TheHardWayScreenplay by Daniel Pyne

This was the rewrite that put me on the map as a writer of  feature films.  I was working at Universal Studios, as a television writer-producer and creator, where I met William Sackheim, who helped me produce my first series, “Hard Copy,” for CBS.  Bill was a friend, and my mentor, and had brought this project to Universal with him from Warners, in turnaround.  The original writer, the wickedly talented Lem Dobbs, had run out of gas trying to get the script into a form that someone would greenlight; Bill asked me to look at it, and I agreed to try and help him take another pass at the story.  Lem had built a good foundation.  Maybe it was luck, maybe it was magic, maybe there was skill involved — in any case, I did my rewrite and the script got new traction with the feature division at Universal.  Several directors circled it, several stars were attached and fell out, then Michael J. Fox read it and committed to it, which was, at the time, enough to get the movie made.  He had a couple of commitments that preceded this project, though, which meant a delay of more than eighteen months … during which I wrote White Sands, and then Pacific Heights, which wound up getting filmed first.  It was bittersweet project, marred by a last minute rewrite by a team of comedy writers who tweaked the James Woods character back into a stereotype I had struggled mightily to avoid.  The eighteen month lag, also, inevitably, allowed the director and producers (excluding Bill) to begin to fiddle with the structure, and the final product is, in my opinion, an example of the very kind of  hyperbolic Hollywood movie-making my script was making fun of.  Still, I’ve had people tell me it’s one of their favorite movies.  And there’s a cameo by Mos Def (aka Dante Beze) who, in one of those it’s-a-small-world-but-I-wouldn’t-want-to-paint-it moments, later starred in my beloved “Where’s Marlowe?”