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Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade Hardcover – March 7, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Something odd, if predictable, became of screenwriter William Goldman after he wrote the touchstone tell-all book on filmmaking, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983), he became a Hollywood leper. Goldman opens his long-awaited sequel by writing about his years of exile before he found himself--again--as a valuable writer in Hollywood.

Fans of the two-time Oscar-winning writer (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men) have anxiously waited for this follow-up since his career serpentined into a variety of big hits and critical bombs in the '80s and '90s. Here Goldman scoops on The Princess Bride (his own favorite), Misery, Maverick, Absolute Power, and others. Goldman's conversational style makes him easy to read for the film novice but meaty enough for the detail-oriented pro. His tendency to ramble into other subjects may be maddening (he suddenly switches from being on set with Eastwood to anecdotes about Newman and Garbo), but we can excuse him because of one fact alone: he is so darn entertaining.

Like most sequels, Which Lie follows the structure of the original. Both Goldman books have three parts: stories about his movies, a deconstruction of Hollywood (here the focus is on great movie scenes), and a workshop for screenwriters. (The paperback version of the first book also comes with his full-length screenplay of Butch; his collected works are also worth checking out). This final segment is another gift--a toolbox--for the aspiring screenwriter. Goldman takes newspaper clippings and other ideas and asks the reader to diagnose their cinematic possibilities. Goldman also gives us a new screenplay he's written (The Big A), which is analyzed--with brutal honesty--by other top writers. With its juicy facts and valuable sidebars on what makes good screenwriting, this is another entertaining must-read from the man who coined what has to be the most-quoted adage about movie-business success: "Nobody knows anything." --Doug Thomas

