Jessica Alba gets schooled in the art of screenwriting

Screenwriter John August (Big Fish, The Nines) has laid the smackdown on actress Jessica Alba after she told Elle Magazine most actors make up their own lines.

Here is her Jenna Maroney-esque quote in full:

“Good actors, never use the script unless it’s amazing writing. All the good actors I’ve worked with, they all say whatever they want to say.”

Obviously, there is a lot to comment on in those industry-devastating two sentences. But allow me to hand it over to the far more erudite John August. The following is taken from his blog, in a post entitled Oh, Jessica:

“Scripts aren’t just the dialogue. Screenplays reflect the entire movie in written form, including those moments when you don’t speak. Do you know the real reason we hold table readings in pre-production? So the actors will read the entire script at least once.

Following your logic, you’ve never been in a movie with both good actors and amazing writing. That may be true, but it might hurt the feelings of David Wain, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller.

You’re saying your co-stars who delivered their lines as written are not “good actors.” Awkward.

You’re setting dangerous expectations. So if an aspiring actor wishes to be “good,” she should say whatever she wants to say? That’s pretty terrible advice.

Screenwriters can be your best friends. We are pushovers for attractive people who pay attention to us. I wrote that bathtub scene in Big Fish because Jessica Lange made brief eye contact with me. So if you’re not getting great writing — and honestly, you’re not — ask to have lunch with the screenwriter. I’ve seen you on interviews. You’re charming. That charm could work wonders.

Again: I know that quotes often come out in ways we never intended. It’s lacking context — though the photos are lovely. (Hi, Carter Smith!) I’m calling this out just so we can all hopefully learn something.”

We’re not trying to fan the flames here, but it’s important to remember how important screenwriters are. Actors often take the majority of the praise (or blame) for a film – it’s the nature of their job to be the movie’s representatives – but there are so many individuals behind the scenes that deserve recognition.

For an actor to say only the least-talented of their peers would dare read from a script that was slavishly worked on by a screenwriter (paid but a fraction of the star’s salary) is just plain insulting.

Discuss: So, Jess, do we blame you or the screenwriter for Good Luck Chuck?

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