On Legerdemaine

Part two of my inter­view Aliya Whiteley is now up on her web­site. More mots bon from me.

A: When do you feel sat­is­fied that you’ve done enough research?

I: I don’t think I’ve ever felt sat­is­fied with research. There’s always some­thing that you’ve handled wrong. With spe­cif­ic regard to a nov­el, where you’re deal­ing with the rep­res­ent­a­tion of lived exper­i­ence, there’s no way everything is going to ring true. A phrase might be wrong; or a train line that you thought was there in 1904 wasn’t built until 1910, or some such. I’d go as far as to say that if I ever had that feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion, I’d be los­ing my grip on real­ity.

Charlie Kaufman on Reviews, Structure and Fame

On the strength of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I’d put Charlie Kaufman in the same box as Hemingway.

On the strength of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I’d put Charlie Kaufman in the same box as Hemingway.


I tend to not only read reviews, but also every little stu­pid thing online. It’s a very bad idea, and there’s a lot of angry people in the world. And it’s weird to absorb all that weird­ness.”


There’s this inher­ent screen­play struc­ture that every­one seems to be stuck on, this three-act thing. It doesn’t really interest me. To me, it’s kind of like say­ing, ‘Well, when you do a paint­ing, you always need to have sky here, the per­son here and the ground here.’ Well, you don’t. In oth­er art forms or oth­er medi­ums, they accept that it’s just some­thing avail­able for you to work with. I actu­ally think I’m prob­ably more inter­ested in struc­ture than most people who write screen­plays, because I think about it.”


He insists the Oscar means little: “I like hav­ing the trophy, but only on a very sur­facey level does it mean any­thing. It’s just kind of a… Kerouac has a line about fame being a news­pa­per. You know that line? When I read that when I was a teen­ager, I didn’t know what it meant, but now… Fame doesn’t really fill you up in any way.”

A few days ago, I heard that Robert McKee’s Story is avail­able as an audiobook. I read it as a teen­ager, think­ing I’d be learn­ing the ropes, and in a sense I did, but rather more because the points at which I dis­agreed with McKee forced me to think about what we mean by an act, or a scene. I’m still not sure.

Laura Barton meets film dir­ect­or Charlie Kaufman | Film | The Guardian