Writers Who Who Worked On
The "Hammett" Screenplay

By almost all accounts, the writing of the screenplay of the Wim Wenders' film, Hammett (finally released in 1983 by Orion Pictures/Warner Brothers) is a mess.

Based on Joe Gores' fictionalized story of Dashiell Hammett, it went through a series of rewrites, production problems and conflicting stories.

Supposedly, Wenders went through some thirty screenplays before he settled on the one credited to crime novelist Ross Thomas and Dennis O'Flaherty. But executive producer Francis Ford Coppala found Wender's submitted footage unsatisfactory, and scrapped most of it. The result was that only about thirty percent of Wenders' footage was actually used in the final film, and that the remainder rest was completely reshot by Coppola, after several more extensive rewrites.

Thomas, who actually was credited with cowriting the screenplay, was called in (or was he called back?) to rewrite the script (after it had been filmed). He said, "...to have fifteen writers on a script and then shoot it and decide you've made a mistake -- it shows a certain lack of foresight."

That's the highest count for writers involved I've heard (Wenders says there were only four).

Still, mess ort not, I kind of enjoyed the film. It's no masterpiece, but I liked Forrest as Hammett, and the sets were good, and the noirish mood was captured with quite a bit of style. But what do I know?

Among the alleged culprits:

  • Joe Gores
  • Brian Garfield
  • Ross Thomas (credited with co-writing the screenplay)
  • Wim Wenders (director)
  • Dennis O'Flaherty (credited with co-writing the screenplay)
  • Thomas Pope (credited with the adaptation)
  • Francis Ford Coppola (rumoured, but he was the executive producer)

FOR MORE INFO

  • Ross Thomas talks a bit about his role in Hammett in the Spring 1986 issue of The Armchair Detective.

  • Rest in Pieces

The Fictionalized Lives of Private Eye Writers

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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