From The Wall Street Journal:
“My box office has been terrible,” says screenwriter and director Charlie Kaufman, describing the commercial flop that led to his first novel, “Antkind,” a 705-page comedy about a failed film critic and a destroyed movie.
Mr. Kaufman’s playful, mind-bending screenplays for other directors, including “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” are among the most acclaimed of recent decades. But the two films he has directed were critical hits that made no money.
. . . .
The novel’s unreliable narrator, B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, exalts the work of Judd Apatow and considers Charlie Kaufman a hack moviemaker. Mr. Kaufman tweaks his own image here, as he did in his screenplay “Adaptation,” which depicts a fictional Charlie Kaufman as a down-in-the-mouth screenwriter. B. also has a tendency to fall into manholes. He discovers a stop-motion film that is three months long—yes, months—only to see it lost in a fire.
As he tries to reconstruct the film from memory, believing that will bring him the stature he deserves, he moves into imaginary worlds, fictions within fictions that include a slapstick comedy duo and a president called Donald J. Trunk. Throughout, B. reflects on his awareness of sexism, racism and his own white privilege, although his own thoughts suggest he might be more biased than he knows. “Antkind” also overflows with obscure references, some invented and many not, including a real 1914 film, “A Florida Enchantment,” in which a woman swallows a magic seed and becomes a man.
. . . .
Mr. Kaufman talked to the Journal about creating novels and movies. Edited excerpts:
. . . .
Why did you create a main character, B., who is a wrong-headed, self-involved, failed film critic?
I’m not questioning your description, but I want to make clear those are your words, not mine. I have a lot of sympathy for B. I feel like he’s distinctly human in all of his failings. I like the idea of impossible things, like when [the late science fiction writer ] Stanislaw Lem writes book reviews for nonexistent books, so I liked the idea of describing a film that does not exist and probably could not exist. That seemed like it would lend itself to a book about a film critic.
. . . .
Your new film is adapted from a novel. How did that project come to you?
I was looking for something that somebody would let me direct and it’s easier to get something made if it’s based on a book or a comic book or a movie that’s already existed. The producer I work with happened to have a deal with Netflix. I don’t know that Netflix knew going in that I was going to make it into something that was less of a thriller than the book, and I don’t think I knew that either. The book is leading you to a reveal, and I felt like that might be obvious and disappointing in the movie. Things are more mysterious in words than they are in images.
Was it easier to get an original screenplay made earlier in your career?
Definitely. Earlier in my career, I could play around and experiment, but the business has changed enormously, and it all happened around 2008 when studios stopped making movies and started making tentpoles. The reason something like Netflix attracts filmmakers is because there’s nowhere else to make those things. It’s infuriating to me when people say Netflix is ruining movies because—no, movies ruined movies, studios ruined movies, and that’s the truth.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (sorry if you run into a paywall)
PG notes that the upcoming Netflix movie is based on I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid.