Daniel WatersPhoto by Irfan Khan; courtesy of latimes.com
Today’s L.A. Times profile of screenwriter Daniel Waters is a master class in sotto voce Hollywood bitterness — and we’d expect no less from the screenwriter who dreamed up 1989’s apocalyptic high-school fantasy Heathers. Since that triumph, Waters has wasted his talent on go-nowhere studio fare like Hudson Hawk and Batman Returns, while watching his brother, Mark — who got his start when Daniel put him through film school — become the successful director of Mean Girls and The Spiderwick Chronicles.
The question is not Is Daniel Waters bitter? Rather, it’s What is Daniel Waters bitterest about?
His inability to have fun in college?
“I had to make a decision [at McGill University]: I was going to learn to enjoy Godard, or I was going to drink beer and have sex and have a great college experience. And I chose Godard.”
The directors who screwed up his movies?
According to Waters, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane was undercut by “the Nordic comedy stylings of Renny Harlin.”
His brother, who can direct any old piece of shit?
Waters says his brother is a little more adept than he at working within the studio system: “I can’t start writing unless it’s got, whether misguided or not, a philosophical payload,” says Waters. “My brother is much better at that. My favorite story is I walked into a restaurant and my brother was on a cellphone, and he said, ‘No, I love the idea of Tom Cruise as the dog.’ I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. I just don’t have that Wallace Beery wrestling picture kind of gene.”
Orson Welles, who died in the house Waters lives in (and whose outline Waters has traced in masking tape on the floor)?
“I bought the house because I wanted to get that ‘Citizen Kane’ mojo,” says Waters. “Instead I’m getting the end of [Welles’] career, the hanging out with Henry Jaglom, doing wine commercials and magic tricks part of his life. I mean, I enjoy my life, but come on — where’s my ‘Touch of Evil’?”
His own botching of his career?
Here’s where the profile takes a dark, Heathersian turn. Speaking of his new film, Sex and Death 101, Waters muses, “You kid yourself into thinking, ‘I’m going to do one for them and one for me,’ and then you realize they’re all for them. So I came to this point where I realized I hadn’t really written anything — I don’t even have that drawer full of Orson Welles projects that never got made. Sex and Death 101 came out of just wanting something in the drawer, so that when I’m dangling from a noose above it, there it is.”
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