John Ridley, easy writer

"He didn't want the book to give anything away before his movie came out," Ridley recalls. "It got pretty nasty. He told me I couldn't visit the set anymore. I was upset, but not devastated. I mean, they were shooting in Arizona in July."

The feud with Stone cooled down, but hostilities with Three Kings director Russell are still simmering. "This is a guy who every step of the way has tried to grab credit," Ridley says, firing off a round. "I never heard a word while he was shooting the movie. Never saw any of the script changes. And then finally, a year later, I get a copy of the script, and my name isn't even on it. It's 'by David O. Russell.' My name is nowhere."

To be fair, Russell did do major doctoring on the screenplay—tossing out its original title, Spoils of War, for starters—but Ridley believes the essence of the tale remains his own. "Russell may have rewritten it word for word," he argues, "but it's still my story." Eventually, Ridley, Russell, and Warner Bros. hammered out a ceasefire, giving Ridley a "story by" credit. But it's an uneasy peace, with Ridley blocking Russell's plans to publish his Three Kings screenplay in book form. "I get calls all the time from the producers and the studio asking me to please let him publish this thing. But I've been completely disrespected through this whole process and now they're asking for a favor? The answer is no."

"I'm shocked that he's blocking the book," sniffs Russell. "I think he's doing it because he's embarrassed by how little of his screenplay ended up in my movie."

Not surprisingly, the experience has left Ridley feeling a bit ruffled. "The difference between writing books and movies is like the difference between flying and crawling over broken glass," he says. "Screenplays are just really, truly hard."

But then who ever created anything worthwhile in just seven days?

Originally posted Oct 08, 1999 Published in issue #506 Oct 08, 1999 Order article reprints

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