From Book to Board Game to Box Office: An Interview With ‘The Game’ Writer Neil Strauss

Neil Strauss

I think that’s again like an example of not meddling with stuff… like, do I like the illustration? Not my favorite illustration. Did I say that to Adam? No, because he has his vision so I’m not going to meddle with what I look like or how I am there because I’ll trust him to something that I thought was objectively… if it’s just an ego thing I’ll let him have the illustration of me and he can do what he wants with it – I’m not gonna mess with that.

What I did work on was the point system and the scoring and I made up a bunch of new categories with cards that I thought would be fun to have, like the secret cards and the neg cards and that I really enjoyed – like every card I rewrote like we really wanted to make sure they worked from a game play and “[The] Game” level.

The purpose of the game is that when you bring people back to your house and there’s always that awkwardness and how do you entertain them… The game was kind of designed so that everyone can start laughing and having fun and everyone can get to know each other. To break that tension between people uncomfortable at your house and the people comfortable and laughing with close friends with potential…

It’s almost like a pick up tool, the game itself…

…Yeah it’s a pickup tool and I think it’s also like a rapport tool because if it was designed to make people have sex that would just be creepy – someone pulling that out it would be like pulling out a condom, so it’s designed to make people have rapport and connection and that could definitely lead to sex or friendship or even deepen an existing relationship. We’ve tested it out so many times with couples and single people and it’s really fun, and even fun with guys because some things get slightly awkward for them.

The book is a little like that too.

Barnes and Noble keeps the book behind the counter because they say it’s the most stolen book there next to the Bible so I think that either shows… I’m not sure what it shows – I think it is cause it’s embarrassing to buy.

“The Game” is about that male insecurity and shame, and that it’s embarrassing to buy… it speaks to what the books about. I never thought of that before – I just realized now… why does one have to be embarrassed that they’re learning how to be better at meeting women, which could lead to marriage and children? I mean, that should be an admirable thing but they’re embarrassed about it… it’s interesting.

So I read in the book that Courtney Love was interested in playing Katya, right?

Yeah – I’m still in touch with Courtney but I don’t think anyone’s approached her. I think she’s a great actress and I think that she should do some acting.

If you could cast anyone for The Game for the more minor characters, people like Tyler and Sickboy, who would it be?

We always thought Tyler for Seth Green. At one point someone online did their own casting of it… and it was really, really good.

Have you talked to anyone from the book about the movie?

I’ve talked to Mystery – I even talked to Tyler Durden.

Mystery sent me an email… …when he heard James Franco was playing him, with a whole plan to show up at the movie with a limo full of models and, you know, just being Mystery.

How did “Emergency” get picked up by Robert Downey, Jr’s company?

Mike De Luca was originally involved in The Game, and it moved around a couple times and he wasn’t… so he just said “I want to be involved with whatever you’re doing next.”

I sent him “Emergency,” he liked it and then I think they sent up with Robert Downey, Jr. Obviously I think the topic connected with his interests. And then that just came- especially for Hollywood, that just came together really easily and naturally.

Have you thought about screenwriting?

I’ve done a little bit, like I’ve sold a show to FX, I’ve sold a show to HBO.

What about doing a full-length film?

You know I feel like… I feel like I’d rather write books that are turned into movies. Cause the thing about the movie is – you can put your heart and soul into it but the chances of it even ever seeing the light of day as a movie are low, and chances of seeing it see the light of day as a movie as you envisioned it are next to nothing.

So I feel like if I’m going to put my heart into a creative project it’s definitely going to be a book, and then someone else can suffer the heartache of dealing with the production process in Hollywood.

It is a very strenuous process isn’t it?

Yeah I think there is a game to getting a movie made. It’s a political game as much as it is a creative game.

And it makes sense because if you’re investing $25m – $100m into something you’re gonna make sure you’re not going to lose that investment. So a lot of people worried about losing their money are looking at this creative thing, whereas with a book it doesn’t cost much to print – you can throw it at the wall and see what sticks.

You can’t really do that when you’ve got $25m – $100minvested in something. Because it’s something of that magnitude it’s bound to [undergo] such a strenuous vetting process that it’s not going to come out as intended. And I don’t know if it gets any better, like every screenwriter says that their first draft is always the best because that was the one that really was their vision. Sometimes you really do get good notes – it’s true that there are good producers and good studio executives and very good notes but there’s always bad notes as well when you’re going up each level to get it made.

With Project Hollywood in the book, people start mimicking not only your techniques but your personality and you basically watch this thing grow and grow – and you just completely loose the control you had. I was wondering if there’s a degree of that in watching your book turn into a movie?

Yeah I think that… I told them that what matters is that you capture the themes of the book more than the exact events that happened. What’s important to me is that this isn’t like a romantic comedy but it’s a real movie that explores male insecurity because that’s what “The Game” is about.

I think a lot of people feel like it’s a how-to book… …but in a lot of ways it’s about male insecurity and fears with [being] around women and trying to be honest about the male mind. And that’s what I think, I mean – for me that’s what made the book, helped people connect with the book. It may be the transformation part of it too, but also I think because… just being honest without fear of reprisal about how most guys think.

It was surprising to see it in the self-help section…

It’s funny, every one of my books is found in a different section of the bookstore, like “Emergency” is in current events and “The Game” is in self-help and “The Dirt” is in music and “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead”… you can never really know where that is. I think that most authors just go to a section and look up their name and see their books and mine’s are scattered all over the place.

Well you’re covering all grounds then, that’s kind of cool.

Yeah – I guess my next book needs to be a cookbook.

You can find out everything you need to know about Mr. Strauss at his web site, where he’ll no doubt be announcing the debut of his new cookbook that I just made up, The Flame. If you are looking to buy Who’s Got Game, look no further.

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David is a video editor, writer, and movie fanatic. After graduating from Full Sail University he now spends his days in Western Massachusetts working as a freelance article and sketch writer, as well as a comedy workshop moderator for Cracked.com. (Click Here to View David's work on Cracked.com) He enjoys over-analyzing movies, punk rock, and referring to himself in the third person.

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