(Information for this essay comes from the following books “The Hollywood Reporter Book of Box Office Hits” by Susan Sackett, “Celebrity Setbacks” by Ed Lucaire)
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From about 1988 – 2000, I tried to set up a sketch comedy troupe for the psychiatric/physically challenged communities to participate in. I write sketch comedy routines as a hobby and didn’t think the routines were that good to sell to the professional market.
So I decided to set up a troupe for those with disabilities. To say it was a nightmare was an understatement. I got very little support from these communities and individuals from them. I did get it running with modest success, doing about 12 shows.
But in the process, I studied the creative process – reading books and articles about TV shows, movies, writers, actors, etc. From this research, I learned the creative process is always evolving. Nothing is etched in stone.
I also learned that virtually all creative people struggle to become successful. Their roads to success were paved with setbacks, heartaches, frustrations.
When Rob Reiner (Mike Stivic on “All In The family”) was asked on a TV talk show how many rewrites do they do, Mr. Reiner replied that they were constantly rewriting.
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Here’s a short list that inspired me with my struggles with creativity (first some movies):
In “Gone With The Wind”, 1400 actresses were interviewed across the country (60 actresses were tested) for the role of Scarlett O’Hara. It eventually went to Vivien Leigh. The role still had not been cast when the first scene – the burning of Atlanta – was filmed.
At least 10 writers had worked on the screenplay. It won best Oscar for screenplay for one of them – Sidney Howard. The movie went through 3 directors.
In “The Wizard Of Oz”, the first choice for Dorothy was Shirley Temple but was under contract with another movie studio. Judy Garland was the second choice.
Buddy Ebsen in the role of “The Tin Man” had to quit due to allergic reaction to the makeup used.
Margaret Hamilton, “The Wicked Witch”, was bedridden for 6 weeks after receiving burns during the broomstick-burning sequence.
The song “Over the Rainbow’ was almost cut. It went on to win Oscar for best song.
10 writers worked on the script (3 got credit); the movie had 4 directors with Victor Fleming getting credit.
“Cleopatra” was plagued from the start. After filming for nine months in London and spending $5,000,000, the producers had nothing to show for it.
The weather in Britain forced production to move to Rome.
The star Elizabeth Taylor had a string of illnesses, including a brush with death.
The script for “Love Story” was written 30 times.
In the original “Jaws” movie, the script had 5 drafts before completion.
Three mechanical sharks, each called “Bruce” had 13 scuba geared technicians to operate them. The “Bruces” were constantly breaking down.
Stars Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw originally did not think highly of the movie. Dreyfuss thought he was starring in “the turkey of the year”. Shaw felt the story was a piece of *&%&*%.
Even with his success of “American Graffiti”, George Lucas had trouble getting financing for “Star Wars.”
“Alien” starring Sigourney Weaver cost $11,000,000 to produce. The advertising campaign cost $16,000,000. It took a year for “Alien” to turn a profit..
Even though there were only 2 writers getting credit for “Tootsie”, there were rewrites, drafts, polishes by 6 others.
It took 10 years for Olive Stone to get “Platoon” made. (He was involved in other projects.)
The script for “Ghost” starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore went through more than 25 drafts.
14 screenwriters and 18 TV gagwriters were involved with the movie “The Flintstones” . (3 writers shared writing credit.)
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Next, some individuals who had their struggles. Some had setbacks even with success under their belts. Just a few names:
The late George Burns once said that he was so bad in his early vaudeville days that he had to constantly keep changing his name to get bookings.
Author Stephen King (a former gas station attendant, janitor and school teacher) threw out the manuscript to his third novel. His wife retrieved it and encourage King to send it in to “Doubleday”. They published it – “Carrie”.
Margaret Mitchell re-wrote the first chapter of “Gone With The Wind” 70 times and wrote the last chapter first.
Julie Andrews’s first 2 movie ventures with her husband, Blake Edwards were disasters (“Darling Lili”, 1969 and “The Tamarind Seed”, 1974) and her 1973 television variety show was a flop despite her previous successes. (Oscar for Best Actress – “Mary Poppins”, Oscar nomination for best actress – “The Sound of Music”)
Despite his success as a comedian and TV shows, (“I Spy”, “The Cosby Show”), Bill Cosby has been a major box disaster in Hollywood movies.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been fired from all but 2 jobs.
Talk show host Sally Jesse Raphael has been fired 18 times in 36 years of broadcasting.
Despite his success as a writer/producer/director, Francis Ford Coppola has declared bankruptcy several times.
In a “Playboy” interview, Beatle John Lennon was dissatisfied with every record the Beatles ever made. He would not remake any of them.
Even though Gilbert and Sullivan wrote 14 operettas together, they did not like each other and collaborated through correspondence.
Ken works as a security guard. He’s a struggling writer of sketch comedy and pieces on spiritual issues. He wants to set up a non- profit comedy troupe for the community, entertaining in hospitals, drop-in centres, etc. He has established a troupe for psychiatric and physically-challenged communities to participate in. He is also interested in the plight of psychiatric patients and other poverty-related issues. Ken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article cannot be re-published without permission.