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|Also Known As:||Ronald Jay Bass||Died:|
|Born:||March 26, 1942||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Los Angeles, California, USA||Profession:||screenwriter, novelist, producer, entertainment lawyer|
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Despite charges of cheap emotional manipulation by critics, at his peak, writer-producer Ronald Bass was indisputably one of the most prolific, influential and highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood history. A former entertainment attorney, Bass began his career as a screenplay writer after landing a deal to pen "Code Name: Emerald" (1985), an adaptation of an earlier novel he had written. This led to more work, including the script for Francis Ford Coppola's "Gardens of Stone" (1987). Bass' career turning point came with his screenplay for the Tom Cruise/Dustin Hoffman box office smash "Rain Man" (1988), for which he won an Oscar. Projects such as "The Joy Luck Club" (1993) and "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) not only established Bass as one of film's leading writers of strong female characters, but also marked his entry into the role of producer, allowing for more creative control and a larger share of the profits. After the success of the Julia Roberts films "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997) and "Stepmom" (1998), Bass' track record faltered somewhat, however, he remained very much in demand as an un-credited "script doctor" on dozens of films, including "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005) and "Soul Surfer"...
Despite charges of cheap emotional manipulation by critics, at his peak, writer-producer Ronald Bass was indisputably one of the most prolific, influential and highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood history. A former entertainment attorney, Bass began his career as a screenplay writer after landing a deal to pen "Code Name: Emerald" (1985), an adaptation of an earlier novel he had written. This led to more work, including the script for Francis Ford Coppola's "Gardens of Stone" (1987). Bass' career turning point came with his screenplay for the Tom Cruise/Dustin Hoffman box office smash "Rain Man" (1988), for which he won an Oscar. Projects such as "The Joy Luck Club" (1993) and "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) not only established Bass as one of film's leading writers of strong female characters, but also marked his entry into the role of producer, allowing for more creative control and a larger share of the profits. After the success of the Julia Roberts films "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997) and "Stepmom" (1998), Bass' track record faltered somewhat, however, he remained very much in demand as an un-credited "script doctor" on dozens of films, including "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005) and "Soul Surfer" (2011). Contrary to the old axiom that unappreciated writers are at the bottom of the Hollywood ladder, trampled by the studio system, Bass embraced the established power structure and excelled to such a degree that it placed him at the very pinnacle in terms of longevity, financial remuneration and power.
Born Ronald Jay Bass on March 26, 1942 in Los Angeles, he first entertained the idea of becoming a writer at the age of six when he began crafting short stories while bedridden for several years, due to an unexplained illness. By the age of 17, he had written his first novel, but after being told by his English teacher that the material was too personal and would never be published, a distraught Bass burned the manuscript. He would not attempt to write again for another 15 years. In the meantime, he attended Stanford University, Yale, and later, Harvard Law School where he earned his law degree in 1967. As a means of living vicariously through his clients, Bass enter the field of entertainment law, where he did very well for himself, eventually rising to the level of partner. The writing bug, however, had not gone away, and he eventually returned to his abandoned novel, recreating it from memory and working in the pre-dawn hours before going to his office. Originally titled Voleur the book, now rechristened The Perfect Thief, was at last published in 1974. When well-known producer Jonathan Sanger optioned his third novel The Emerald Illusion, Bass used his legal savvy to ensure that he was part of the package, and co-scripted the film adaptation "Code Name: Emerald" (1985), a thoroughly routine WWII thriller starring Max von Sydow and Ed Harris. Although the film was never released theatrically, his original script was good enough to attract the interest of several film studios that began to hire his scripting services.
By this time, Bass had already abandoned his legal career to write two screenplays for Fox at $125,000 each. Though neither would make it to the screen, his scripts for Arthur Penn's father and son spy adventure, "Target" (1985), Bob Rafelson's femme fatale thriller "Black Widow" (1987), and Francis Ford Coppola's tribute to fallen soldiers, "Gardens of Stone" (1987), did. In collaboration with co-writer Barry Morrow, Bass enjoyed a career breakthrough in the form of critical and box office success with Barry Levinson's "Rain Man" (1988), for which he shared with Morrow the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. He landed another hit with the Julia Roberts battered-wife thriller "Sleeping With the Enemy" (1991) and collaborated with Amy Tan on the adaptation of her novel "The Joy Luck Club" (1993). Well received by audiences, the film also gave Bass his first producing credit. His commercial streak faltered somewhat with the comedy-drama "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994), co-scripted with Al Franken and starring Meg Ryan as an alcoholic mother. However, Bass managed to right himself with the Michelle Pfeiffer social issue picture "Dangerous Minds" (1995), about a teacher struggling to reach her problem students. Bass finished out that year as executive producer on the eagerly awaited "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), which he adapted with novelist and fellow executive producer Terry McMillan. Like "The Joy Luck Club," the film told a culturally specific story of African-American women and the problems with their men. By now, many Hollywood pundits were crediting him with single-handedly inventing the "woman's picture" cycle of the 1990s.
