War of the Credits

I saw WAR OF THE WORLDS and enjoyed it (just don’t give it much thought or it disintegates even faster than the people do…only without leaving pairs of pants behind). The biggest surprise of the movie isn’t big effects. Or the spider-like aliens. Or the fact that Tom Cruise can actually act…

It’s the screenwriting credit.

In all the interviews and publicity surrounding the movie, screenwriter David Koepp is treated as the only writer involved. No mention is ever made of another screenwriter. The posters don’t show any name but Koepp’s either. And in the two interviews I’ve read with Koepp, he certainly didn’t say he was the second writer on-board. But, lo and behold, in the actual movie, the credit reads:

Written By Josh Friedman and David Koepp

So why hasn’t Friedman’s involvement been noted, even in passing, in all these months of incessant WAR OF THE WORLDS hype? Obviously, his contribution to the story and characters was significant enough in the eyes of the Writers Guild of America to merit fifty percent of the credit…so why has he been denied even 1% of the publicity? Why don’t Spielberg, Cruise, or Koepp do him the courtesy of even acknowleding his existence?

Friedman may be denied the credit he deserves in the media, and from his colleagues on the film, but at least he he’ll be getting a nice, fat check…

10 thoughts on “War of the Credits”

  1. I don’t find it surprising that Tom Cruise can act. I knew that after seeing “Born on the 4th of July”. The question is, why doesn’t he “act” in more of his movies.

  2. Agreed. Does the general public really care that Koepp was the screenwriter? Why push one guy and relegate the other guy to the outer darkness?
    The only way this could even be remotely justified is if Josh Friedman was the first writer to tackle the screenplay and thus was automaticly entitled to credit. If he’d set the movie in the original world of the world and then everything was changed around, that might make things a little different. Anyone familiar with the production history of this film?

  3. And there were at least two other writers between Friedman and Koepp.
    The big problem with the guild’s arbitration process is that it’s based more on structure than actual writing. You could come on board and rewrite 90% of a film’s dialogue, but if you didn’t “change” at least 51% of the script (read structure) then you get no credit.
    Koepp is a master at the 51% as his credits attest.

  4. Craig Mazin posted an article about this, “gaming the rewrite” it was called – he maintained that it didn’t happen – I’m not in a position to say one way or another – however . . . I would like to see the guild someday pass a rule stating that ALL the writers that worked on the script be listed in the credits. This might encourage studios, after awhile, to work with the writers instead of just passing a script around here and there with no thought to it.
    I seem to remember that some writer (maybe on Aviator, or was it Gladiator – one of the “ators”) had it in his contract that he would be the only screenwriter listed onscreen in the credits, regardless of the number of other writers that took a pass at the script.
    Anyone else hear about that, or was it just a foolish rumor?

  5. Actually, Josh would only have had to write 33% of the film to get credit, as War Of The Worlds is an adaptation and not an original screenplay
    However, given that Josh is in first position, the form of the credits actually implies that he contributed *more* (at least, quantitatively) to the screenplay than David Koepp.
    So if there were 5 writers, it’s possible that Josh contributed 40%, David contributed 35%, and the rest contributed a total of 25%.
    This is all predicated on the notion that such percentages are legitimate determinations in the first place.
    And that, my friends, is the rub…

  6. This might be incredibly naive…
    But is it possible Josh Friedman just didn’t want to be involved in the publicizing/media blitz surrounding the movie?

  7. JF wrote two drafts and was replaced by Koepp. The producers proposed that DK get sole credit. JF disagreed and not only got credit, he got first position credit which implies that the WGA thought he contributed more to the final script than DK did.
    The guy was flat-out wronged in the months leading up to the film. Why? Who knows? Sometimes the producers of flicks forget everything the first guy brought to the table when they replace him with a bigger name.

  8. About The Aviator…I’ve heard a rumor that John Logan has a clause in his contract that he gets a bonus if listed as sole writer. (EricHughes.net has something about that, also.) Was I the only person to hear Leonardo DiCaprio thank John Logan and Michael Mann “for their intricate script” in his thank-you speech at the Golden Globes?


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