The Screenwriter Writes a Writer / by Amanda Silberling

Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris (2011)

Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris (2011)

By Ariella Carmell, Blog Correspondent

Awards season has officially reached its crescendo with the end of Oscar season. Swanky British heartthrobs Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch were pitted against each as other Best Actor contenders for playing eccentric, scientific geniuses Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing, respectively, with Redmayne winning. (My personal verdict: The Imitation Game trumps The Theory of Everything, though neither can compare to Birdman. The Academy obviously agrees with me). Academy voters love a good portrayal of a savant—the tics, the obsessions, the impassioned artistry—so who has seamlessly taken the part of a famous writer and embraced all of his or her artistic and personal complexity? As it turns out, plenty.

PHILIP Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Though we’re still at the point where we can’t talk about Hoffman without heaving an elegiac sigh, I hope he’ll be remembered for his honored turn as Truman Capote, among other performances, rather than only for his absence. Hoffman encapsulated all that made Capote such a beloved socialite as well as a game-changing writer. (I can go on about how In Cold Blood transformed the field of creative nonfiction). He is at once the big personality that others flock to and the hushed confidant of a murderer who entrances him.

Nicole Kidman, The Hours

Adorned with a prosthetic and prominent nose, Kidman plays Virginia Woolf in all her melancholic glory. Thoughtful, serious, composed—everything we imagine Woolfie to be. Except, having now cried through Mrs. Dalloway and chuckled through Orlando, I only wish some of her wit had made its way on screen. The entire film is a dour affair, but part of Woolf’s appeal is her uncanny insight and caustic barbs at upper crust English society. However, I cannot help but tear up as Kidman reads Woolf’s suicide note: Dear Leonard. To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is…

Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love

One movie that does infuse the writer trope with some accurate and much-needed humor is Shakespeare in Love, a godsend for every romance-addled Shakespeare nerd out there. Fiennes (brother of Ralph, who I have been oddly fixated on since age thirteen) peels Bill Shakey from the musty textbooks and endows him with a passionate heartbeat. You can actually imagine the guy writing steamy sonnets all day long. (“Th’expense of spirit is a waste of shame,” you know?). Side note: Tom Stoppard of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead fame wrote the movie, so the literary glee and wordplay abound through every scene.

Ben Whishaw, Bright Star

Whishaw plays sickly, spindly Keats, a wellspring of ardor broiling within his five-foot frame. His repartee with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) blossoms into a romance that would fuel his stagnating writing and provide us with some of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching poetry that will ever grace the English tongue. Faunlike Whishaw gives us a glimpse into his tender soul, a heart aching for more time on earth. Keats isn’t called a Romantic for nothing, am I right?

Everybody, Midnight in Paris

You can rightfully malign Woody Allen himself, but admit it; this movie either spoke to you as an old soul or ignited your interest in the art and literature of the 1920s expatriates. In what is truly a fantasy playground for writers, deadpan Corey Stoll spouts Hemingway’s aphorisms of masculinity, Alison Pill brandishes around a drink as Zelda Fitzgerald, and Kathy Bates presides over everything like the omnipotent goddess that was Gertrude Stein. Nobody has a chance to dig deep into their characters’ psyches, but it is enough to see these writers alive and mingling and, of course, imbibing various alcoholic beverages.


Ariella Carmell is a senior at Marlborough School in California, where she is Editor-in-Chief of the school literary magazine and Head Copy Editor of the newspaper. A Foyle Commended Poet of the Year and a recipient of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, she has had work published in CadaverineCrack the SpineEunoia Review, and Canvas Literary Journal, among others. She has studied writing at the Center for Talented Youth, the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Kenyon College, and hopes to pursue creative writing in all forms as much as she can in the future.