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Famous Script Writer Scott Frank Gets Paid $300,000 A Week

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The career of Scott Frank got a lengthy deep dive courtesy of a profile in The New Yorker that revealed the writer-director has a $300,000 weekly fee as a Hollywood script doctor. Frank acknowledges this fee is “insane,” but being a script doctor is how he’s made a life for himself despite being a credited screenwriter on films by Steven Soderbergh (“Out of Sight”), Barry Sonnenfield (“Get Shorty”), James Mangold (“The Wolverine,” “Logan”) and more. He’s also the Emmy-winning writer and director of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit.” Plus, $300,000 a week feels earned when you’ve put the finishing touches on nearly 60 films, including “Saving Private Ryan,” “Night at the Museum,” “Unfaithful,” “The Ring,” “Gravity” and “a lot of the X-Men movies.”

A “script doctor” is the term given to a screenwriter hired to punch up or reshape a pre-existing script, be it smoothing out a messy third act or overhauling the dialogue to make a character more memorable. This screenwriter will often go uncredited, although Frank’s work punching up the script for Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report” ended up being so extensive that he got an official credit alongside original writer Jon Cohen. Frank is responsible for deepening Tom Cruise’s character in the film by leaning more into his grief as a man who lost his child.

“Ninety per cent of what I get called in on is character work,” Frank told The New Yorker about his script doctor requests.

Per The New Yorker: “In ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ he helped round out such soldiers as the Scripture-quoting sniper, giving them active connections with people back home. In ‘The Ring,’ he developed the relationship between the protagonist, played by Naomi Watts, and her son. In ‘Gravity,’ his assignment was to give Sandra Bullock’s character, an astronaut, ‘a life outside of space.’ In ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes,’ he created the father character, played by John Lithgow, who forms a bond with a chimpanzee named Caesar and is cured of his Alzheimer’s disease before regressing to an impaired mental state.”

Not all of Frank’s attempts to salvage a script end up working. He was hired to rewrite the screenplay for Luca Guadagnino’s “Scarfrace” remake several years ago, for instance, but the project has been dropped.

“The Hunger Games” producer Nina Jacobson hired Frank to rewrite “Catching Fire” just weeks from the production start date. She said his job on the movie was comparable to “laying down new train track while conducting the moving train at the same time.”

“Scott folds himself into the process,” Jacobson said, referring to Frank as a “chameleon.” “He’s sort of foolproof, in terms of being able to diagnose what you need, team up with the director, and deliver it…You’d be hard-pressed to find an executive or producer who doesn’t think of him first virtually anytime they have a problem on a script.”

Next up for Frank is the six-episode television series “Monsieur Spade,” which begins airing on AMC next month. The show stars Clive Owen and was co-created with Tom Fantana. Scott co-wrote and directed all six episodes. He’s also reuniting with Netflix to develop “Department Q,” a series based on author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s crime novels.

Head over to The New Yorker’s website to read the Frank profile in its entirety.

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