15 Writers Who Didn’t Suffer from Writer’s Block

Since the Oscars have passed and there isn’t movie after movie to be discussing, I’ve hit a sort of writer’s block in trying to decide what to blog about next. Writing plays a large role in film, from the screenwriters and editors right down to characters with different writing professions in movies. So I decided to list several different types of writers in movies; this isn’t a favorites list by any means, but just a list of 15 different types of writers played throughout film.

1. The Blogger

– Julie in Julie & Julia, played by Amy Adams

Amy Adams’s character Julie was really searching for her niche, and she ended up finding two: cooking inspired by the famous Julia Child, and blogging about her journey through Child’s cookbooks. It’s interesting and neat to watch as Julie Powell’s blog becomes well-known.

2. The Greeting Card Writer

– Tom in (500) Days of Summer, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I had to include Tom played by the wonderful JGL because there just aren’t that many films about greeting card writers, save Mr. Deeds. Tom’s true passion is to be an architect, but he settles to write greeting cards, and in the process, encounters one of the loves of his life.

3. The Columnist

– John Grogan in Marley and Me, played by Owen Wilson

Midnight in Paris is not the first movie that Owen Wilson plays a writer. In Marley and Me, Wilson played real-life John Grogan, a writer who found his inspiration from a very poorly-behaved but lovable dog. His writing was so well-received, that his boss assigned Grogan his own column to write about whatever he wanted.

4. The Lyricist

– Sophie in Music and Lyrics, played by Drew Barrymore

While Barrymore’s character Sophie doesn’t claim to be any kind of writer, much less a lyricist, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), the man for whom she is “watering plants,” picks up on her ability to effortlessly write lyrics, and convinces her to help him write a song when he’s at a lost for words.

5. The Magazine Writer

– William in Almost Famous, played by Patrick Fugit

It seems like “the magazine writer” is overused in film; it’s almost a cop-out career for a character. But in Almost Famous, William, the semi-autobiographical character Cameron Crowe based Almost Famous around, gets the rare and exciting opportunity to write about an up and coming band for Rolling Stone.

6. The Novelist

– Mort in Secret Window, played by Johnny Depp

Based off a Stephen King novel, Secret Window stars Johnny Depp as a writer suffering from writer’s block. In his own way, Depp plays a rather funny writer–he’s unkempt, living in a trashy, hidden away home, depending entirely on his story to keep himself interested in much less besides eating and sleeping.

7. The Playwright

– Richard in Somewhere in Time, played by Christopher Reeve

Somewhere in Time isn’t a film thought of much for being about a man writing plays, but more of a love story that happens in reverse. Richard, played by Christopher Reeve, is a playwright living in Chicago. He manages to go back in time to meet the love of his life. But can he stay in the past forever?

8. The Biographer

– Jo in Little Women, played by Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder gives perhaps her most-well known (and one of her best) performances as Jo, the most obstinate and independent of four sisters. Jo doesn’t make it far with writing to begin with. Maybe because she hasn’t found the right material yet. But when he sister, Beth, dies, Jo decides to write a biography on her.

9. The Screenwriter

– Griffin in The Player, played by Tim Robbins

The Player showcases the world of Hollywood, specifically honing in on screenwriters. People are constantly pitching stories, searching for that million dollar idea to make into a movie. Tim Robbins stars as Griffin, a screenwriter who gets himself mixed up in some dangerous business, but something that may end up being worth telling a story about.

10. The Journalist

– Steve in The Soloist, played by Robert Downey Jr.

The “journalist” is another often used career for actors in films. I decided to choose a rather less-known film and writer, although Robert Downey Jr. is anything but “not well-known.” RDJ plays Steve, a character based (and book written by) the real Steve Lopez, who meets an interesting person who might change his perspective.

11. The Diary Keeper

– Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary, played by Renée Zellweger

Diaries are kept by many historical or well-known people. Bridget Jones is definitely not well-known where she’s from; she really just wants to lose weight and meet her prince charming. Zellwegers plays the hilarious Jones, who really gets in a bind when she meets two men, one played by the debonair Colin Firth, the other by the enticing Hugh Grant.