From Publishers Weekly

Two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Goldman follows up his irreverent, gossipy and indispensable screenwriting bible, Adventures in the Screen Trade (1983), with this equally wise, tart and very funny account of the filmmaking process. He begins with the surprising admission that he was a "leper" in Hollywood between 1980 and 1985: after Magic (1978), he was unable to get any screenplays produced until The Princess Bride (1987). (Moviegoers' loss was readers' gain: during those years he wrote six novels.) Wildly opinionated ("Vertigo--for me, the most overrated movie of all time") but astute, Goldman is a 35-year industry veteran with lots of tales and a knack for spinning them. He knows how to captivate his audience, peppering his philosophical advice with star-studded anecdotes. Whether he's detailing why virtually every leading actor turned down the lead in Misery before James Caan offered to be drug-tested to get the part, or how Michael Douglas was the perfect producer but the wrong actor for The Ghost and the Darkness, Goldman offers keen observations in a chatty style. In the last section of the book, he gamely offers readers a rough first draft of an original screenplay. Even more bravely, he includes instructive, intuitive and sometimes scathing critiques by fellow screenwriters, including Peter and Bobby Farrelly (There's Something About Mary), Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck). Movie buffs of all stripes, even those with no interest in writing for the screen, will enjoy this sublimely entertaining adventure. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (March 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375403493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375403491
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #902,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
William Goldman's follow-up to "Adventures in the Screen Trade" follows much the same form as that book. It's intended for an audience of prospective Hollywood screenwriters, but can be equally enjoyed by those interested in frank Hollywood gossip and tales from an insider. Goldman is a perfect tour guide across this terrain, for he loves to teach from his experiences, and is an entertaining and economical writer. Most of this book feels like a private chat with a friendly old uncle who's lead an exciting and adventure filled life.
Goldman starts by revisiting a successful section from his earlier memoir: anecdotes from his experiences writing his most recent work. Tales of adapting his own "The Princess Bride", his love for the material and for Andre the Giant; the good intentioned but eventual failures of "The Year of the Comet" and "The Ghost and the Darkness" (the latter is a good example of how the material can get away from the writer once an egotistical star is on board, in this case Michael Douglas); and how he went about adapting "Misery" and "Absolute Power". This last example was my favourite, for even though the book it's based on was pulp, and movie barely registered, Goldman uses it as a fine example on the problems of adapting, and how you need to be ruthless just to make the thing work. He takes you through his process step-by-step, and the parts where he's racking his brain on how to make the sucker work are tangible in their frustration. Also, there were some nifty Clint Eastwood moments that make you respect the Man with No Name even more.
The second section takes a look at several of Goldman's favourite film scenes (from a screenwriter's point of view), and proposes to analyze why they worked.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a huge fan of Goldman's books and most of his screenplays, and the original Adventures in the Screen Trade still stands as the definitive how-Hollywood-works primer. It's great to have him deconstructing the industry once again, praising some unlikely subjects--who would think the 67-year old author of Marathon Man would have picked the Farrelly brothers' There's Something About Mary as 1998's best film?--and attacking even more unlikely subjects--would you expect the screenwriter of A Bridge Too Far to loathe Saving Private Ryan? Goldman does, and how.) I have two key problems with Which Lie Did I Tell, however. One is, many Goldman fans will have seen a lot of this text before. Much of this material has appeared in Premiere Magazine over the years, as well as in collections of Goldman's screenplays. Long-time Goldman enthusiasts, then, might be a bit miffed about buying recycled material. My other misgiving is Goldman's tendency to rely too much on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when he's trying to get a point across. The original Adventures, remember, included the complete Butch screenplay and a lot of background material about the real-life duo and the making of the film. So it's disconcerting to see scene after scene from Butch used in the new book, along with many of the same anecdotes Goldman told us the first time around. On the other hand, if you're going to use a single film for a lot of your examples of screenwriting, you could do a lot worse than an Oscar-winning Western classic. So, if you read (and liked) Adventures in the Screen Trade and haven't read Goldman's movie pieces elsewhere, give this review an extra star and give Which Lie Did I Tell a try. If you know every line of Adventures and sought out everything Goldman has written since then, you might consider waiting for the paperback. (Hey, he's rich and his children are grown, no one's going to starve if you pass on the hardcover.)
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Format: Hardcover
...it still is very much worth a read. (Goldman has such an easy going, conversational writing style, you can polish off this book a few hours.) One of my favorite all time books is his first Adventures in the Screen Trade, which was the first book that I ever read about how Hollywood really works. (His analysis of The Great Santini is classic.) This book is highly entertaining, but it does not have the sheen of originality that the first book had. And I was really getting a bit tired reading about Butch Cassidy (he even acknowledges that the book's reader might hurl the thing across the room, due to his constant references of that film.) I would much rather have read his thoughts on The Last Action Hero. What the hell was going through the movie makers minds on that one? But overall, this book was lots of fun, especially his analysis of There's Something About Mary and Fargo. And it was fun reading about why that Chevy Chase Invisible Man movie was so horrendous. So, if you like movies, go ahead and read this, but make sure you read the first Adventures in the Screen Trade first.
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By A Customer on March 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This was a readable, good book. I would like to counter a point made in the March 20 review below, that comments on how Goldman takes credit for the "Good Will Hunting" screenplay, that Affleck and Damon won Oscars for. Goldman is JOKING! He's being SARCASTIC! I don't know how you could think he was being serious! He says, (when being unsarcastic) "I worked one day on the screenplay with them, gave them my opinion about a section, and that was that." Apparently some in Hollywood didn't think two young upstarts could write an Oscar winning screenplay, so said Goldman must have written it. Goldman is making a JOKE out of that rumor. Read the section again. GOLDMAN IS NOT TAKING CREDIT, but the exact opposite. And as far as the bitter tone, Robert Redford said this: "All writers have a lot of anger." It's hard to avoid among literary persons. And I'm glad he takes digs at others in the industry in this book. Writers are so important to movies, but they are treated like they are worthless (compared to directors and stars), and have little power. The one place they can vent their spleens is in books, and I'm more than happy to see them let off some steam, while entertaining me at the same time.
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