INTERVIEWER: You’ve written for the films, haven’t you? What was that like?
CAPOTE: A lark. At least the one picture I wrote, Beat the Devil,1 was tremendous fun. I worked on it with John Huston while the picture was actually being made on location in Italy. Sometimes scenes that were just about to be shot were written right on the set. The cast were completely bewildered—sometimes even Huston didn’t seem to know what was going on. Naturally the scenes had to be written out of a sequence, and there were peculiar moments when I was carrying around in my head the only real outline of the so-called plot. You never saw it? Oh, you should. It’s a marvelous joke. Though I’m afraid the producer didn’t laugh. The hell with them. Whenever there’s a revival I go to see it and have a fine time.
Seriously, though, I don’t think a writer stands much chance of imposing himself on a film unless he works in the warmest rapport with the director or is himself the director. It’s so much a director’s medium that the movies have developed only one writer who, working exclusively as a scenarist, could be called a film genius. I mean that shy, delightful little peasant, Zavattini. What a visual sense! Eighty per cent of the good Italian movies were made from Zavattini scripts2—all of the De Sica pictures, for instance. De Sica is a charming man, a gifted and deeply sophisticated person; nevertheless he’s mostly a megaphone for Zavattini, his pictures are absolutely Zavattini’s creations: every nuance, mood, every bit of business is clearly indicated in Zavattini’s scripts.
From Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, edited by Malcolm Cowley. Copyright © 1957, 1958 by The Paris Review, Inc. Reprinted by permission of The Viking Press, Inc. Title supplied.
1.Beat the Devil (1954) directed by John Huston, starred Robert Morley. Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre.
2.Zavattini's scripts include: Shoeshine (1946), Bicycle Thief (1948), Miracle in Milan (1951) and Umberto D (1952).