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On Filmmaking: A Life in Movies by Irwin Winkler

Are you a movie enthusiastic who enjoys seeing movies and learning their backstories? If so, A Life in Movies, Stories from 50 Years in Hollywood (Abrams Press, 2019) by acclaimed producer and director, Irwin Winkler, will fascinate you. The book was just released in May and is available on Amazon.

How did Sylvester Stallone, unemployed and unknown, succeed in getting the wildly successful Rocky (1976) made? What were the many challenges in producing the wonderful Cole Porter biopic, DeLovely (2004), starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd? Why was the casting for They Shoot Horses, Don’t’ They? (1969)—a film that earned nine Oscar nominations—so difficult?  What factors contributed to the decline of the major studios after World War II—and their resurgence in the 1980s? These topics and many more, sprinkled with fascinating, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, are covered by Winkler in this memoir.

Winkler has produced and/or directed many hits—including Rocky (1976), Goodfellas (1990), Raging Bull (1980), De-Lovely (2004), The Right Stuff (1983), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)and Creed (2015). His various films have been nominated for 52 Academy Awards, five of them for Best Picture, and have won 12.

In the book, he discusses the challenges of being a producer and director, as well as his collaborations with such talents as Martin Scorsese, Robert de Niro, Jane Fonda, Al Pacino, Sandra Bullock, Barbara Streisand, Leonardo DiCaprio— and many others.

Perhaps Winkler’s words describing the wrap of De-Lovely best expresses the challenges of filmmaking and the mindset of a producer/director:

“So, after years of preparation and shooting, the film moves to the editing room, where there are no schedules (for a while), no worries about getting shots in, no waiting for actors, the makeup crew, the lighting of the set, the prop man who’s not prepared, actors who won’t light their own cigarettes, pianos that aren’t tuned, sets designed with no sense of camera position, furniture that’s rented but too heavy to move, clothes that don’t fit the actor and have to be refitted just as you’re about to shoot, actors who don’t like each other, dancers who are out of step, singers who are out of tune—and never enough time. But, even with it all, you can’t wait to get to the next good script and start filmmaking all over again.”

He resolutely concludes his memoir with a quote often attributed to Goethe (though the source is uncertain):

Whatever you can do,

or dream you can,

begin it.

For boldness has a genius,

power and magic…

Go here to read an earlier blog post on our favorite books on the craft of filmmaking.


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