Interview by John Wisniewski
John Wisniewski: When did you begin writing, Jim?
Jim Uhls: I began writing short stories in grade school. I also made up stories and acted them out with friends. It wasn’t until college that I began writing plays and screenplays.
John Wisniewski: Any favorite screenwriters and directors?
Jim Uhls: I don’t really like to make a list, because I’ll leave out important names. I’ll answer by going to the past — with screenwriters. Robert Towne, William Goldman, Billy Wilder & his various collaborators, Terry Southern, Ernest Lehman, Paddy Chayefsky, Buck Henry, Frank Pierson, Norman Wexler, Ben Hecht, Horton Foote.
John Wisniewski: How did you meet Chuck Palahniuk and adapt his novel “Fight Club” for the screen?
Jim Uhls: I didn’t meet Chuck until I was working on the second draft. David Fincher and I wanted to ask him questions. And we ended up also giving him some answers. As for starting on the adaptation, I was chosen due to a script of mine that was viewed as a sample, plus some meetings in which I talked about how I would approach it. Somehow, I kept inserting myself into all the meetings about it — until I was basically considered the writer. It was the first draft, though, that really bound me to the project. I was lucky I managed to get it right.
John Wisniewski: Did you like the final edit of “Fight Club?”
Jim Uhls: I loved it. I had already loved the first half of the rough cut, which David showed me at his house. But it was when I saw the whole film for the first time that I realized what he had pulled together — a true descent into madness.
John Wisniewski: Why were Ed Norton and Brad Pitt chosen to play the lead roles?
Jim Uhsl: It’s as simple as — they’re both great actors and they fit the roles. Brad was Tyler Durden — the way Tyler had to behave, to command, to look, to sound — everything about Tyler. Edward was on our radar because he’d just had his first year in movies and it was three: “Primal Fear,” “Everyone Says I Love You” and “The People vs Larry Flint.”
John Wisniewski Could you tell us about writing “Jumper?”
Jim Uhl: I was brought in with an eye toward changing the main thrust of the story. In the process, I worked out my own versions of the characters. Unfortunately, over 20 minutes was cut from the final film, which resulted in losing character-based material. In terms of the self-teleportation, it was a lot of fun coming up with those sequences.
John Wisniewski: Please tell us about writing “The Destroyer.”
Jim Uhl: Shane Black approached me about writing it and we worked out an overview of how the story would work. Then, Shane met James Mullaney online and asked me about collaborating with him. Mullaney had written the re-start of the novel series. I read his first two Destroyer books, and Shane re-read them. We both thought he was damned good. James and I developed a good working relationship.
John Wisniewski: Are you currently working on a screenplay?
Jim Uhl: I have several rough drafts of screenplays that I need to finish and revise. I’m also working on ideas for television.
John Wisniewski: Please tell us about writing “Leviathan” as well?
Jim Uhl: Ruairi Robinson approached me about coming up with a pitch. I would work on it, then meet with him — and this went on for several meetings — over several years. We were both always doing gigs and would meet up whenever we had time. Finally, Ruairi said that, if I wrote the script on spec, he would make a proof-of-concept teaser on spec. We both started at the same time — and we finished at the same time. He put the teaser online and it went viral. After that, we made a deal with Fox. Alas, the fate of the project was to devolve into development hell.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SCREENWRITING CLASSES TAUGHT BY JIM UHLS: https://www.creativelive.com/class/screenwriters-toolkit-jim-uhls