This lively biography of the screenwriter of 1980s hit movies Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beetlejuice, and Batman illuminates issues of film authorship that have become even more contested in the era of blockbuster filmmaking.
In Rewrite Man, Alison Macor tells an engrossing story about the challenges faced by a top screenwriter at the crossroads of mixed and conflicting agendas in Hollywood. Whether writing love scenes for Tom Cruise on the set of Top Gun, running lines with Michael Keaton on Beetlejuice, or crafting Nietzschean dialogue for Jack Nicholson on Batman, Warren Skaaren collaborated with many of New Hollywood’s most powerful stars, producers, and directors. By the time of his premature death in 1990, Skaaren was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid writers, although he rarely left Austin, where he lived and worked. Yet he had to battle for shared screenwriting credit on these films, and his struggles yield a new understanding of the secretive screen credit arbitration process—a process that has only become more intense, more litigious, and more public for screenwriters and their union, the Writers Guild of America, since Skaaren’s time. His story, told through a wealth of archival material, illuminates crucial issues of film authorship that have seldom been explored.
- One. From Hallingdal to Houston
- Two. Hollywood on the Colorado
- Three. Breaking Away
- Four. Highway to the Danger Zone
- Five. Hollywood Gothic
- Six. One Hit After Another
- Seven. Batmania
- Eight. The Man Hollywood Trusts
- Select Bibliography
“The bulk of the book details his role in the creation of numerous successful films, including Batman, Beetlejuice, and Top Gun, and his battles to get his contributions to the filmed scripts formally recognized. Skaaren’s skill and efficiency—he rewrote Top Gun in just 10 days—became legendary, and Macor explains how the changes he made to characterizations improved them.”
“Alison Macor’s Rewrite Man, chronicling the late Warren Skaaren’s adventures in life and screenwriting, accomplishes the highest goal of biography—it makes you wish you knew the man.”
John Sayles, Academy Award–nominated writer-director and script doctor
“Rewrite Man is an insightful behind-the-scenes look at a behind-the-scenes man. Alison Macor presents us with a character study of a driven and conflicted human being, as well as a sharp analysis of a Hollywood system that turned screenwriters like Warren Skaaren into both indispensable insiders and chronically frustrated outliers.”
Stephen Harrigan, best-selling author of The Gates of the Alamo and screenwriter