The Story of Barfly, the Only Movie Charles Bukowski Ever Wrote

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Charles Bukowski didn’t like the movies, and yet he wrote one, entitled Barfly, which you can watch here.

“I believe that most people see too many movies,” Bukowski wrote in The Captain is Out to Lunch. “And certainly the critics. When they say that a movie is great, they mean it’s great in relation to other movies they have seen. They’ve lost their overview. They are clubbed by more and more new movies. They just don’t know, they are lost in it all. They have forgotten what really stinks, which is almost everything they view.”

Related: Charles Bukowski Alcohol and Drinking Quotes

Related: Bukowski Uncensored Animated Video (The Gift of a Crappy Life)

So why would someone so opposed to movies write one? Was it to see if he could do better? Perhaps in part, but it turns out it was mostly for the money.

Charles Bukowski Barfly Movie Backstory

Bukowski wrote Barfly after director Barbet Schroeder tracked him down, called him up, and asked him to write a movie for him.

Bukowski initially hung up on Schroeder, who called back and quickly stated, before he could be hung up on a second time, “$20,000 dollars!” – the amount he was willing to pay for a Bukowski penned screenplay.

So he got to work on the movie, which starred the autobiographical character Henry Chinaski, whom he’d used as the protagonist in all of his novels up to that point. (He would continue to do so with the exception of his final novel, Pulp.)

The experience of trying to get the film made, as well as the process of watching it come together, is outlined in Bukowski’s novel Hollywood. The writer himself makes a cameo in a bar scene. See if you can spot him.

He maintained his distaste for Hollywood, even if he did temporarily join their ranks. As he says in the excellent documentary about his life, Bukowski: Born Into This:

“I found out that Hollywood is more crooked, dumber, crueler, stupider than all the books I’ve read about it. They didn’t go deeply enough into how it lacks art, and soul, and heart— how it’s really a piece of crap. There are too many hands directing, there are too many fingers in the pot, and they’re all kind of ignorant about what they’re doing. They’re greedy, and they’re vicious.”

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Charles Bukowski Art Prints

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Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor

Editor at Quotes Yes
Jeff Taylor is the editor of Quotes Yes. His work has also appeared in publications such as The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and Inside Lacrosse.
Jeff Taylor

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About Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor is the editor of Quotes Yes. His work has also appeared in publications such as The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and Inside Lacrosse.
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3 Comments

  1. This movie is brilliant. A hell of a lot better than Factotum, also.

  2. “What are you doing with a woman, Henry?”
    “Lily, sometimes I think you could use one too.”

  3. Pingback: Watch Born Into This, Charles Bukowski Documentary | Quotes Yes

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