The “Lord of the Rings” novels may take place in the fantasy world of Middle Earth. But the imagination of author J.R.R. Tolkien stems from his own personal odyssey. Tolkien’s experiences with love and friendship inspired the author to create his world of Elves, Hobbits, and Wizards alike. In the writer’s forthcoming biopic “Tolkien,” starring Nicholas Hoult as the titular author, the internationally regarded writer’s young years come to life.
To celebrate the film’s release, we’re listing ten great films about writers. Not only is it about acknowledging both real and fictional writers but the general writing experience. Check out which ten films made the list.
“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)
dir. John Madden
“Shakespeare in Love” is a take on the Bard’s most famous play as well as an ode to his overall work. Aside from being a fictionalized iteration of the creation of “Romeo and Juliet,” sly references to Shakespeare’s various plays can be found. The film also thrives on the chemistry between Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as his muse, Viola de Lesseps. A lighter fare in the Best Picture-winning canon, some still squabble over the film’s awards. Despite that slight debacle, the film’s quality can still be recognized and enjoyed.
dir. Lee Chang-Dong
“Burning,” the most recently released film on this list, is a web-like journey into a writer’s possible psychosis. Once aspiring writer Jong-su (Yoo Ah-In) becomes tangled up in a love triangle, it’s unclear whether the events that materialize are fictitious. The cinematography, which often captures the fiery sunset, certainly makes the film feel like a lucid dream. Could Jong-su be imagining the love triangle in his head? Is it a reality with Jong-su using it as inspiration for a novel he’s working on? It’s hard to tell but “Burning” still dares its audience to parse through the mystery. The acclaimed film is now available on Netflix so that more people can dissect its ambiguity.
“Moulin Rouge!” (2001)
dir. Baz Luhrmann
“Moulin Rouge!” might seem like a film bearing more style than substance; it’s a visual feast that for some may feel like a full course meal. At its core, though, the film is still a harmonious love story. The film follows writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) romancing star courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), giving the story its heavy, beating heart. Plus, both McGregor and Kidman have intoxicating chemistry and of course, terrific sets of singing pipes. It’s a sensational romance with alluring visual appeal and an eclectic soundtrack as well.
“The End of the Tour” (2015)
dir. James Ponsoldt
Now, back to real-life figures. The indie drama “The End of the Tour,” which depicts author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), is an innovative take on the biopic formula. The film centers on a specific magazine interview with the author which takes up almost a full duration of the picture’s run time. Once David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) starts questioning Wallace throughout, Wallace reveals his writing inspirations while vulnerably discussing his personal demons. As for Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace, he is an utter revelation. He gives a transformative performance and proves he’s more than just a crass funnyman.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007)
dir. Julian Schnabel
Former magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby may have lost his ability to move and speak, but he never lost his will to live. Furthermore, he never lost sight of his need for creative expression. With the sole use of his left eye, he was still able to communicate and even compose a memoir. Bauby would use blinking as a special form of communication so the words in his book could be written. However, he still eventually accomplished the feat of bringing his novel to life. The film is as inspiring as it is meditative and a swift compilation of storytelling and biography.
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)
dir. Billy Wilder
Trying to make it in Hollywood can be murder. One piece of definitive proof is “Sunset Boulevard,” the classic Oscar-winning drama. When aspiring screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) falls under the wing of faded star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), he becomes entangled in a world of stars desperate for some time to shine. After fading into obscurity for so long, Norma is certainly looking to sparkle again and goes to drastic lengths to get her spark back. Similar to how Norma feels she’s gotten bigger while motion pictures have grown smaller, Gloria Swanson’s performance as the aging diva is brilliantly larger than life.
dir. Rob Reiner
After the release of “Misery,” writers everywhere likely hoped to never hear the words “I’m your number one fan,” ever again. With the psychotic Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) leering and breaking out into episodes of violence, writers may have come to fear their most devoted fans with this Stephen King adaptation. Once Annie kidnaps her favorite writer, Paul Sheldon (James Caan), she goes to great lengths to ensure he never leaves. From the inventive mind of Stephen King, “Misery” is an incredibly tense thrill ride from start to finish.
dir. Stanley Kubrick
Speaking of Stephen King’s ruthless genius, “The Shining” is arguably one of the most iconic film adaptations of his novels. Much like “Misery,” the film has one contained, claustrophobic setting. When the Torrance family takes on the care-taking role of the Overlook Hotel, it seems like a luxury based on its humongous, isolated setting. But their tranquility is disrupted once the family patriarch Jack (Jack Nicholson) contracts cabin fever. As Jack writes his novel while encased inside by the brutal winter weather, he falls into a slow descent into madness. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, indeed.
“The Hours” (2002)
dir. Stephen Daldry
With this next entry, it would appear actress Nicole Kidman loves movies about the writing experience. Although, this time around, she plays the writer and a legendary one at that. In “The Hours,” Kidman plays famed author Virginia Woolf and also won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal. Between her, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep, she has the shortest storyline out of all three actresses. Yet, Kidman still offers a grand impact as an author struggling with her mental health. Her affecting performance is especially felt in the film’s train sequence where, in roughly ten minutes, she illustrates Woolf’s meditations of entrapment and despondency.
“Almost Famous” (2000)
dir. Cameron Crowe
While other entries on this list take a darker look at the writer’s life, “Almost Famous” depicts the aspirational part of becoming one. This semi-autobiographical drama from Cameron Crowe feels like a wondrous ode to dreamers, particularly, because it reminds young writers that they’re not too young to accomplish the desired goal. William Miller (Patrick Fugit) may be in high school but he still pursues his journalistic ambitions, even if it means leaving his sheltered home life and facing the real world, William follows through anyhow. Along with its earnest storyline, the film’s performances and amazing retro soundtrack are a strong source of the films overall appeal. Both profound and crowd-pleasing, “Almost Famous” is easily a road trip to remember.
What are your favorite films about writers and writing? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!
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