After a sojourn in television, where he served as co-executive producer and creator of both the series version of "Dangerous Minds" (ABC, 1996-97) and the psychological crime drama "Moloney" (CBS, 1996-97), Bass returned to features with the comedy "My Best Friend's Wedding" (1997), a brittle and witty story about a restaurant critic (Julia Roberts) who schemes to break up the impending nuptials of her college beau (Dermot Mulroney). Test audiences persuaded Bass to make two important changes - Roberts had to properly atone for trying to steal Cameron Diaz's fiancé, and her gay friend George (Rupert Everett) had to return at movie's end because the surveys had indicated it was their relationship that mattered. The film was a box office hit, restoring luster to Roberts' star and earning critical raves for its somewhat subversive take on screwball comedies. He reteamed with McMillan for "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" (1998); though its box office success fell far short of "Waiting to Exhale," it was an enjoyable and positive portrayal of an African-American woman of a certain age (Angela Bassett) looking for love. After five previous writers had lent their talents to the project, Bass found himself once again scripting a picture for Julia Roberts with the family melodrama "Stepmom" (1998). For the powerhouse screenwriter, it was a match made in heaven, as his three most successful films at the time had all been Roberts vehicles. Next, Bass demonstrated his facility with nearly any genre by ably tackling Jon Amiel's "Entrapment" (1999), a slick crime caper starring Sean Connery and a lithe Catherine Zeta-Jones. Exhibiting impressive bandwidth, he kept his hand in television as co-writer of three TV movies that same year: "Swing Vote" (ABC, 1999), "Border Line" (NBC, 1999) and "Invisible Child" (Lifetime, 1999).
With the period mystery drama "Snow Falling on Cedars" (1999), Bass' string of surefire hits began to falter once again. After the critical drubbing and box office failure of "Passion of Mind" (2000), a tedious psychodrama starring Demi Moore, Bass spent the next few years as one of the busiest, highest paid, uncredited "script doctors" in Hollywood. His next project as writer and producer was on the barely-seen family tear-jerker "The Lazarus Child" (2005), for which he was reportedly paid $2 million to script and co-produce. The same year, Bass followed with the quirky romantic drama "Mozart and the Whale" (2005), starring Josh Harnett and Radha Mitchell as a young couple who both suffer from Asperger's syndrome. After a number of years without being officially attached to a major film, Bass resurfaced with "Amelia" (2009), a facile biopic tracing the years leading up to the fateful final flight of America's first lady of the skies, played by Hilary Swank. He followed with the historical drama "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (2011), a tale about the bond between two girls in the male-dominated environment of 19th-century China, starring Hugh Jackman.
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CAST: (feature film)
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On whether some of his assistants have contributed more than just research and ideas to his scripts: "I may circulate a draft to my team and ask for comments. When I block out the outline for a new script, I solicit suggestions. I certainly need help on research. Since I write on a pad in longhand, I require the help of someone who can read my writing and type my scripts. But no one writes a word except me." --Ron Bass to Peter Bart in GQ, October 1998
"Writers have this ego, and there's a feeling with multiple names that there is some shame in it, that it diminishes the craft. I couldn't disagree more. Sometimes it's one and sometimes a lot, but whatever the truth, it should be up on the screen. It's not true that many writers on the credits means that something is not working; it's a sign that the first thing didn't work.
"The end product is all that counts." --Bass to Stephen Schaefer in USA Today, January 20, 1999
About why he started producing: "You aren't an island, sending a script off into the sunset and then grumbling when everybody screws it up. I stopped being at war with the process and became part of the process." --Bass quoted in Sight and Sound, March 1999
"The reason I write more for women than men is that they are generally more process-oriented. They want to be in touch with their inner life, even if it is counter-productive to their goals. Men are more result-oriented. And they really don't want to know what's going on in their inner life if it is counter-productive. A man doesn't want to feel scared, guilty or acknowledge that he is insecure or ashamed--and that's such a huge part of living successfully." --Bass to Daily Variety, March 22, 1999
"I have a good eye for how to tell the same story in a different medium. In print, it's about what happens within people. In film, it's what happens between people." --Bass quoted in Moviemaker, May 1999
On employing a team of developmental assistants in the Bass "factory": "My guess is that if I wrote six scripts a year before, with the Team I write seven. At two million dollars, that extra script brings in more money than my payroll costs, so it all makes economic sense. But the huge advantage is in quality. Even an awful, inarticulate suggestion will make me think, Gee, I didn't realize George sounds anti-abortion, or, She really should have known he was fooling around, and I'm going to change scenes fourteen to eighteen to have her be aware of that, as a secret. Every scene, every word is more polished now." --Bass to Tad Friend in The New Yorker, January 24, 2000
"I always feel that someday they're going to find out that I'm just a little kid in an adult suit, and they're going to put me in my room." --Bass in The New Yorker, January 24, 2000
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