Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have been working together for years as a writing team, starting when they were roommates back in the ’80s. They’re known for writing films featuring eclectic characters, including “Ed Wood,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Man on the Moon,” “Big Eyes” and their latest, “Dolemite Is My Name.”
“We like telling stories of completely passionate people with what’s kind of a bad idea,” Alexander told Times film writer Mark Olsen in this week’s episode of “The Reel” podcast. “And so they’re pushing a very big rock up a very steep hill and everyone in society is saying, ‘Just stop it. Just give up, just turn around and go the direction the rest of us are going.’ But our person says, ‘No, no, no. This is just something that’s important to me. And I’m going to keep pushing this rock.’ And we like telling that story.”
That passionate theme is explicitly clear in “Dolemite Is My Name,” the duo’s latest project, now streaming on Netflix. It stars Eddie Murphy as performer and underground sensation Rudy Ray Moore. But the development process for the movie actually started more than 15 years ago, when the writers were told that Murphy wanted to meet to talk about Moore.
“We saw that there was the character of Dolemite and then there was the man. And they were very different people. And this really stayed with us, and this ended up being what the movie was about,” Alexander said.
But it would be years until Netflix’s “Dolemite Is My Name” would surface.
“Eddie at the time was firmly entrenched in family films. And this was a hard-R rating,” said Alexander. “So the project just went away, and a few years later Rudy passed away.”
It wasn’t until the two wrote the popular FX series “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” in 2016 that they began to feel momentum again.
“We sort of thought, well, maybe we can put the band back together with Rudy. Maybe this is a moment where we can strike and sell it,” Alexander said. Karaszewski continued: “But we didn’t know if Eddie was still interested … and on top of that it had now been 20 years since he said the F-word in a movie.”
Ultimately, the duo sold their script to Netflix and the movie was revived.
“It was the whole Eddie package. We wanted to show off everything that’s great about Eddie and great about Rudy,” the writers said as they riffed off of each other’s enthusiasm. “We were writing a tribute to Rudy Ray Moore, but we were also writing a tribute to Eddie Murphy.”