Chapter 18 of 25 from Steve Martin

Screenwriting Case Study: Roxanne

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Steve discusses his experience writing Roxanne, the inspirations behind some of its funniest scenes, and how he adapted a 19th century play into what became one of his most beloved films.

Topics include: Make the Problem Worse • Find Character Through Physicality • Take Excursions From Story

Steve Martin

Steve Martin Teaches Comedy

In 25 video lessons, Steve Martin teaches you everything from finding your comedic voice to nailing your act.

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I had an idea to do Roxanne, which was a update of Cyrano de Bergerac. And I went to Neil Simon. I said, can you write this? Can you write this? And I couldn't get anybody to write it. And I thought, well, I've written-- I've collaborated with some-- maybe I could write it. So I sat down. I wrote it, and on a typewriter with yellow paper and doing the cut and paste, moving things around. And the first draft was very faithful to the play. But I went through hundreds of drafts, as I moved away from the structure of the play or the actual lines from the play, into becoming its own thing. And I realized the process of adaptation is the same process as a failed marriage, which is first, fidelity; then, transgression; and then, divorce. So at first you're faithful to the original source material. Then, you say, oh, maybe if we didn't go there and went here and didn't say that-- what if it was this? And you have a new scene. And now, suddenly, you have a fresh scene. And then, you finally divorce yourself from the source material. In the opening of Cyrano de Bergerac, there's a sword fight, where he wounds somebody. And I thought, well, can't have him wound anybody. What can this be? But I really like the scene where someone insults him, and he fights back. So we changed it to tennis rackets. And we were like sword fighting with tennis rackets. And I was able to thwack the villains. Kevin Nealon, by the way, and Ritch Shydner played those parts. Here it comes. Knock knock. 3D coming at you. I really admire your shoes. I love your shoes. What do you mean? And I was just thinking that as much as I really admire your shoes, and as much as I'd love to have a pair just like them, I really wouldn't want to be in your shoes at this particular time and place. [KARATE CRY] [KARATE CRY] I don't really know karate. I didn't think so. [KARATE CRY] Yow. [SHOUTING] Oh, damn. Son of a. Get pissed, Ritch. I am pissed. OK. OK. Ah, 15-love. There's an opening scene where somebody insults Cyrano's extra large nose. And then he gives a bunch of-- well, you could have said this. You could have said this. You could have said this. And he's beautiful and eloquent. And I wanted to recreate that scene in a modern way in a bar. So I came up with the idea-- I'd say, well, the guy will insult me. And then, I'll say-- I'll tell you what. He said, you can come up with something better? I said, I think I could. I said, tell you what take the dart, throw it at the dart board, and whatever number it lands on, that's the number of put downs, responses I'll do. And so I thought, well, OK, maybe if it lands on six, that would be good, six. I could probably get six good jokes. And I thought, no, it's got to land on 20. That's the highest number on the dartboard. That's ...

A comedian walks into a classroom...

One of Steve’s first gigs was at the drive-in movies. When the audience liked a joke, they honked. In this class, Steve shares insights from performing for cars and humans over a 50-year career spanning sold-out arenas and blockbuster films. Learn how to find your voice, gather material, develop an act, and take your comedy to the next level.

Watch, listen, and learn as Steve Martin shares wisdom from his five decades in comedy.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Steve will also critique select student work.

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Steve Martin

Steve Martin Teaches Comedy