J.G. Ballard Turns Down A Project

From A User’s Guide to the Millenium.

As far as the novel is concerned, the importance of the writer is still paramount, though all of us have learned to keep a close eye on the rear-view mirror. In the theatre the playwright is at least the equal partner of the performers, but in film the writer is shouldered aside by director, actor, producer, and editor, who together transform the printed word into something far more glamorous and evocative.

Years ago I was offered the chance to do the novelization for a film then being made by a leading British director. The script outlined a hackneyed story about a malevolent stowaway, with dialogue that rarely rose above “Chow-time. Where’s Dallas?” “Topside.” “Uh-huh.” What amazed me was not that someone had decided to film this script but that he had been able to form any idea of the finished movie from these empty lines. Yet the film was Alien, one of the most original horror-movies ever made, and the throwaway dialogue perfectly set off the terrifying vacuum that expanded around the characters.

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