Q&A: DAN FANTE
An online exclusive interview
John Fante / Illustration by KEVIN CHRISTY
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Q&A: DAN FANTE
By Anthony Reynolds
Novelist, playwright and poet Dan Fante is the second son of John Fante.
He is well regarded in Europe and his novels include Mooch, Chump Change and Spitting off Tall Buildings
Stop Smiling: As both a novelist and a screenwriter, what are the main similarities between the processes? And what are the major differences?
Dan Fante: I don't mean to be overly unkind here, but screenwriting is a process quite unlike legitimate prose. Screenwriters are the errand boys for producers and directors. The do what they are told to do: "Fix this. Make her tits bigger. Let's have her be a victim of incest." That kind of nonsense. Screenwriting is not writing. It is a collaborative process in which the so-called creative person becomes an underpaid, over-ruled typist.
SS: What are your experiences with Hollywood? How close have you gotten to a script becoming a film?
DF: My book Mooch will be a film this year or next. I wrote the screenplay. Thankfully, having written the original document, the book itself is our point of reference in writing the movie. But make no mistake, what I said above still holds sway, to at least some extent.
SS: Have you met many in the business who are aware of the Fante name within the history of Hollywood?
DF: Most people in Hollywood know the name John Fante. Of course they haven't read his stuff, they've just heard he was a good novelist. And, by having an option on one or more of his books, they might become rich. John Fante is a commodity — like fertilizer is a commodity.
SS: What are your memories of John's experience in Hollywood? You told me once that he was basically an angry man. Was this linked to a feeling of having "sold out" as a novelist?
DF: Yes, I think so. My old man hated the flunkeyism of being a screenwriter. [He resented] the contempt for the writer inherent in the process, and the drone-like stupidity involved. But to be fair, on the other hand, he had a reputation for being less than tolerant and cooperative.
SS: How aware was John of the financial choice he made between being a struggling artist and a well-paid screenwriter?
DF: Acutely aware. My old man was an obsessive golfer and stud poker aficionado. Screenwriting provided free time to indulge his other interests.
SS: Was John a political animal?
DF: The late Forties is when Hollywood screenwriting became sort of a closed shop. If you weren't among the "chosen" or the "in" group you didn't write screenplays. It was reverse discrimination. Little is known or said about it, but the old man could not get a job because he was not left-leaning, politically. He wasn't right-leaning either; he simply didn't give a shit. But it wasn't until after Joe McCarthy was deposed and the Commie witch hunt went away that the old man found work again.
SS: What perspective has your experience in Hollywood given you on your father's?
DF: Always come to the work as a professional, not a hack. Keep your word and your deadlines. And make sure that you are well-represented and well-paid.