Watch behind-the-scenes documentary “I Drink, I Gamble and I Write: The Making of Barfly”

Charles Bukowski only ever wrote one screenplay in his life. It is not surprising, considering he was not a fan of the movies.

So how did he come to write Barfly, the 1987 film starring Mickey Rourke as Bukowski’s alterego Henry Chinaski? Money.

He tells the story of how director Barbet Schroeder got him to do it around the two minute mark:

He said, “My name is so-and-so, I want you to write a screenplay.” I was a little drunk, I said, “Go to hell,” and I slammed the phone down. So, it rang again. So I picked it up, he said, “Now don’t hang up now! I’m very serious about this. I want you to write a screenplay!”


I said, “Hey, fuck you, man,” I started to hang it up, and I heard him say, “$20,000!” I said, “When can you come over?”

Bukowski is also seen praising Rourke’s performance as Chinaski, saying he added his own element to it. He even goes so far as to call it “magic.”

He would later go on to slightly criticize Rourke’s tendency to overact the part, in Bukowski’s estimation. This reportedly upset Rourke, which is perhaps why he later called Bukowski “okay for a drunk.” He had even stronger words to say against Schroeder, calling him a “self-centered prick” and an “asshole” in that same interview.

Bukowski predicts that he will write a novel about the experience, saying he will at least get a book out of it.

He went on to make good on that promise, writing the novel Hollywood, which would be his second to last, followed by Pulp.



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