12. The Copy Editor

– Josie in Never Been Kissed, played by Drew Barrymore

I tried very hard not to include the same person twice, but Barrymore is really in her own element playing a copy editor/ undercover writer in Never Been Kissed. Although she blows her cover in the end, she still writes a memorable article that boosts the news for The Chicago Sun-Times and apologizes to the man she hurt.

13. The Ghost Writer

– the Ghost in The Ghost Writer, played by Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor essentially plays the “ghost” character in The Ghost Writer, who ends up writing and completing British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. The Ghost Writer is actually the only film I have not seen on this list; however, “ghost writer” really fit the need for another type of writer, so it’s added in the group.

14. The Cartoonist

– Robert in Zodiac, played by Jake Gyllenhaal

While I believe cartooning is in its own writing category, I would have included a section for “Code Writer” or “Killer Writer” to describe the character Zodiac in Zodiac; Gyllenhaal’s character Robert not only plays the role of a writer–he’s a cartoonist, but he also investigates the letters written by a killer.

15. The Poet

– William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, played by Joseph Fiennes

While Fiennes plays Shakespeare in the peak of his play-writing days, I couldn’t think of a better film to include about a poet. Shakespeare wrote many well-known poems over his time in addition to his plays.

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Oscar Chatter with Matt and Kristin: Best in the Acting Categories

Kristin: I’ve seen all the nominees except for Demian Bichir in A Better Life. I was surprised Michael Fassbender from Shame didn’t get nominated, and I was disappointed to see JGL miss a nod for his great work in 50/50. I’m rooting for Jean Dujardin from The Artist to pick up this award, especially since he’s already picked up the Golden Globe and the SAG among others. I prefer Dujardin to Clooney, who may be his only serious competition, although I still see Dujardin winning. I’m also happy for Gary Oldman to get a nomination, even though I think he has better work that was previously ignored.

Matt: In the first twenty minutes of The Artist, Jean Dujardin painted a grin on my face that would last nearly the rest of the film–he was charming in every way. It is a unique performance, if not just because Dujardin must convey his character’s thoughts and emotions without the luxury of ever speaking. In short, I would be very surprised if the Academy does not pick Dujardin. Unfortunately, I have yet to see The Descendants, but as Kristin has said, it seems that Clooney would be the only other close competitor to Dujardin. That being said, I found Brad Pitt completely deserving of his nomination for Moneyball. Of the nominations I’ve seen, Pitt was the only one whose role truly carried the entire movie. In my opinion, without Pitt playing Billy Beane, Moneyball simply doesn’t work. I actually forgot I was watching a Brad Pitt movie.

Kristin: I completely agree that Dujardin was utterly charming in The Artist, and you couldn’t help but smile throughout that film. The thing with Clooney is that he’s an Academy darling, even more so than Pitt. I know Clooney didn’t win much of anything for Up in the Air a couple years back (which I actually enjoyed more than The Descendants), but sometimes I think he’s receiving nominations just because he’s Clooney. He was good in The Descendants, but maybe I missed the “greatness” aspect. Glad you enjoyed Moneyball so much. I appreciated the film because I read most of the book it was based off, and I would agree Pitt embodied the Billy Beane. I’ve heard some complaints that Pitt should have been nominated for Tree of Life instead of Moneyball, but I agree with the nomination.

Matt: For me, what made Pitt’s performance golden were subtle things; for example, him constantly grabbing candy from the candy dish in the scene where he first notices Peter Brand. I think Pitt could have been nominated for either role, though a nomination for The Tree of Life would have had to be for Best Supporting Actor. Has an actor ever been nominated for Best Actor/Actress and Supporting Actor/Actress? A quick Wikipedia search yielded this answer: “Thanks to a voting quirk, in 1944 Barry Fitzgerald in Going My Way became the only actor nominated in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for the same performance, winning the latter.” Today’s Academy bylaws disallow this, of course. I was unable to find an actor or actress that has been nominated twice the same year for two different roles. That probably won’t ever happen either.

To sum up, while I enjoyed Pitt and Dujardin’s roles immensely, I think it has been a rather weak year for Best Actor. None of the roles nominated hold a candle to other recent years, say Colin Firth’s role in The King’s Speech or Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Such performances are ones that I will remember for quite a long time.

