3.1.2 The origin of the film
Before Amadeus, most of Peter Shaffer's plays had already been turned into films. Unfortunately, they were neither successful nor was the author satisfied with the results. The reason for these failures may lie in the difficulties resulting from Peter Shaffer's previously described staging technique. He was therefore very sceptical when Milos Forman approached him during the first public preview of Amadeus in November 1979 and proposed to make a film of it. At first, Shaffer refused to work with Forman. Nonetheless, the director convinced him that they would co-operate very closely and that the film would be true to Shaffer's intentions. As Shaffer himself puts it: "[...] but for the enthusiasm of Mr Milos Forman I doubt if there would be a film of Amadeus at all." (Shaffer 1993, 108)
It took Shaffer two years to accept Forman's offer. (cf. Plunka, 26 and Kamm, 1) On 1 February 1982, Shaffer and Forman began to work on the screenplay. For four months, they worked shut away from the world in Milos Forman's Connecticut farmhouse and eventually produced a workable script:
Isolated from the rest of the world [...] the collaborators suffered from writer's block together, listened to Mozart records together, and improvised scenes from the play together. [...] They argued about scenes and words, and the order of scenes and words. They argued about who would say what in the film. [...] In the end, nothing went into the movie that both did not agree upon. (Kakutani, 1)
In the course of their collaboration, Milos Forman convinced Peter Shaffer that "the film of a play is really a new work" and that "[t]he adapter's task [is] to explore many new paths in order to emerge in the end at the same emotional place" (Shaffer 1993, 109). However, the two authors revised the script not only for a new medium, but also for a larger and less sophisticated audience. Despite his inclination towards theatrical language, Shaffer realises that motion pictures require "less elaborate, less deliberately rhetorical" language and he did his best to "make the language accessible to a large audience without condescending to them" (Shaffer, quoted from Kakutani). This made "a fair amount of demolition work" (Shaffer 1993, 109) necessary, and although it was at times painful to the author, it served to create a masterpiece in its own right.