The story of how an ex-Vietnam Marine combat correspondent scored a screen-writing credit on a major motion picture his first time out has secured Gustav Hasford a place in the informal Hollywood Minor Film Controversies Hall of Fame.
"Credits in the motion picture industry, as you know, are very delicate," says Stanley Kubrick's long-time U.S. spokesman Louis Blau, picking his words as carefully as a dancer in a mine field. "I would say that in the normal course of events, the credits of 'Full Metal Jacket' evolved."
In 1985, as Kubrick was writing the screenplay, he formally asked Michael Herr, author of "Dispatches," to come on the script. Herr, a genuine authority on the war, happened to live within meeting distance of the reclusive director's home in England. But it was Hasford's war novel "The Short-Timers," not "Dispatches," that Kubrick was adapting, and he continued to talk over the screenplay with Hasford in a series of marathon telephone conversations. "You have to realize that Kubrick picks his source material very carefully," Blau explains. "So when he chose Hasford's book, he had a great deal of faith in Hasford already."
There was still no agreement at this point that Hasford would get a screen-writing credit. "While Stanley is working on the shooting of a picture, he's really not thinking about the final credits," Blau says. But Kubrick had two writers working with him. Would there be three credits? Eventually, a decision had to be made. While Hasford maintains that it was Kubrick and Herr who objected to his inclusion, even Herr concedes that the objections mostly came from him. Confirms one source close to the movie, "Michael Herr probably thought he might have contributed more to the screenplay than Gustav Hasford, in which event he might have thought he would only be sharing credit with Stanley."
Herr, reached by telephone at his home, says, "I might have made a few noises. I suppose I felt that I'd been involved in this for such a long time. But I didn't make a terrible issue of this. It wasn't a very complicated matter to get me to agree to giving Gus co-credit. He must know what I think of his work. And if he doesn't I'd like him to. I always thought he should be consulted on this."
Consulted, yes. Credited, no. But no hard feelings. "Because I'm not in touch with Gus doesn't mean anything," Herr says. "It's not that big a deal to me. Certainly, it would have to be something a lot heavier than that to hurt a friendship."