Several playwrights have tried their hand at film directing over the years, including Clifford Odets, David Hare, Sam Shepard and, perhaps most notably, David Mamet. The latest scribe to make the transition to filmmaking is Craig Lucas ("Prelude to a Kiss," "The Light in the Piazza").
The Tony Award-nominated playwright makes his directorial debut with the tragic drama "The Dying Gaul," which opens Friday.
Lucas also adapted the screenplay for "The Dying Gaul," based on his 1998 off-Broadway hit -- a psychological thriller set among the movers and shakers in Hollywood.
Peter Sarsgaard -- who stars in another movie opening Friday, "Jarhead" -- plays Robert, a fledging screenwriter living in a dreary apartment who is offered a cool million for his latest script, "The Dying Gaul," an autobiographical story of the death of his lover.
The only caveat: To make the film more commercially viable, he is asked to change his lover from a male to a female.
Campbell Scott plays Jeffrey, the ruthless studio executive who seduces Robert, literally and figuratively, and Patricia Clarkson is Jeffrey's wife, who learns through a chat room that her husband and Robert are having an affair.
"These are lost souls kind of wandering around in complete darkness, grabbing whatever they can," Lucas said.
Lucas had no intention of adapting "Dying Gaul" for the big screen, let alone trying his hand at directing. But Scott's company, Holedigger Studios, called him one day with the proposition.
"I thought they were out of their minds," Lucas said, laughing.
He said he was caught off guard by the offer because he was surprised that "anyone wanted to make something that uncompromising. It's not just hard on Hollywood, that's the least of it, but it's hard on America. It's hard on the viewer.... I was doubly surprised they wanted me to direct, since the only things I have directed are plays."
But he found directing to be "unbelievably joyful" because it called upon things in himself "I never had to employ, like taking care of dozens and dozens of people all day long who had questions that needed swift answers. Though I am not particularly good at taking care of myself, I found I was at home immediately taking care of other people."