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October 25, 1998|Steve Hochman

As the screenwriter of "The Fisher King" and adaptations of "The Horse Whisperer" and "Beloved," Richard LaGravenese has given great material to such directing talents as Terry Gilliam, Robert Redford and Jonathan Demme. But with "Living Out Loud," starring Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito, New York-based LaGravenese, 39, saved the script for his own directorial debut.

TO THINE OWN SELF: "I'm not really aware of what the marketplace is looking for because I don't live in L.A. I just do things I'm attracted to, and as far as original screenplays, they come from a more personal source than from trying to figure out what the trend is."

PAPERBACK READER: "Was on the street coming out of the gym and there was a guy selling first-edition paperbacks from the '40s, those great color covers of women screaming with low neck cleavage. I bought 10 and am now reading "What Makes Sammy Run" by Budd Schulberg, which Ben Stiller's working on for a movie. It's a great read."

DEARLY 'BELOVED': "For 'Beloved,' the book was so amazing that it's one of the first adaptations where all I wanted to do was translate Toni Morrison's art to the screen--not reinventing or adding or interpreting in any way."

BRIEFLY: "Short stories are great sources. With 'Living Out Loud,' I found great inspiration in two Chekhov stories, wonderful springboards for inspiration. Someone wrote that he perfected the art of the glimpse--he glimpsed into people's lives and never tied it up, so you can let your imagination go."

MUTUAL APPRECIATION: "I'm a real fan of Neil LaBute. I loved his 'Your Friends and Neighbors,' and Todd Solondz is doing interesting work. . . . And Paul Thomas Anderson, who's a buddy of mine, there's a real complexity to his work. He's writing his next screenplay now."

HEAD START: "I wrote 'The Fisher King' during the writer's strike of '88 and no one in the marketplace was able to buy anything. After the strike, it got sold in two weeks. An exec at Disney said, 'We thought during the strike that writers would write what they like, but all we got after was cop movies.' Maybe that's why mine rose to the top of the pile."

NEXT UP: "I'm adapting Jack Finney's 'Time and Again' for Robert Redford. There's a whole cult of people who love that book. Once you get into it, you start to see the contradictions [in the tale about moving through time], but it's a great story."

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