David Hare: ‘For every hour you write a screenplay, you spend 10 defending it’

The playwright and screenwriter on dilettante script editors, Bafta club bores and the simple truth about who should, and shouldn’t, be allowed to ‘improve’ your scripts

Every morning, Monday to Friday, I get up at 7am and make my wife breakfast in bed. She always wants something salty. I enjoy doing it because the rest of my day may be self-interested. I then walk for 15 minutes to a studio once owned by the artist Mark Gertler. Here, in 1916, he painted his antiwar masterpiece The Merry Go Round.

The day depends on whether I’m writing for stage or screen. If stage, I’ll putter through a couple of newspapers online, then start writing dialogue, ideas or maybe structural charts in a sketchbook that I get from an artists’ supply shop. When I’m ready I’ll transfer what I have to the computer and rewrite. My handwriting is so bad that sometimes I can’t work out what I’ve scrawled. If I end up with just a few lines of dialogue, it no longer panics me. All time spent considering your play is well spent, regardless of outcome. One day you write nothing, the next you write eight pages. It’s not in your hands. At lunchtime, I’ll go down to the local deli to get a pork pie or a bagel. If the writing is going well, I’ll continue into the afternoon. If not, I’ll go to the cinema or answer emails.

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