddie Murphy into fame. It earned screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr. an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The original script for the film, written by Danilo Bach, was strictly action. After a few rewrites, that project went stale, and Petrie was brought in. His screenplay had more comedic elements, which Paramount reportedly loved. But when Sylvester Stallone was later cast as the lead, he rewrote the screenplay to revert to a purely action script. Stallone dropped out two weeks before filming. The lead role went to Eddie Murphy, and Petrie again revised the script with humor. Two sequels followed, and Netflix now has film rights to make a fourth film for streaming.

    Read the screenplay for “Beverly Hills Cop.”

  • On this day in history

    Star Trek:
        The Motion Picture

    screenplay by

    • Harold Livingston

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture -

    Ten years after the television show was canceled, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” premiered to delighted Trekkie fans across North America. Harold Livingston wrote the screenplay, based on creator Gene Roddenberry’s original television series. Roddenberry had petitioned Paramount to make a film ever since the show was canceled in 1969. Still, the studio was unconvinced that it would do well at the box office and ordered a revived Star Trek television show instead. After the success of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at theaters, the studio changed its mind and asked writers to quickly adapt the pilot episode for the new TV show into a film instead. Though the film profited, it received mixed reviews from critics who said it relied too heavily on special effects.

    Read the screenplay for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

  • On this day in history


    • Born on this day

    Buck Henry -

    Actor, screenwriter, and director Buck Henry passed away in early 2020 at the age of 89. He was born on this day in 1930. Henry acted in many of the films he wrote and directed, and he performed several recurring characters on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” He’s best known for his Oscar-nominated screenplay for “The Graduate,” which he wrote with Calder Willingham, and “Heaven Can Wait,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director alongside Warren Beatty. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for co-creating “Get Smart,” a popular comedy show that aired in the late 60s.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Quentin Tarantino

    Django Unchained -

    Quentin Tarantino’s most successful movie, “Django Unchained,” premiered on this day in history in 2012. The award-winning film is considered a revisionist Western, overturning the traditional themes in a Western. In “Django Unchained,” a freed slave and a German bounty hunter set out to save the freed slave’s wife from a plantation owner. Tarantino came up with the idea for the screenplay while he was writing a book on Italian filmmaker Sergio Corbucci, who made the 1966 spaghetti Western “Django.” Tarantino won an Oscar for the screenplay, and the movie was nominated for Best Picture. It earned $435 million at the box office and remains his highest-grossing film to date.

    Read the screenplay for “Django Unchained.”

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Ethan Coen
    • Joel Coen

    True Grit -

    The Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” premiered on this day in history in 2010, based on the 1968 Charles Portis novel of the same name. Though adapted to a film once before in 1969, Ethan and Joel Coen wanted to create a version of the story that was truer to the novel, meaning it would have to be told more from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl like the book was. The brothers knew that the entire movie hinged on getting a great actor to play the part of 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross, and they found their star in then 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld among 15,000 applicants for the part. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars that year, and the film earned nine additional nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay.

    Read the screenplay for “True Grit.”

  • On this day in history

        All That

    screenplay by

    • Alan Aurthur
    • Bob Fosse

    All That Jazz -

    “All That Jazz” hit theaters on this day in history in 1979, written by Alan Aurther and Bob Fosse as a semi-autobiographical nod to Fosse’s life as a dancer and choreographer. The musical drama combined fantasy and plenty of performance to tell the story of Joe Gideon, a womanizing and drug-using theater director. The story was inspired by Fosse’s own efforts to edit his film, “Lenny,” while also working on the Broadway musical “Chicago.” “All That Jazz” is a musical number that occurs in “Chicago.” Though the movie was nominated for and won several awards, critics felt the story was manic, egotistic, and indulgent, and reviews were mixed. Today, the film is well-respected and earned a spot as a preserved movie in the Library of Congress for being historically and culturally significant.

    Read the screenplay for “All That Jazz.”

  • On this day in history

    The King
    of Comedy

    screenplay by

    • Paul D. Zimmerman

    The King of Comedy -

    Paul D. Zimmerman wrote the screenplay for “The King of Comedy,” a black comedy-drama that premiered on this day in 1982. The story follows an aspiring but unsuccessful comic who wants fame, so he stalks and kidnaps his idol and demands he be featured on his comedy show as ransom. The movie deals with themes of a celebrity-obsessed culture and stars Robert De Niro as the lead. Zimmerman said he was inspired to write the screenplay after watching a show about autograph hunters, as well as an article on an obsessed Johnny Carson follower. Critics loved the movie, but it actually bombed at the box office, grossing just $2.5m against its $19m budget.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Nina Agadzhanova

    Battleship Potemkin -

    The Russian silent film “Battleship Potemkin” premiered on this day in history in 1925. Sergei M. Eisenstein directed and helped rewrite Nina Agadzhanova’s original script. In it, the crew of a Russian battleship stage a mutiny of the officers, resulting later in a deadly street demonstration. The Russian government hired Agadzhanova to write a film to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, for which she wrote eight episodes. But Eisenstein was running out of time to shoot something that long, so he revised the screenplay to focus only on the Battleship Potemkin episode. The movie is considered one of the best films of all time.

    Read the screenplay transcript for “Battleship Potemkin.”

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • Robert Bolt

    Doctor Zhivago -

    Robert Bolt wrote the epic romantic drama “Doctor Zhivago,” which debuted on this day in history in 1965. Bolt based the screenplay on the 1957 Boris Pasternak novel of the same name, which follows a married doctor who falls in love with a married woman during the Russian Revolution and Civil War. The book was banned in the Soviet Union for decades, so the movie was primarily shot in Spain. The book was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and became a big hit in the West, and the movie success followed: It was the second highest-grossing film of 1965 and is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation. The screenwriters of “Frozen,” Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, say that “Doctor Zhivago” inspired parts of the Disney film.

    Read the screenplay for “Doctor Zhivago.”

  • On this day in history


    • Born on this day

    Howard Hughes -

    Though he’s perhaps best known as a pioneering aviator and one of the richest men of his time, Howard Hughes was first a film tycoon. Hughes was born on this day in 1905 and started gaining notoriety as a producer and sometimes director in the 1920s. His films included “The Racket,” “Hell’s Angels,” and “Scarface,” among more than a dozen other movies. Hughes inspired several characters in movies and television, including Tony Stark in Marvel Comics, Willard White in the James Bond film “Diamonds are Forever,” and director Christopher Nolan’s characterization of Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight Trilogy. “The Aviator,” written by John Logan and directed by Martin Scorsese, is based on Hughes’ life.

  • On this day in history


    screenplay by

    • George Orwell
    • +7 Story Development Credits

    Animal Farm -

    The animated adaptation of George Orwell’s novel “Animal Farm” debuted on this day in history in 1954, to the confusion of many parents who took their children to the theater to see it, thinking it was more Disney-esque. The film was, in fact, a satirical story that critiqued the Russian Revolution and dictator Joseph Stalin’s rise to power. The American Central Intelligence Agency commissioned the movie as a propaganda film with an anti-socialist message. Seven writers worked on the story development, and a British animation company produced it. The writers changed some elements from the book to better promote the message the CIA wanted to convey. The film is technically the first British animated feature film ever made, considering two animated films prior did not receive theatrical releases.

    Read the transcript screenplay for “Animal Farm.”