Noble Rot: Writing is hard work

noble rot

If the title of this blog post sounds odd, it comes from two places. I’m told in the winemaking process, the extremely rare fungus that causes wine to have an one-of-a-kind sweetness is called “noble rot”. It’s a fungus, i.e. rot, and it’s noble because it’s something bad that causes something very good.

Noble Rot was also the title of a never-produced screenplay of John Belushi’s, one he’d worked on with comedy writer Don Novello (who’s perhaps best known for his Father Guido Sarducci character on Saturday Night Live). Intended to be a comedy wine caper, the script went through many drafts and rewrites, and on deadline once, Belushi and Novello even had an all-night typing session (keep in mind, this was the day before word processors that could easily revise and print new copies).

Belushi then presented the screenplay to his agent, Michael Ovitz, and to his manager, Bernie Brillstein.

Their verdict was unanimous: terrible, unfunny and, worst of all, unproduceable. Ovitz, according to the Belushi biography Wired, even tried to talk Belushi into shelving the movie in favor of another movie project, The Joy of Sex.

Imagine that…after all that work, the script still was unusable.

Belushi was working on the script up to his untimely death in 1982 at the age of 33. The movie project died with Belushi. Even more tragic for the late Albanian-American comedian, he spent a sizable chunk of the final year or two of his life working on this script, feeling it might be his magnus opus, his piece de resistance.

Amazing how much work can be put into a piece of writing, only to not only radically revise again but sometimes start all over. And sometimes even abandon.

Director Quentin Tarantino recently released his film Inglourious Basterds. (No, English teachers, that misspelling’s not a typo). Tarantino said he spent about 10 years writing the screenplay for this film.

Stories like this make me wonder if people realize just how hard work writing can be.

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