Stephen Gaghan laid down—face up—on the stage of Ketchum's NexStage Theatre Friday morning. As part of the Sun Valley Film Festival's coffee talk, Gaghan recalled his days as a writer for NYPD Blue—the iconic 1990s ABC television drama. Gaghan worked for the show's creator and head writer, David Milch.
"And David would lie on the floor of his office and I would hand my script down to him. Now, remember I had worked on that script for months," remembered Gaghan. "'Milch would say, 'Jesus Christ, this is shit. Gimme a pencil.' You know, if he hadn't been able to write an entire script in about two hours, it would have have been a dick move to say that. But he he could."
It wasn't long after that Gaghan was sharing a n Emmy Award with Milch for scripting NYPD Blue.
"But I never watched television. I'm a book person. I love the movies," Gaghan told a theater full of budding screenwriters and film fans. It wasn't long before Gaghan was collaborating with some of the best filmmakers in the business: William Friedkin, Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney and Matt Damon.
Indeed Gaghan went on to pen Rules of Engagement, Syriana and Traffic, the latter which won him the Academy Award for best screenplay in 2000.
Up next for Gaghan: three TV pilots and two feature films. And his just-completed movie, After Earth, starring Will Smith, is expected to be one of this summer's big blockbusters.
"I feel like I've ben writing for something like 30 centuries," said Gaghan, 47, who admitted that his mother still sent him notes on some of his screenplays.