For more than 30 years, Scott Frank has been one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters, known for such films as Out of Sight, Get Shorty, and Minority Report. But fresh off the success of his latest feature, the critically acclaimed Logan, Frank is excited to talk about something different – his first novel, Shaker.
A labor of love written in fits and starts over the last three decades, Shaker tells the elaborate story of a hitman, a gang member, a disgraced cop, and a struggling mayor drawn together by a massive Los Angeles earthquake. For fans of Frank’s film work, Shaker is an engaging read, combining tense action with smart characters and rich insights into the secret world of crime.
In a free-ranging conversation, we discussed Shaker, how writing for novels is different from writing for film, and some of Frank’s upcoming projects, including his upcoming Netflix series, Godless.
Those who have seen Logan, or any of Frank’s other films, should not be surprised to learn that the writer enjoys tackling morally ambiguous characters. As he explains, “a lot of my screenplays have featured characters that you might call good bad guys or bad good guys,” and it’s this gray area “where all the juice is in the storytelling.”
Still, when it came time to finally write the book that had been in his head since the 1990s, Frank deliberately tried to turn off his screenwriting instincts and “get rid of all the voices in my head that have accumulated over the years.”
“I realized that screenplays are such a bastardized form. They’re not a book and they’re not a play… It’s very hard to be free when you’re writing. Plus you only have so much real estate, two or three hours at the most, so this was a great way to tell a story the way I really want to tell it.”
Of course, just because you’re writing a novel and not a screenplay doesn’t mean all rules go out the window. “You still have to be a good storyteller and you can’t just do whatever you want,” he says. There’s simply more opportunity to “take digressions and do things you’re not allowed to do” within the screenwriting world.
Godless, Frank’s upcoming Western series for Netflix, provided the writer with a similar opportunity to go deeper. Though originally written as a film, Frank decided to take Godless to Netflix and make a “reverse adaptation” of his own screenplay to expand the story.
“Without question, this is the single best creative experience I’ve had as a writer-director,” Scott says. “The mandate is tell a good story in the best way you can tell it with the best cast possible.”
Frank will wrap editing on Godless this summer and expects the miniseries to air toward the end of this year. In the meantime, if you’re eager to dig into his unique brand of gritty storytelling, pick up Shaker or see Logan again in theaters (and join our debate on the film’s unforgettable ending).