The best books about the making of a movie

Chris Nashawaty Author Of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story
By Chris Nashawaty

Who am I?

Chris Nashawaty is a writer, editor and former Entertainment Weekly movie critic whose work regularly appears in Esquire, Vanity Fair, and Sports Illustrated. He is also the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story and Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candystripe Nurses--Roger Corman: King of the B-Movie. He is currently working on a book about eight sci-fi movies from the summer of 1982 that changed Hollywood. He lives in Westport, Connecticut.

I wrote...

Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story

By Chris Nashawaty,

Book cover of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story

What is my book about?

In Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story film critic for Entertainment Weekly Chris Nashawaty goes behind the scenes of the iconic film, chronicling the rise of comedy's greatest deranged minds as they form The National Lampoon, turn the entertainment industry on its head, and ultimately blow up both a golf course and popular culture as we know it. Caddyshack is at once an eye-opening narrative about one of the most interesting, surreal, and dramatic film productions there's ever been, and a rich portrait of the biggest, and most revolutionary names in Hollywood. So, it's got that going for it...which is nice.

The books I picked & why

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Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

By Mark Harris,

Book cover of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

Why this book?

Even if Mark Harris wasn’t my former editor I would maintain that he is the smartest and most insightful journalist writing about movies today. And the evidence was there right out of the gate with his first book, Pictures at a Revolution, which chronicles the making of the five films nominated for the 1967 Best Picture Oscar. That story alone would be compelling, but what makes Harris’ tale truly great is how he uses these five films (Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Dr. Doolittle) as a prism to see the bigger picture of what was happening in the culture, pinpointing the exact moment when Old Hollywood was gasping for its last breath and a vibrant, thrilling New Hollywood was being born.

The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco

By Julie Salamon,

Book cover of The Devil's Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco

Why this book?

When Tom Wolfe published The Bonfire of the Vanities, he managed to capture the zeitgeist of the go-go Big Money ‘80s in a way that no one else had. Of course, it didn’t take Hollywoof very long to turn his bestseller into a film…and screw it up royally. Salamon’s tremendous access to Brian De Palma’s big-budget fiasco provides an insane fly-on-the-wall immediacy, showing us how even talented people with good intentions can completely whiff. There’s schadenfreude on every page.  

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

By Sam Wasson,

Book cover of The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

Why this book?

Wasson has written some really great books about the movies and some I didn’t really care for. But he really nails this one about the making of Roman Polanski’s neo-noir classic, Chinatown. Weaving together the rollicking narratives of the film’s four main creative players (Polanski, producer Robert Evans, writer Robert Towne, and star Jack Nicholson), Wasson shows us how easy it would have been for any one part of this brilliantly complex jigsaw puzzle to fall in the wrong place and doom the whole endeavor. It certainly helps that the four men he focuses on are all outsize characters swinging their way through Tinseltown’s Me Decade, but Wasson also does the work, digging up great new nuggets about a movie that most film buffs think they already know everything about. That he also manages to write like a dream is just the icing on the cake.

Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind

By Josh Karp,

Book cover of Orson Welles's Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind

Why this book?

I’ve been a fan of Josh Karp’s for years. So much so, that at this point I just blindly trust his taste. If he thinks something is worth writing about, I tend to end up agreeing. In Orson Welles’ Last Movie, he puts on his private-eye hat and starts digging into the legendary Citizen Kane director’s unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind (it was completed after Karp’s book was published and aired on Netflix). Yes, the story is about an auteur’s quest to realize his vision against crushing odds, but it’s also about something much larger—a promising young genius who tragically flamed out too soon and battled with every last breath and cent to do what he was born to do. Parts of it almost read like a Shakespearian tragedy.

The Jaws Log

By Carl Gottlieb,

Book cover of The Jaws Log

Why this book?

Gottlieb was the credited writer of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 Great White blockbuster. And in this slim volume published shortly after the film’s massive success, he tells the (mostly) unvarnished story about how this little movie about a vacation town terrorized by a man-eating shark spiraled completely out of control (in terms of its budget and shooting schedule) and how it was saved by a series of happy accidents, creative flukes, and of course, youthful hubris and genius. Jaws has always been my favorite film since I first saw it at age 6 (my parents were sadists, apparently). And if you love the movie—and really, who doesn’t?—then The Jaws Log is a must read. 

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