Ghostwriters Unmasked

06.12.13

M. Night Shyamalan Wrote ‘She’s All That’?! More Surprising Uncredited Writers

Tarantino wrote ‘It’s Pat’? Whedon worked on ‘Waterworld’? The unlikely film credits of Hollywood’s biggest screenwriters.

It’s been a while, but M. Night Shyamalan finally gave us another truly jaw-dropping twist. The celebrated writer of The Sixth Sense (and disparaged writer of pretty much all of his other works) earned what may just be the biggest gasp of his career after revealing that he “ghostwrote” the 1998 teen romantic comedy She’s All That, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachel Leigh Cook.

You’re forgiven if you need to a moment to wrap your head around this. The man who brought you “I see dead people,” that hilarious forest creature thing in The Village, and Will Smith’s worst movie to date also brought you the line “What is this, some sort of dork outreach program?” In the film, Prinze played a jock and Cook a nerd who defy the laws of high-school social hierarchy and fall in love—it’s safe to say Shyamalan improved his ability to write twists you never saw coming when he started penning The Sixth Sense.

While ’90s nostalgists are reeling from the news of Shyamalan’s seemingly unlikely She’s All That involvement, uncredited screenwriting is actually more common than you might think, whether someone is ghostwriting an entire film or is brought in to doctor portions of the script. Here are some of the oddest projects that Hollywood’s most celebrated authors have worked on.

Quentin Tarantino: It’s Pat

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Whether it’s Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, or Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino is known for penning excessively violent, excessively explicit, excessively epic screenplays. It’s almost unfathomable, then, that he was an uncredited co-writer on the 1994 comedy It’s Pat. The film was based on the Saturday Night Live skit in which Julia Sweeney plays an androgynous nerd named Pat, the joke of which is that Pat’s gender is never revealed. That’s the joke ... for the whole movie. The film made $60,000 total. It’s Rotten Tomatoes score: 0. Shocking that Tarantino forewent credit, right?

Aaron Sorkin: Schindler’s List

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Aaron Sorkin is known for the crackling dialogue, rapid-fire banter, and grandiose speechifying in his scripts that, largely, cover morality, politics, and the media. His work on The West Wing, The Newsroom, and The Social Network is instantly identifiable as Sorkin-esque. The same can’t exactly be said for Schindler’s List, the 1994 Holocaust drama with the script that Steven Spielberg invited him to polish.

Carrie Fisher: Lethal Weapon 3

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She may be most remembered for playing Princess Leia, but later in life Fisher has developed an impressive resume as a writer, showing off her razor-sharp wit with the book turned screenplay Postcards From the Edge and memoir turned one-woman show Wishful Drinking. She also, however, worked as, according to Entertainment Weekly, as “one of the most sought-after [script] doctors in town,” putting her touch on Hook, Sister Act, The Wedding Singer, and, most humorously, Lethal Weapon 3.

Tom Stoppard: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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Sir Tom Stoppard is the prolific (and knighted) writer behind award-winning modern classics Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Real Thing, and Shakespeare in Love. Considering those studied works, it’s undoubtedly surprising to learn that he penned the final rewrite of the screenplay for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (He also did some script doctoring on The Bourne Ultimatum—who knew he had such a fondness for action franchises?)

Joss Whedon: Waterworld

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Joss Whedon is behind one of the most celebrated action films of last year, The Avengers. As it happens, he’s also behind one of the most maligned action films ... ever, Waterworld. He was brought in late in the film’s production to try to salvage what he called a “generic script” marred by a horrendous third act and too many notes from star Kevin Costner. He also worked on Speed, Twister, and X-Men.