Kristin: I saw Glenn Close only in an extended preview for Albert Nobbs, and it certainly looks interesting enough, despite many believing that last spot belongs to Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk about Kevin or Elizabeth Olson in Martha Marcy May Marlene (or others I’m sure!). Previously, I had complaints over Emma Stone’s performance in The Help being completely overlooked, despite my loyalty to Viola Davis. This category is said to be the only real competition this year–between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. I saw both films and much preferred The Help over TIL, but I think both performances are on equal ground. Honestly, it’s been YEARS since Streep actually won an Oscar, and she keeps getting told “you’ll get one next year.” So I’m rooting for Streep, although I’d be happy if Davis walked away with it too.

Matt: While I did think Emma Stone’s performance in The Help was good, I felt it was one of the easier roles in the film, and hardly on par with Viola Davis’ role. Her performance in the final scene of the film is one of the best (and most heartrending) I have seen this year. As for Streep, while I look forward to seeing her performance on DVD, poor reviews for The Iron Lady stopped me from dropping $8.25 to see the film in theaters. But what are the Oscars without a Streep nomination? After all, with The Iron Lady, Streep receives her 17th Oscar nomination. It would be interesting to see Glenn Close win the award; however, I would be surprised if it is given to anyone other than Davis.

Kristin: I have to agree that Davis had the most moving performance in that film. The Help really had a fantastic ensemble to carry it. I still would have liked to see Stone get some love for her work, even at just the Golden Globes, but I know her role wasn’t quite as dramatic or polarizing as the others. I wouldn’t even recommend seeing The Iron Lady with the exception of Meryl Streep. She gave an excellent performance. The direction of the film was off– it lacked an opinion, had too much focus on Thatcher’s dementia, and just felt too disjointed. That said, Streep’s performance somehow proved that you can have a crappy film and an incredible performance come out of it. I would love either Streep or Davis win, and I’m sure one will. Close and Mara definitely won’t win, and Williams’s nomination reminds me a little of Jennifer Lawrence’s last year, in that the real honor is the nomination.

Matt: I love Streep, but I really hope Davis gets the win. She would be only the second African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. I can’t think of a more appropriate role by which to win it.

Kristin: Nick Nolte in Warrior was the surprise addition to this category, and I was very glad to see it. I’m assuming Plummer will walk away with the trophy for his work in Beginners. He gave an exceptional performance, so that would make me happy. I thought Ewan McGregor was brilliant in Beginners and forgotten for his great work. It’s also cool to see a name like “Jonah Hill” join the ranks among the Oscar nominated, although it’s a sure thing that he won’t be winning. I’ve heard great things about Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn, but I have yet to see that film. I did finally see Drive and think Albert Brooks should have received some kind of credit, although I don’t know if I would have put him in place of Plummer, Hill, or Nolte. The interesting turn in this category is seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘s Max von Sydow pick up a nom. I’m curious to see him in that film now.

Matt: I quite liked Jonah Hill’s work in Moneyball. It was nice to see him actually play a role other than the funny, fat kid. While I hadn’t given him much thought before Moneyball, he now is someone I will watch. I enjoyed seeing Nolte in Warrior; in fact, his role may have been the only thing about that movie I truly did enjoy. However, I didn’t think his performance was anything out of the ordinary; it was enjoyable, but not groundbreaking. I will readily admit my lack of knowledge for the other noms in this category, as sadly, I have not yet had the opportunity to view them. It is nice to see von Sydow get some recognition, albeit only his second nomination. Seems rather sad in such a great career that has spanned over six decades, but many great performances are not realized until decades after their release. So, yes, he should have been nominated Best Actor for his role in The Seventh Seal, not that anyone outside of Sweden would have even recognized his name at that time.

Missing from this section is Brad Pitt for his outstanding role as Mr. O’Brien in The Tree of Life. And the little Jack Russel Terrier from The Artist. 🙂

Kristin: I hope Jonah Hill gets offered some better roles in the future with his success from Moneyball. I know he’s in some upcoming silly movie with Channing Tatum, which probably won’t do him much good, but perhaps he’ll make it a point to be in the occasional drama. I’m happy to agree to disagree with you on Nolte. He probably had the best performance in the film, but I would consider his performance groundbreaking in Warrior.

