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4.1 out of 5 stars
Which Lie Did I Tell?
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2000
I picked up 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' in a second hand shop a couple of years back and devoured it inside a few hours. Only problem - it was written in the early 80s and a hell of a lot has happened in Hollywood since then. To wit, Burt Reynolds was the top box office star at the time. I knew it would be great if Goldman could update Adventures, giving us his pungent and ascerbic views on recent happenings amongst the rich, famous and shallow. Lo and behold, it's here - and a damn fine read it is too, even better than its predecessor. Yes, Goldman refers to 'Butch' too often, but at least he's apologetic and at least it's worth remembering. Yes, Goldman tends to butter up his buddies and slate his enemies, but don't we all do that. I'm also pretty unequivocal about friends and foes and there's nothing wrong with that. No point sitting on the fence. Yes, Goldman's judgement isn't always spot on - see the 'Magician' sequence in his original Maverick screenplay for an example of his occasional flirtations with the misguided. Hell, nobody's perfect. What's truly impressive about 'Which Lie...' is the way the inconsistency of form flows over you. Every few pages he changes tack, leading you to another entertaining anecdote, writing masterclass or super-charged rant. Just as in his better screenplays, the narrative never lets you off the hook. It's pretty compelling stuff. Oh, and despite all the sour recollections and righteous anger, don't think for one moment that Goldman hates films. I'm not even convinced he hates Hollywood as much as he pretends. There's a passion for the medium that runs throughout his work. It's this passion and whole-heartedness about everything he does that belies his brand of witty cynicism. The passion is why he finds it so hard to accept betrayal, mediocrity or ostentation. The man has a big heart, and writing 'Adventures' and 'Which Lie..' must have been as cathartic for him as the results are inspirational for the budding screenwriter.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2002
I like William Goldman, but I found that this book didn't really work for me largely because of the rather hectoring writing style. It was more like a college lecture to a bunch of screenwriting wannabees by a seasoned old pro, with a lot of "Listen, it's like this....." and "Wake up and realise it doesn't work like that in Hollywood..." type monologues. There are still some good one-liners, there's a bit of introspection into why one would choose this career in the first place and quite a lot of gossip about major Hollywood players, but unless you're considering this line of work the book's better left alone. Or try Adventures in the Screen Trade, which I found more enjoyable. For the real insight into movies and the stars though, I've still to find better than David Niven's autobiographies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2014
I’ve read a few screenwriting books now and some seem to be by guys who have written scripts I’ve never heard of. Others constantly reference the one or two minor successes they’ve achieved.

William Goldman has a proven track record over several decades and they are filled with quality movies and books. This is a man who cares about telling a good story filled with quality characters. All this comes across really well in the book ‘What Lie Did I Tell?’

If you are expecting a book about script formatting or how to write a script that is ‘guaranteed to sell!’ this is not that type of book. Instead it’s an honest recollection of William’s magically weird and whacky adventures in Hollywood, the projects he’s worked on; the successes and the failures. There’s plenty of examples to learn from both good and bad. It’s entertaining, heartfelt and honest and I learned a lot.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2004
I bought this book because I wanted to understand more about the process of screenwriting and I was not disappointed.
I would agree with the other reviewers of this book that Goldman does not set out to explain how to write a screenplay but rather to talk about screenplays within the context of his own Hollywood life. The insights it gives into the film world are well worth a read - and, as a consequence, the book sails along at a great pace.
But there are two things that come across very strongly: the first is that you get an overwhelming sense of pace within movies. This is not something I had given much thought to before but Goldman's book makes it hard to watch another film without being affected by its rhythm and that can make a wonderful difference if you're a writer.
The second is that the final part of the book, his own original screenplay, is awful. The guy has spent a lot of time pointing out what's great and terrible about all manner of stories, scripts, films and scenarios and then manages to come up with something that would embarrass most novices. Which is great. Because it underlines everything he says throughout the rest of the book - that writing is not easy and that story is everything.
I thought it invaluable to have read this book - and extremely enjoyable too.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2001
William Goldman is a great writer, so he tells us, regularly but with a false modesty which wears thin after a while. Film directors know nothing and just try and wreck writers' masterpieces, and that includes Hitchcock. The Oscars should all go to the writers who are the ONLY creative talent in the film industry. (Slip in a bit of careful self-criticism then continue) Elton John and Michael Jackson have no talent whatsoever, MTV is cr** and all the best films were made in the seventies(apart from Mr Goldman's, of course) despite the useless directors, producers and actors Oh, and by the way did I mention my friends Clint and John and.... Etc. Etc. 'nuf said. There are some very amusing and informative bits, real nuggets of gold, but unfortunately there's an awful lot of opinionated theory to wade through to find them.
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on 5 May 2015
If you're interested in the craft of writing, especially screenwriting, this book is an absolute gem. Definitely up there with Stephen King's 'On Writing' (and surpasses it, in my opinion, for sheer interestingness about the art, the craft and the journey). It's like a director's commentary on a DVD, only in far greater detail, and is packed with tips, pointers and wonderful anecdotes from Goldman's rich and varied career. A real gem.
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on 16 March 2015
This is more for aspiring screenwriters to realise what a pain it is to try to work with Hollywood. It seems composed of bits of screenplays, scrappily put together and does not live up to its hype. No juicy filmset gossip or behind scenes stories about the stars. I found it rather disappointing and somewhat boring in parts.
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on 22 March 2015
Easily as good as Goldman's previous insight into the film world (Adventures in the Screen Trade). To read Goldman is to be in great company, never bored, always entertained, and often surprised by what he writes. Not just for film buffs - a page turner for everyone.
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on 14 May 2014
Once again, William Goldman shares the trials and tribulations of being a major Hollywood writer. Fascinating reading for budding writers and those simply interested in the machinations of the Hollywood machine.
A really worthwhile read.
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on 14 June 2015
An incredible read, I completely recommend to anyone who is trying to see the insides of Hollywood and also the struggles of an award winning screenwriter.
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