Side Effects Writer Scott Z. Burns Talks The Hitchcock Influence And Pain Of Letting Things Go

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-02-08 17:53:21discussion comments
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I do also want to ask you a bit about working with Steven Soderbergh, because I know the two have collaborated multiple times before. This is your third feature together, right?

Itís actually our fifth! Thereís a movie that I wrote and directed called Pu-239 that I did for HBO and Steven was an executive producer on that and we spent a lot of time together talking about that. And then I did a lot of uncredited work on Oceanís 12 as well.

I had heard that you were originally planning to direct Side Effects yourself, and obviously at some point that changed. When and why did you decide to let him direct?

It changed rather abruptly. I had been trying to get this movie going for about six or seven years, and I had financiers who went out of business, and then casts that were approved and then werenít approved, and the kind of struggles that everyone goes through trying to make a movie. So Steven and I, after we did Contagion, he asked me to adapt The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and we were going to do this Cold War spy movie. And it was all going great and the movie was ready to go at Warner Bros. Ė and there were disagreements about budget. The amount of money that they were arguing over was so small that it sort of suggested to Steven and I that they didnít really want to make the movie. Because at this point he and I were both on the same schedule, having done Informant! together and Contagion together he said, ďWell, what else do you have?Ē No, he said, ďI read a lot of scripts in the last weekend and I think the best script that I read in a long time is that Side Effects movie. I thought that was a really great idea. Would you consider letting me direct it?Ē

And itís hard to let things go. The way that he asked was really very genuine and thoughtful and I had to make a choice. As a writer having a script on your computer not being made isnít very helpful. And so the choice was fighting for another few years and still not getting the movie made, or having the movie made by someone that I knew, and trusted, and was collaborative, and who I think is incredibly talented. It became kind of easy when the goal is here to ďGet shit made.Ē [laughs] When you see a path for that itís a bad idea to let your own ambition and hubris get in the way. So that was a big part of it Ė just the practicality of wanting to see the movie get made. But also because I had such a great collaborative experience with him. It was really exciting to think that we would do another movie.

I know Iím running out of time, but what are you working on now?

Well, there is a play that Iím writing about Columbine, Steven and I are going to do it at The Public. Thereís a script that I wrote, itís an adaptation of a documentary called Deep Water that I hope is going to get made this year Ė itís set up with StudioCanal and the BBC. So those are kind of the two main things right now that Iím working on. And Iím working on a new script for Fox that Iím not allowed to talk aboutÖ

Is that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

I already wrote that! Iím happy to talk about that. I worked with Rupert Wyatt on a draft of the script and I really love what Rupert and I did, and then Rupert left the project. And as sometimes happens when a director goes away the writer gets sent away shortly thereafter because they brought in a new team of people. So I hope that they use a lot of what we did because I was really excited about it, but Iím not involved right now. I donít really know how itís going to go.

The way that we were going I think was really cool and I know that it was embraced by a lot of people at the studio. Iím not sure what happened after Rupert parted ways with them.

Just out of curiosity, how heavily involved were humans in your draft? Was it mostly an ape story?

It was still very much about Caesar. It was more about apes thanÖwell, you canít really say that. It was, I think, a very logical extension of the first one in terms of if these apes now have the power to think and communicate, what sort of path they would be on and how they would crash into humans again.
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