View From The Bridge, The Hardcover – Aug 25 2009
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About the Author
Nicholas Meyer is a noted author, screenwriter, and director. In addition to the Star Trek films, his many credits include an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of The Seven Per-Cent Solution (adapted from his New York Times bestseller), writing and directing the classic SF thriller Time After Time, and directing The Day After, the controversial film about nuclear war that became the most watched movie ever televised. Most recently, he adapted Philip Roth's novella The Dying Animal for the screen as Elegy. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.
Top Customer Reviews
I met Mr. Meyer when he was in Kingston directing Vendetta. His stories are very entertaining.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Nicholas Meyer directed or was involved with the Startrek II, IV and VI films. He also is responsible for many other highly regarded films such as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Time After Time, and The Day After. You begin to realize how refreshing it is not to have a story filled with nasty gossip as you become engrossed in the details of how a motion picture is made; the scripts, the storyboards, the music- how it fits and helps . There is much to learn here, and it is written in an easy, entertaining way. He describes the differences between an American unit and an European one and how e mail and computers have changed the creation of movies. There is a marvelous comparison of successful stories (including the Startrek series) and Horatio Hornblower. This is really a successful voyage in the undiscovered country of making films.
Reading Nicholas Meyer's (very) contemporary autobiography, I was frequently reminded of one of these classic stories; here's a man who by his own admission was a mediocre student (though with exceptional, recognized gifts) who lost a parent at an early age, journeyed into a strange world where he had few personal contacts - and invented himself as the hero of his own story much as he created popular fiction. (For those who don't remember, Meyer's "The Seven Percent Solution" - which he wrote while still in his mid-twenties - spent many months on the New York Times bestseller list before it was made into a critically acclaimed and commercially successful motion picture.)
Yes, he's best known for his "Star Trek" films (generally acknowledged as the most popular features in the franchise) but as "The View From The Bridge" reveals, his work is as distinguished by its variety as its quality ("Sommersby" - his re-interpretation of the 'Martin Guerre' story - and his adaptation of Philip Roth's "The Human Stain" being just two examples.)
Not surprisingly, Meyer's narrative is as compelling as one might expect from the man behind all these motion pictures - and while there's much to be enjoyed by those looking for inside Hollywood (and inside 'Star Trek) anecdotes, this book will be fascinating to anyone interested in how a fine craftsman gains proficiency in his chosen field (albeit that in Mr. Meyer's field, millions of dollars are routinely at stake).
Meyer writes about his early life (which I admit, I skipped), and then dedicates most of the book to each of his life's projects. The cover advertises his most famous movies -- Star Trek II and VI -- and was admittedly the reason I bought it to begin with, but he does have some fun memories with other projects as well. Some of the efforts/chapters he covers:
-- Time After Time. An underrated time travelling drama and Meyer's first big directorial debut. Probably the best part of this chapter is his stress in dealing with Hollywood as a new director. The Hollywood brass tried to push him around more than usual because of his rookie status but he stuck by his guns, and thought that his career was over because the bosses claimed his movie stunk. Of course, since when have the Hollywood execs ever known what a quality movie was and it's fun reading about the "egg on your face" reaction from the suits as the film started receiving great praise after initial screenings.
-- Star Trek II. He confesses that he was a total amateur to the Star Trek world, but somehow managed to make what many consider the best Trek film ever made. The first film was an expensive boring dud although it did make enough money at the box office to spawn a sequel. With a much smaller budget, Meyer talks about his attempts to bring the swashbuckling aspect back to Star Trek. The film also spawned a lifelong friendship with Ricardo Montalban, a highly underrated actor, and Meyer has great stories about trying to direct Montalban. Like most Trek films Meyer seemed to be involved in, there was a script floating around that no one was happy with. Meyer quickly wrote the final screenplay, and also faced death threats from Trekkies as rumors of Spock's death spread.
