Ben Polkinghorne

Ben Polkinghorne

Jan 30, 2024

Jan 30, 2024

“Nobody knows anything”

“Nobody knows anything”

William Goldman, ‘the world’s greatest screenwriter’, was an Oscar-winning writer. 

He’s remembered for films like ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’, released in 1969.

And for coining the best line in the history of Hollywood.

(It wasn’t in one of his movies).

“Nobody knows anything.” 

It’s the opening line in his book ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’, where he shared his experiences.

He went on.

“Nobody, nobody - not now, not ever - knows the least goddamn thing about what is or isn't going to work at the box office.”

Goldman pointed out every studio but one passed on ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, which became one of the most successful films in history.

There are countless examples. 

Four to six weeks before Barbie opened, the collective wisdom in the industry was that the film had a shot at opening to $50 million domestically. A week before the number rose to $75 million. The final number was $162 million. 

The release coinciding with Oppenheimer wasn’t a factor: that was known months in advance.

Speaking of Nolan. 

His breakout film, Memento, was screened for various studio heads back in 2000. Although most loved the film and praised his talent, all passed on distributing the picture

They believed it was too confusing and would not attract a large audience.

Eventually, in a financially risky move, it was decided to self-distribute.

In the first few weeks, Memento earned more than $25 million domestically.

The film’s success was surprising to those who passed, they subsequently tried and failed to buy the film.

Goldman passed in 2018, aged 87.

Variety says his words serve as a reminder to every writer in Hollywood to stand by their ideas.

Because every time they compromise their vision because someone pretends to know better, they’re sacrificing the chance to prove them wrong.

With one line, Goldman taught Hollywood everything it needed to know. 

“Nobody knows anything.”