This is a story of a screenplay, how it was initially conceived, "developed" by a number of studio heads and producers, and finally transformed into a movie even its writers admit is mediocre. In 1988, John Gregory Dunne and his wife Joan Didion began work on a film script based on the tragic life of anchorwoman Jessica Savitch. Over the next eight years, studio executives coaxed them to transform it into Up Close and Personal, a toothless star vehicle for Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. In his account of the script's metamorphosis, Dunne also mentions other potential masterpieces of excess that he and Didion worked on, including Dharma Blue, an aborted Jerry Bruckheimer-Don Simpson movie about UFOs and Ultimatum, a nuclear thriller that was abandoned after its studio spent $3 million on script development! Dunne makes no bones about being in show biz for the money--his film work financed his heart surgery, legal costs, and vacations in Honolulu. Still, this account of a screenplay's devolution unmasks an industry spoiled rotten by wealth and power.
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