I think it’s interesting that like many years, a lot of the actors nominated in the supporting category tend to be in films that are not widely released until later, or they never get a wide release altogether with the exception of a few big cities. I really enjoyed Beginners, and it doesn’t surprise me that its only nomination is for Christopher Plummer, given who he is and the role he played. My Week with Marilyn, Drive, Beginners–none of these movies scream Oscars at all, despite earning one or two nominations each. It’s movies like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close that work to be an Oscar film, and turn out successful enough (nomination for Best Picture/Best Supporting Actor), and go along a point of view that you hold, Matt–actors like von Sydow missing out in the past for great work and getting nominated currently for more mediocre or just good work. I finally saw The Tree of Life and wasn’t blown away by it in any sense other than cinematography, although I would agree Pitt was the obvious stand-out performance in the film. And I would be perfectly fine with the JR terrier from The Artist making an appearance 🙂

Matt: In regards to Nolte, he’s pretty much always great; I just thought his role fairly insignificant in comparison to his previous performances, in particular Colonel Gordon Tall in The Thin Red Line. In that film Nolte plays, with conviction, a selfish, power-hungry commander willing to sacrifice whatever number of human lives necessary to move his career forward. In regards to “make-up Oscars,” it’s annoying when the Academy chooses to acknowledge an actor they missed out on the first time (or first ten times, as it may be) around. No number of “make-ups” changes that they failed to realize talent in the first place. In reality, a “make-up” nomination is nothing less than degrading.

Kristin: I think the obvious choice is The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, since she’s graciously won the award at about every award ceremony so far. I thought she was brilliant in the film and is well-deserving. Although I wouldn’t mind Berenice Bejo receiving some credit. But I think we all know that Spencer has it in the bag. Oh, and I think it’s kind of ridiculous that Melissa McCarthy got a nomination for Bridesmaids. She’s a hilarious actress, and I’m all for comedy making its mark at the Oscars, but how on earth was that role Oscar-worthy?

Matt: Spencer’s performance in The Help was thouroughly entertaining. I doubt I will ever think about chocolate pie the same ever again, nor will I think of it without seeing Spencer’s face. It is interesting that both Spencer and Chastain were chosen for their roles, as much of their time on screen is spent together. Their chemistry was great, and I loved Chastain’s performance, but I couldn’t help but think two things: 1) As long as we’re doling out nominations for The Help, what about Bryce Howard’s role as Hilly? She embodied pure evil pretty convincingly for me. 2) Hasn’t Chastain been nominated for the wrong role? What about her embodiment of grace and motherhood in The Tree of Life?

Snubbed? Marion Cotillard for her role in Midnight in Paris. Can you think of a sweeter or more charming performance that you’ve seen in recent years? I can’t.

Kristin: I really enjoyed this category because there were so many great performances nominated. Spencer and Chastain both played character roles in The Help, so it doesn’t surprise me that both were nominated. It was nice to see Chastain show yet another side of her acting ability. Bryce Dallas Howard actually received a lot of slack for her role. I’m not entirely sure why, but the common consensus is that she keeps playing the villain (both The Help and 50/50). She completely embodied the evilness needed for the role.

I’m glad that Chastain got nominated for The Help and not The Tree of Life, primarily because I enjoyed her role more in the former. I’m just not Terrance Malick’s biggest supporter in his heavy amount of editing in his films. Perhaps performances could have been stronger if he would have dropped the scissors and let actors just breathe. But that’s a whole other story. As for your snub mention–I never even considered Cotillard as an option, but I think you bring up a great point–she was graceful and lighthearted in Midnight in Paris, and it almost is surprising to see her not nominated.

Matt: Chastain’s roles in The Help and The Tree of Life show just how dynamic of an actress she is. She has had quite a year, and I look forward to catching up on some of her films that I missed. As far as Howard is concerned, I’m not sure how much the Academy likes to nominate villains. Nominations tend to fall on “hero” roles only. Even three dimensional villains rarely get a Oscar nod. I suppose everybody wants the “good guys” to win, even at the Oscars.

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.