It may be hard to believe that Billy Wilder passed away over eleven years ago considering the huge impact he’s made on filmmaking during his fifty-year career. He was a writer, director, and producer whose films include classics such as “Double Indemnity,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Some Like It Hot,” and “The Apartment.” Wilder could do it all and, for the longest time, he held the record for most screenwriting nominations at the Academy Awards (since broken by Woody Allen). Luckily for us, The Writers Guild Foundation has uncovered an hour-long conversation, “The Writer Speaks,” that finds Wilder sharing in-depth about his writing process. Given the amount of success Wilder had as a writer, the interview should be a treat for aspiring writers, or those who happen to be fans of the man’s work. The video was made back in 1995, and yes, that’s Jack Lemmon narrating the video at the very beginning.
The interview includes many gems from the filmmaker. He talks about the importance of simplicity and elegance in directing, and how he wanted to make sure the audience was never distracted from the story when they watched his movies. He even cites Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film “Rope,” as an example of how over-complicated setups could work against a film.
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He talks at length about his partnership with fellow screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond, whom he worked with for over twenty-five years, and how they worked together on “Some Like It Hot” and “The Apartment.” He also expresses disdain with the way studios had changed in recent years (circa 1995) with their obsession with sequels or “copycat films”, and their insistence on only making films that audiences had seen before.
It’s pretty funny, given how many directors today make the same lamentations, that Billy Wilder was making the same exact points over eighteen years ago. The man was truly ahead of his time. You can check out the entire hour-long interview below. And be sure to check out our complete retrospective of his films.