Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meet the Reader - Book Review: The View from the Bridge

by Ray Morton

Nicholas Meyer is one of Hollywood’s great, if-not-unsung-then-certainly-not-sung-nearly-enough talents. A self-described “storyteller,” Meyer has written novels, non-fiction books, stage plays, radio plays, liner notes, and reviews. He has also directed a number of excellent films, but is perhaps best known for being an expert screenwriter that crafts smart, entertaining, classically-constructed scripts filled with engaging characters and clever, literate dialogue. And now, with the publication of The View from the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood (Viking Press / $25.95/ ISBN 9780670021307), Meyer has added memoirist to his considerable list of accomplishments.

The book traces Meyer’s journey from his Manhattan childhood to the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa to a job in the publicity department of Paramount Pictures that had him writing press kits by day while penning spec scripts at night. A gig as a unit publicist on Love Story led to Meyer’s first script sale (to Howard Minsky, Love Story’s producer) and his first publishing deal (a “making of” book aptly called The Love Story Story). The money earned from those transactions financed a move to Los Angeles, where Meyer began writing television movies and then, during the long WGA strike of 1972, his first novel – the Sherlock Holmes-meets-Sigmund Freud adventure The Seven-Percent Solution, which became a smash-hit best-seller and which served as his springboard into the screenwriting big leagues when he refused to sell the screen rights unless he was also permitted to pen the script for its 1976 film adaptation, an assignment that eventually netted him an Academy Award nomination. After writing and directing (his debut) the classic H.G. Welles-meets-Jack the Ripper time-traveling adventure fantasy classic Time After Time (1979), Meyer was drafted to write (sans credit) and direct Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), an assignment that led to a decade-long association with the crew of the Starship Enterprise, during which he also co-wrote 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and co-wrote and directed 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. During and after his involvement with Trek, Meyer continued to direct films (The Day After, Volunteers, The Deceivers, Company Business) and write screenplays (Sommersby, The Human Stain, Elegy), while earning a solid reputation in Hollywood as an ace script doctor due to his (mostly uncredited) rewrites on films such as Fatal Attraction, The Prince of Egypt, The Count of Monte Cristo, Tomorrow Never Dies and many, many others.

This is a terrific book. Written in a warm, witty style, it is chock-full of intriguing and sometimes quite moving tales about Nick’s life; his experiences in the Hollywood trenches; his insightful observations about the art, craft, and business of making movies; and a few difficult personal experiences that serve to put the whole thing in proper perspective. As evidenced by its title, a significant portion of the book is devoted to Meyer’s time in Starfleet, which was probably something of a commercial decision, but also an entirely appropriate one given his (quite deserved) reputation as “the man who saved Star Trek.” Finally, the book is filled with a real generosity of spirit that reminds us that, while the movie business is filled with movers, shakers, sharks, and stars, it is also filled with a lot of really nice people, of which Nick Meyer seems to be one. If you’re interested in screenwriting, movies, Sherlock Holmes, or Star Trek, this book is pretty much indispensable.

Ray Morton is a writer and script consultant. His books Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg's Classic Film and King Kong: The History of a Movie Icon from Fay Wray to Peter Jackson are available in stores and online. He analyzes screenplays for production companies, producers, and individual writers. Morton is available for consultation and can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment

In order to prevent spam, comments are moderated. Thank you.