-- The Day After. I wasn't aware that Meyer directed this controversial TV mini-series about a realistic nuclear war. Even at a small age, I still remember the controversy around it. (My parents wouldn't let me watch it because of graphic portrayals of nuclear fallout.) Meyer talks about his fights with TV censors about even basic sideplot elements such as the lady who buys birth control. For odd reasons, the network censors also tried to delete his scenes about EMP (electromagnetic pulses) side effects and other scientific fact. Meyer spent most of his time fighting to include the deadly effects of a nuclear war in the mini-series because that's what he felt the entire project was about and even admits it was a mediocre drama. It's not surprising that so much crap was produced by network television until the last 20 years. He talks about the alleged influence this project had on Ronald Reagan who discussed it in his own autobiography. I guess it took a movie to influence a former movie actor.
-- Star Trek VI. Meyer refused to make the film at the unrealistic low budget he was first offered, and the film was almost canned, but a last second shake-up in Paramount management allowed it to go forward. He talks about writing Christopher Plummer's Klingon character with Plummer specifically in mind the entire time he wrote the screenplay. He talks about fights with Leonard Nimoy who took the production process very seriously, especially since Nimoy had experience with Trek and other film productions. He also reveals that they tried hard to bring back Kirstie Alley in the role of Savvik again to play the role that Kim Catrell eventually took over as a Vulcan traitor. He also reveals how he saved the final scene for last in the filming process because it was a good-bye both on and off the screen, but it didn't go well as every actor was anxious and ad-libbed their dialogue knowing it was their final scene in Star Trek.
-- Other projects: Volunteers, The Deceivers, Company Business, Vendetta, Sommersby, Star Trek IV, etc... Either as a writer, director or both, Meyer offers segments to all of his films. He covers everything from his bond with Pierce Brosnan after both lost their wives to cancer to his screenplay that saved Star Trek IV. He had hits and misses and eventually Hollywood stopped offering him director seats after a long hiatus which is a shame because I thought a lot of his scripts were ruined by directors who took them in different directions. Right now he's working on a Theodore Roosevelt epic directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio which will hopefully put Nicholas Meyer on the map again because in my opinion, he's an underrated talent.
The good news is that "The View from the Bridge" is not a Star Trek book, though a large portion is devoted to the making of Star Trek II, IV, and VI -- as any Trekkie knows, these are the only good ones in the series. Meyer does not disappoint in taking us behind the scenes of each production. His affection for Ricardo Montalban is obvious; his feelings towards Leonard Nimoy after ST VI seem less clear. He's honest enough to fess up to a twinge of guilt in how he battled Gene Roddenberry right before the Star Trek icon died. But this is not idle celebrity gossip -- Meyer takes us through the creative process and shares with us the many battles that were fought to get the end product on the screen. I know a little about the industry, but I was stunned to read of the most intense of arguments over the smallest of issues, i.e. studio heads wondering if anyone knew what "Wrath" meant.
No, to me, this important book will be better received by those more interested in the creative process in Hollywood. Let me be clear: "The View From the Bridge" should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of trying to write a Hollywood screenplay, anyone who fancies themselves as a director or producer. Yes, the Hollywood of today has changed radically from when Meyer first arrived back in the '70s. However, those creative battles fought by Meyer and other writer-directors rage on today and I guarantee you'll look at the process with fresh eyes after reading this book.
It is also a somber read at times. My god, how can you read about how close Meyer came to making Don Quixote into a movie without feeling his heartache? How refreshing to read a produced writer discuss all the scripts he's written that haven't been made and how the writer has to accept that reality. And I'm not sure I'll ever look at Gene Hackman quite the same way after reading the chapter on "Company Business."
Bottom line: This is the book. Buy it without hesitation. Give it as a gift. Nick Meyer has once again delivered a compelling story, equally entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt, documenting the many creative windmills he's chased over the years. It left me wanting to know more and that is always the sign of a fascinating subject.
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