Getting 'Inside' The Film Industry
With his debut screenplay “Inside Man,” recently made into a film starring Denzel Washington, Tufts graduate Russell Gewirtz has made a splash on the Hollywood scene.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [05.05.06] The filmmaking business is notoriously difficult to break into, but for one Tufts graduate, instant success was just a matter of getting “inside.” The debut screenplay by Russell Gewirtz, “Inside Man,” has been made into a successful major motion picture, garnering acclaim from film critics and moviegoers alike.
“The script by first-timer and Tufts graduate Russell Gewirtz is taut, exciting, intelligent and fast-paced,” raved the Boston Herald, which called the film “a polyphonic, multiracial meditation on post-9/11 America.”
The film, directed by the renowned Spike Lee, focuses on a bank heist that turns into a hostage crisis, with two hostage negotiators representing different interests and a bank CEO with a dark secret.
"I came up with the idea 10 years ago," Gewirtz told the New York Daily News. "I would walk past an empty bank on 57th and First Ave. every day on the way to my car, and the story jelled in my head. I'm that guy in the audience who says, 'I have a movie idea!' Then I went ahead and did it."
The film, which USA Today called “exceptionally well written with clever twists and witty dialogue,” stars heavy-hitters such as Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe and Clive Owen.
"I had never done a genre film before, but this one was well written," Lee told the Washington Post. "And I knew it was so well written that it could attract a cast of the caliber we ended up with."
Lee, who has written and directed films such as “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” said the praise for the film should go to the Tufts graduate.
"I think we should give credit to [screenwriter] Russell Gewirtz," Lee told iF Magazine. "It’s his first script. It’s very well written.”
The critics agree. “Though its eye is always on the final showdown, his script is especially good at doling out confounding information on a need-to-know basis, providing a multitude of incidents to occupy our minds until all the pieces fall into place,” wrote the Los Angeles Times.
After graduating from Tufts in 1987 with a degree in computer science, he received a master’s degree in law and taxation from New York University. But Gewirtz says his screenwriting craft is self-taught.
"I never took a screenplay-writing class or went to a seminar," he told the Daily News. "I never bought a book on how to write films. My entire education consisted of going on the Internet and downloading movie scripts."
Gewirtz thought he could outdo a lot of the films he saw being produced.
"I would sit in the movies and know the words before they came out of people's mouths,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “You get a taste of what's good and what works. Eventually, I kind of thought I could write a better movie."
So far, the Tufts graduate is receiving rave reviews. “ Russell Gewirtz's smart script, amazingly the first he's written, outthinks the audience as well,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle. “Gewirtz takes the conventional format of a heist flick and does something completely unorthodox with it.”
Not only do the critics like “Inside Man,” but so do moviegoers. Through May 1, the film had earned nearly $85 million in the United States and $76 million abroad since mid-March. In its opening weekend alone, “Inside Man” grossed a hefty $29 million.
While Gewirtz has been pleased with the response and is optimistic for future projects, he’s trying to keep a level head.
"I've been thrilled, but I've tried to keep my feet on the ground," he told the Daily News. "I want to hear what the critics say, I want to see what the box office is, I want to see if anyone wants to do a sequel."