Occasionally, I'm asked which movie stars I see playing my characters when I write a screenplay.
I never approach creating characters that way. It's only when I know a story from start to finish do I start writing the script. By then, the characters are fully formed, unique individuals.
After I've completed a screenplay, I like to host a table read with actors to hear what dialog works and what still needs tinkering. I'm constantly amazed by how actors bring characters alive, making them their own living creations in unexpected ways.
It's obvious casting a film can make or break a production.
Below is my list of top 20 favorite films, which certainly would have been quite different if other actors had played the leads.
1. La Belle et la Bete - Magic, Jean Cocteau, French surrealism.
2. Chinatown - Crushing corruption.
3. The Last Picture Show - Fading dreams.
4. The Maltese Falcon - Lies, seduction, more lies.
5. To Have or Have Not - Desperation, romance, Nazi intrigue in Africa.
6. Dark Passage - Revenge, jealousy, love, madness.
7. Rebel Without a Cause - Troubled teens, spiritless adults in stifling 1950's America.
8. The Wizard of Oz - The archetypical hero's journey.
9. Annie Hall - Love, connection, rising above those who first raised you up.
10. Bringing Up Baby - The best screwball comedy. Ever.
11. Parting Glances - The best American gay-themed film. Ever.
12. Rear Window - A peeping tom nearly bored to death.
13. L. A. Confidential - Lies, corruption, love.
14. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Free spirits living on borrowed time.
15. It's A Wonderful Life - Sometimes, you need to be reminded how good you have it.
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey - Evolution.
17. Blade Runner - Don't ask questions. Love your maker.
18. The Matrix - Life is but a dream.
19. Donnie Darko - Bizarre and sad. Only film this century I watched twice in a row the first time I saw it.
20. Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Aliens are our friends.