Goldman Interview at

Nobody knows anything.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You say screenplays are structured, but you don't define what you mean by structure.

GOLDMAN: I'm not going to do it now. Look, I taught creative writing for one year at Princeton. It was the year I wrote Butch Cassidy. I remember I had a bunch of writing students, and the first thing I did was I had them read The Little Engine That Could. Some of them were pissed about it and felt degraded. We all know that book, and I use it all the time as an example. Somehow, in that dopey story, we want the toys to get over the mountain. I think that's all we do. I think all we're trying to do is get the fucking toys over the mountain. I mean that. I don't know what a good story is. I know when a story happens, and I love it. I know when I get moved. I don't know how you do it.

There's a great line of Billie Jean King's, the tennis star, who said, "If it was easy everyone would do it." And I think that's the truth about what we do. When you've got the story going and you feel confident, and you can go to work the next day and think, Boy this is going to be neat, I'm going to knock their socks off, when you have those wonderful few moments of elation that God allows us, sometimes it works, and you don't feel failed. I mean, I don't know if the rest of you feel as failed as I do, but I'm very depressed about that. Stop it. Ask something else.

FEENEY: It struck me that in your accounts, although you speak of structure, it was implied that a lot of times you're sitting there trying to solve the particular problems of a story. For example, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You have two guys that are on the run, but how are people going to get interested in a couple of guys who are fleeing? It seems like an un-heroic thing.

GOLDMAN: The reason the middle third is there, is the idea of running away did not happen in Westerns. Westerns are based on confrontations. Gary Cooper doesn't run away, John Wayne would rather die than run away. I had to get my guys to South America because they went there. It's the great moment. It was an odd thing. I wrote it and nobody wanted it. I rewrote it, changing almost nothing at all, and every studio wanted it but MGM. They said they would buy it if I would have them not go to South America and stay and fight the Super Posse. And I said, "But they didn't do that." The guy at Metro said, "I don't give a shit, John Wayne don't run away." I think that was a great line, and it's true. John Wayne didn't run away. So I mean, the whole problem I had in that movie--a lot of problems--was I had to make it okay for the audience to see heroes do what was, in essence, something that wasn't done.