While Lionsgate’s US division were locked in a room, unsuccessfully trying to convince Gary Ross to sign on to direct Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, their UK division was premiering Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. The common thread between the two – screenwriter Simon Beaufoy.
Unfortunately the news of Ross’ departure from the project didn’t break until after the film began screening, and the red carpet had been rolled up and thrown into the back of a van, so when we spoke to Beaufoy – trying to get some nuggets of information about his take on the adaptation – we were blissfully unaware of the story that was developing.
Below we’ve got the interview, where Beaufoy talks about the intricacies of collaborating with directors and producers on a story, as well as adapting work for the screen. At the bottom of the page is a video of our interview with the producer of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Paul Webster, who talks about very similar subject matter.
SIMON BEAUFOY – SCREENWRITER, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
You seem to be working on quite a few adaptations at the moment.
Yeah, I know. I’m not sure how that’s happened. It seems the film industry is obsessed with adaptations at the moment, and I’ve got caught up in that.
It’s not that there’s a particular appeal then?
This book was. When I first read it, I was really taken with its mix of romance and satire, which is a really unusual pairing. The two normally don’t go together at all, because satire’s so cold, it normally wipes out romance, but in this book they work really well together.
On the collaboration between himself and the producers and directors he’s worked with.
The tradition is that producers are all horrible, and directors always ruin a screenwriter’s work. I’ve worked with great producers and great directors and they’ve ruined what I’ve done at all, they’ve all been really good collaborations and I’ve always been pleasantly surprised. I keep waiting for the moment where it all goes wrong, but so far it never has.
Do you spend a lot of time on set?
It’s very dangerous for writers to be on set, because the actors come up to them and say, ‘can you change this line? Can you change that line?’ and then when one actor does it, more actors do it. To be honest, if you’ve done your work properly, you shouldn’t need to be on the set. The writer’s work is done, and you’re just a guy who’s in the way, who everyone’s tripping over going, ‘who’s he?’. I always go to the set to say hi and chat to people, but it’s best to stay away.
Your next project is the sequel to The Hunger Games. I’d imagine there’s a lot of pressure on you given both the financial success, and the huge fanbase. Does that weigh on you at all?
Not the box-office bit. What’s unusual about the Hunger Games trilogy is that it has an incredibly loyal and passionate fanbase, and you have to be respectful of that, as well as make a good film. Treading that particular line is tricky.
And you’ve completed your pass of the script I presume?
Did Gary [Ross] and Suzanne [Collins] have a lot of input into it?
Absolutely. It’s a collaboration.
And obviously Gary isn’t signed on to direct Catching Fire yet, are you writing with a view that at some point they’re going to tweak it?
You never finish a script, even in the edit you’re rewriting little lines and off-camera comments. It’s always on the move. There’s never a point where i think, ‘this is mine, and they’re going to change it’, it’s always a collaborative piece of work that goes on being changed and changed and changed. I’ve learned over the years that’s all right actually.
PAUL WEBSTER – PRODUCER, SALON FISHING IN THE YEMEN