Karen McCullah Lutz, The Bachelorette Party
Karen McCullah Lutz is a cool chick who I had the pleasure of meeting when I was up in Beverly Hills not too long ago. Tall with bronzed skin and long hair, Karen is as pretty as she is talented. Meaning: very!
She wrote the screenplay to Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon, who hasn't seen and heard of that movie? - and wrote the screenplay to Ten Things I Hate About You with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. I forgot to ask if Heath hit on her...
Her novel, The Bachelorette Party was a laugh out loud novel that Entertainment Weekly put on their "Must List" for the year. If that wasn't enough, the book is being turned into a movie with Nicole Kidman attached to star and produce. Does Karen have the best career or what? And her sense of humor isn't bad either.
You’ve moved around a bit, why did you decide to settle in California? Was it the lure of the palm trees or the warm weather, the celebrities or the streets paved in sequins?
I wanted to live in CA all my life. Both my parents grew up here and I used to hear all their stories about how fabulous it was. When I was a kid, I used to doodle pictures of palm trees on my notebooks. After I sold my first movie script, I was finally able to move out here. I was living in Denver at the time and was very happy to escape the snow and the endless boredom.
Legally Blonde? You must be really proud of that movie. Was the ‘bend and snap’ in the book or did you add that? How do you even begin to create a screenplay from a book? And how did you get the job to work on the screenplay? Is it really ‘who you know’ or is it what you have to offer?
The experience of making "Legally Blonde" was so wonderful. I was on set every day and made a lot of good friends. The "bend and snap" was something that Kirsten Smith (my writing partner on Legally Blonde) and I came up with. I believe we were at the bar at the L'Hermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills at the time. Then Robert Luketic, our director, decided to make it into a big dance number. We just envisioned it as a set-up to the moment where Paulette breaks the UPS Guy's nose, but it took on a life of it's own.
We got the job because the producer, Marc Platt, called us and said, "I have this manuscript that you girls would be perfect to adapt." While I was talking to him on the phone, another producer called in and literally said the same exact thing, so I guess people just felt it was our sensibility. I'm blonde, and I was in a sorority, so I guess it wasn't too far of a stretch. Kirsten and I read the manuscript (written by Amanda Brown) and we instantly thought it would be a great movie. So we came up with "a take" and went to MGM along with Marc Platt and pitched it to them and got the job.
Where did you get the idea for Ten Things I Hate About You? I read it was based on a Shakespeare play, is that true? And did you have certain actors and actresses in mind when you were writing the screenplay?
It's based on "Taming of the Shrew". So William Shakespeare provided the idea. I didn't have any actresses or actors in mind while writing it, because there really weren't any teen stars at that time. It was at the beginning of the teen movie wave.
Let's talk about The Bachelorette Party. It’s very, very funny and bawdy and I read it in two days. Is it hard to write the funny scenes?
It is hysterically funny. I actually think it's easier to write a funny scene than some deep dark dramatic scene. I guess I'm just a sarcastic, irreverent girl. I'm also a bit raunchy, as you'll be able to tell when you read the book. A movie deal is presently in the works, which makes me very happy because then I'll get to adapt the book into a screenplay and hang out with all of my characters again. I miss them.
Have you ever been to a bachelorette party as wild as Helen's? And I've seen penis shaped pasta, but not confetti. Did you make this up or have an actual experience with it?
Of course there is actual penis confetti. In fact, I have a bag of it in my car right now just in case I find an occasion to break it out. I discovered it when I brought some to my friend Selma's bachelorette weekend. We had so much of it in the room that it got stuck on our feet and legs and when we woke up in the morning, Selma had a perfect little purple penis tattoo on her leg from where a piece of the confetti was stuck to her. As we were checking out of the posh hotel we were in, we noticed that we had tracked penis confetti all over the lobby floor. It's a genius invention.
And yes, I've been to some wild bachelorette parties. I got married at 24 and for my bachelorette party we all went out for a night of bar hopping. At the end of the night, one of the girls with us slept in a ditch in front of the house. No one noticed that she didn't make it in the door.
Karen, tell me some juicy details...what's the craziest thing you have done that's fit for print?
I was probably far too inebriated to remember the craziest thing I've ever done.
Will you be involved in the screenplay of the movie?
Of course! I'm a screenwriter! That's my main job. I will be adapting the book into a screenplay.
Tell me the truth. Is there such a movie as Pee, Midget, Pee? I laughed out loud at your porn titles. Have you been shopping at the Hustler store? For "research" of course!
All of those titles are absolutely true. I often go to the Hustler store and look at porn titles just to make myself laugh. Some of them are really creative. I wish I'd bought the Clownfuckers series when I saw it. Now it's hard to find. I can't believe there was never a porn title take-off of "Legally Blonde". That disappointed me. I mean, c'mon, "Dawson's Creek" got one.
Is trying to sell a screenplay very different than trying to get a book published? I would think both avenues include a lot of rejection which is hard on even the toughest person. Do you “do lunch” at the Polo Lounge while you talk about a screenplay and pitch your ideas?
It's actually not that different. You have an agent send out both your book manuscript and your screenplay, and you just sit and wait by the phone. Sometimes the wait can seem endless, so I like to leave town while everyone is reading it. I was actually in Oahu at a surf camp when I got the news that four publishers were bidding on "The Bachelorette Party". There is a lot of rejection in the business of writing, so it's nice to get phone calls like that. I remember it vividly. I was swinging in a hammock.
Yes, I lunch at the Polo Lounge (they have a great chopped salad) and many other restaurants around town. Being a screenwriter involves many, many meetings. Sometimes you feel like a professional "meeter" instead of a writer. I never pitch at lunch though. I only pitch in the offices of studio execs who can buy.
You live in Los Angeles. I want to know the oddest thing you have ever seen? I saw a poodle wearing Burberry cape and tiny black boots. And then I saw a man with a bouffant and red lipstick wearing saddle shoes with cuffed pants. I’m not even going to mention the Mohawks and piercings I’ve seen on Melrose but I like those.
I saw a man taking a crap in the parking lot of the Bank of America on Sunset Blvd. That was pretty damn crazy.
How do you top what you have already achieved? Two major films and a novel that is garnering great reviews. Where do you go from there? And how do you stay grounded?
Hopefully, I'll keep writing novels that people want to read and scripts that turn into movies people want to see. I feel like you're implying that I've peaked! I really hope not. I'm young! I have more stories in me, I swear! I stay grounded because I've never really been off the ground in that sense. Writers are not treated like actors. People don't ask for autographs, there are no paparazzi following me around. I can go braless to the grocery store and no one cares. (Karen, I hate to tell you but those photos are circulating around the internet as we speak!)
I read that you like to travel. I do too. Can you recommend some great vacation spots? Any reason to wear my oversized Jackie O. sunglasses and my white jewel encrusted turban!
Turtle Island in Fiji was pretty spectacular. And all of Italy -- Tuscany and Rome in particular. Just went to France and loved it. St. Tropez probably has some of the best people watching ever. I need to start setting stories in these places so I can spend more time there "researching".