Die Hard

What is the most important movie experience you had before breaking into the business?

Aside from watching them all the time instead of going outside, mostly trying to figure out how they worked and how I might be able to write them for a living. Again, this is all long before the internet so it was not easy to find resources to help you figure out how to write a film or how to break into the business. And growing up in the UK, where the kind of big, imaginative genre films that interested me simply weren’t made, it all felt like a very unlikely and remote prospect. But I read a couple of how-to writing books and started bashing out scripts in 1988, when I was 15. In the absence of any screenplays to read, I would watch movies on VHS and try to reverse-engineer them. I would sit with my copy of Die Hard, reset the VHS timer and make notes of the big story beats and when they happened, trying to figure out how the mechanics of the story. Die Hard is a really great one to do it with because it is an absolute masterpiece of action movie structure and storytelling, that thing is a goddamn Swiss watch. I learned a lot from it. And the first spec script I ever wrote was basically a Die Hard clone.

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You and I are both from a generation of people who discovered the internet as it evolved, and not being born into it I think we’ve both been outspoken online in various forms — and every so often I’m reminded by readers of something I said online years ago. After you signed on to Star Wars, people found a bunch of opinions you posted about the Star Wars universe, and particularly your dislike of the prequel trilogy and the special editions. You probably never could have expected that comments on a podcast of forum in 2010 would eventually be picked up by blogs. So I’m wondering what are your thoughts about the Star Wars prequels today?

Somebody once told me that each generation thinks the best era for pop music was whichever one they grew up with. I think that’s true of movies too. I’m a child of the 80s so I have a particular fondness for the movies of the 80s that had such a formative impact on me when I was a kid. So I totally understand that we have a new generation growing up now that loves the prequels in the same way that people of my generation love the original trilogy. And soon there will be another generation that will no doubt love the new films that are being made now the most. I just urge anyone who is coming to Star Wars for the first time NOT to watch the films in chronological order. DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT watch the prequels first. Watch them in the order they were made. When I first met my wife she had never seen a Star Wars movie so I thought it would be an interesting experiment to show her all six films in chronological order. She has still never forgiven me for that, and rightly so. Not only does it blow the Darth Vader reveal in Empire, it also blows what I think is often forgotten as just as great a reveal – that Yoda is not just some annoying little swamp creature but in fact a great Jedi Master.

[On the next page, this installment of the interview wraps up with Whitta talking aboutthe future of the Star Wars franchise and working on the first spin-off film]

Continue Reading Gary Whitta Star Wars Interview >>

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