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January 12, 1996 - Image 110

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-01-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Screenwriter
Ron Bass
Is Waiting
To Exhale

MICHAEL ELKIN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

Bass has built
a career of
breathing life
uLl' into women's
roles.

FT=

18

• on Bass certainly has a way with
women.
The happily wed screenwriter
speaks for women when he takes
to the typewriter — or at least he
has in some of his biggest hits:
Sleeping With the Enemy, Dan-
gerous Minds, When a Man
Loves a Woman, The Joy Luck
Club and, now, Waiting to Ex-
hale.
Breathing life into women's
roles is not hard for the sensitive
screenwriter, who collaborated with
Amy Tan and Terry McMillan on
adaptations of their best-selling
books for the last two films.
Isn't it a bit unusual that a Jew-
ish man could provide such insight
into the Asian-American and
African-American female psyches,
as Ron Bass did in these authors'
projects?
"When we worked together, Amy
and I would say that we are so
much alike," says Bass. "My fami-
ly, my sisters, they were every-
where" in that script.
In Waiting to Exhale,, four
African-American women air their
grievances over men, marriage,
men, money and men.
"For Jewish people," says Bass,
"one would think that the black ex-

Michael Elkin is entertainment
editor of the Jewish Exponent in
Philadelphia.

perience is the fur-
thest away from
them."
Think again, says
the award-winning
screenwriter.
"In Bernadine's
case," Bass says of the
character played by
Angela Bassett, "she
has given up so much
in her life to support
her successful hus-
band," who then
_ leaves her for a
younger woman.
"If you don't think a lot of Jew-
ish women don't identify with that.
What she goes through is what a
lot of women — Jewish women in-
cluded — go through."
Then there's sexy Savannah
(Whitney Houston), sophisticated
yet so susceptible to bad relation-
ships.
"I have three Jewish women
friends, unmarried, who never met
the right guy, who can relate to
her," says Bass.
Color is only skin deep. Delve a
little deeper and discover soul sis-
ters of all races and religions,
says Bass.
"The basic difference between
men and women — and we're
talking generalities here — is
that women are process-orient-
ed.
Men, on the other hand, ad-
mire the finish line, not what got
them there.
Even Jewish men?
"Well," says Bass, "Jewish
men can be very sensitive, com-
passionate, probably more than
the average man. Still," he adds,
with a knowing smile, "they're
result-oriented."
With all their bravura and
male-bashing, the black women
of Waiting to Exhale suck up any
attention they get from men.
Ron Bass can relate in a way.

"I know that feeling of insecuri-
ty. I know the fears," he says.
"I'm a very insecure person."
Certainly, he's in a business
where sure things rarely are. Take
his experience with When a Man
Loves a Woman, a searing, intimate
portrait of a married couple in
which the wife is wedded to booze
and broken dreams.
Ron Bass co-wrote the script with
Al Franken. He was shocked that
Meg Ryan wasn't recognized with
an Oscar nomination for her role.
But then, life has a way of writ-
ing-its own script.
What's the story on Bass? He fell
in love with the power of the writ-
ten word when he was bedridden
as a child.
"I was in bed from age 3 to 11, for
the first four years all the time,"
Ron Bass recalls of the mysterious

-

Left: Ron Bass collaborated with Terry
McMillan to bring his best-selling book,
Waiting to Exhale, to the screen.

Below: (Left to right) Loretta Devine,
Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and
Lela Rochon star in the movie.

and undiagnosed illness that
wracked him with high fevers and
dizziness.
He taught himself to read at age
3 and began writing short stories
by age 6. He continued to write,
even while becoming an attorney,
after graduation from Harvard Law
School. Eventually, Hollywood
reeled Bass in. He couldn't help
falling for its hooks, lines and lunch-
es.
Early recognition came when
Hollywood showered praise and an
Oscar in 1988 for his co-writing of
Rain Man. Next up for the writer:
My Best Friend's Wedding, starring
Julia Roberts.
Has Bass' ability to write dia-
logue given him insight into what
it takes to succeed at marriage?
"Am I a better husband? rm the
same guy I've always been," says
Bass, who was wed once before his
current happy 20-year marriage.
"But I'll tell you, the thing that
you really appreciate is when the
other person listens, hears what
you're saying and really pays at-
tention." ❑

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