Podcast: Grant Heslov on The Ides of March

Ryan Gosling in Ides of March.

Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March.

Known for his strong political views, actor George Clooney had been looking for a political thriller to write with screenwriter Grant Heslov since their collaboration on Good Night, and Good Luck. When they stumbled upon a play of presidential ambition, Farragut North, by Beau Willimon, they knew they found their project. The play became the basis for the film, The Ides of March, about an idealistic young political staffer who discovers just how corrupt the system can be.

The all-star cast includes Clooney, who also directs, Ryan Gosling as the idealist, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, and Paul Giamatti.

Script sat down with Heslov to find out what it’s like to churn out pages with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Podcast highlights:

  • “We wrote one of the final scenes first …”
  • “You need to know if your main character starts here, you need to know where he ends …”
  • “Our formula is to explain the minimal amount that the audience needs …”

Click below to listen:

11 thoughts on “Podcast: Grant Heslov on The Ides of March

  1. Angelina Stevens

    “The Ides of March” Stellar directing, excellent acting and a well crafted script makes this political thriller a must see film. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered an outstanding performance! Evan Rachel Woods delivered the right mix of sexuality and innocence which made her character likable and yet an object of pity. George Clooney proved once again that he has what it takes to become an A list Director and the acting skills to stay on the A list. Real emotional moments leaped from the screen drawing the viewers deeper into the plot. Scenarios from this political drama could have easily played out in the corporate world where a thirst for power often leaves loyalty and morality in a dry barren forgotten place. Realism was the force of the day in this modern day drama. A sound script, an excellent cast as well as all around excellent performances is sure to lead to Golden Globes and Oscars nominations!

  2. Daniel Delago

    What I liked about ‘The Ides of March’ is that Ryan Gosling’s character, Stephen Meyers, goes through a distinct character arc in the film. It’s an obvious change in his personality by the end of the last scene. Today, there are so many bad scripts that do not properly develop the protagonist’s character. One movie in particular is Larry Crowne. Nia Vardalos co-wrote it with Tom Hanks. In my opinion, Larry Crowne is one of the worst scripts of 2011 because it simply is poor writing.

  3. MattWalterMattWalter

    Financially that makes sense. I’ve also heard of spec scripts by unknown writers getting financed because they managed to get a name-actor or director attached, but that’s certainly the exception – not the rule.

    So would you suggest unknown writers develop their original material into some other form (such as a graphic novel) before trying to make the leap onto the big screen? It’s crazy to think that a writer might have to adapt their own screenplay into a different medium just to eventually end up right back at the screenplay they originally wrote… I guess them’s the breaks for us “baby” writers.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jenna! You’re the best!

  4. Jenna MillyJenna Milly Post author

    Hi Matt, typically financiers who are making an investment on backing a film want to have some proof of how well it’s going to do… comics, novels, magazine articles all show the people with the $$ that someone might come to the box office to see the film, and therefore the investment might be a good one. When you’re an unknown writer and the story is spec — i.e. no source material — it’s a big gamble, and we’re talking millions…

  5. Jenna MillyJenna Milly Post author

    Great note Matt! I will look around for more spec writers, but truthfully, nowadays only a small percentage of films (less than 10% probably) are not from other source material…

  6. MattWalterMattWalter

    Thanks for another great interview Jenna!

    The part that stood out most to me was how he wrote the final scene first. I never allow myself to do that because a part of me feels as though screenwriting is a voyage and too often writers are so preoccupied with the destination, they forget the journey… along with the audience.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t times when I desire to jump ahead and write the critical scene between my protagonist and antagonist, because I often do. I think every writer has that “all-too-important” scene they’re just itching to write. However, if a writer can abstain from leaping ahead in their script they might find the experience even more rewarding.

    Thanks again Jenna! Your podcasts are extremely insightful for all us beginners out there, so keep up the good work!

    P.S. – Lately you’ve interviewed lots of screenwriters who have written adaptations and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I was wondering if you could try and interview some more original screenplay writers. Sometimes it’s hard to relate to a writer who can option any great book/play with the bankroll of one Mr. George Clooney.

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