The Bucket List stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward determined to complete everything on their "Bucket List" -- a list of things to do before they "kick the bucket." The film, directed by Rob Reiner, was just named one of the Ten Best of the Year by the National Board of Review. Cinematical spoke with the film's screenwriter, Justin Zackham.
Cinematical: You sit down to write The Bucket List, do you ever dream that you're going to get Rob Reiner to direct, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman to star...
JZ: Of course not! I'd have to be an idiot! Not even close. I wrote it with Morgan Freeman's voice in mind, somehow thinking maybe I'd find a way to get it to him. But no, nothing like this.
Cinematical: And how did you get it to these huge names? What were the steps that brought this movie to the screen?
JZ: I went to film school at NYU. I did a TV pilot that I wrote and executive produced in New York with Paul Sorvino years ago. And then I came out here (Los Angeles) and was dicking around for a while. I made Going Greek, which was a very sort of crappy fraternity comedy that I did back in 2000. I wrote, produced, and directed, and that took so much out of me that I spent another couple years dicking around. And then I just sat down one day and wrote my own "Bucket List" just to kind of get my head organized. On that list was like "Get a movie made by a major studio, marry the perfect woman," all that kind of stuff. A lot of the stuff on there wound up in the movie. I had always fantasized about going to the Pyramids, the Great Wall, I've always been sort of obsessed with the whole notion of Everest. All those things were on it, and I just stuck it on a bulletin board.
About a year later, I just came up with this quote one day, a line that's actually in the film -- "You measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you." Stuck that up on the bulletin board. And then another year went by before I had the idea "What about making this into a script?" And I thought if it were about me, at the time I was about 34, it wouldn't be that interesting. So I decided to make it about two guys who had lived a full life, and they only have a few months left, and suddenly there's a ticking clock, and the things that do have real importance, at least in their minds. The story really became about the one thing neither of these guys puts on their list but is the thing they most want. And that's a best friend. I have this ridiculous process, and I wrote the actual script really quickly, in about two weeks.