Updated: Dec 6, 2020
William Goldman's development of his screenplay for the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a true labor of love. He first came across the story of Butch Cassidy in the late 1950's, researched intermittently for eight years, and only then started to write the screenplay. He chose to write it as a screenplay because he did not want to do the research to make it as authentic as a novel. Goldman later expanded on his motivation:
"The whole reason I wrote the ... thing, there is that famous line that Scott Fitzgerald wrote, who was one of my heroes, 'There are no second acts in American lives.' When I read about Cassidy and Longbaugh and the superposse coming after them—that's phenomenal material. They ran to South America and lived there for eight years and that was what thrilled me: they had a second act. They were more legendary in South America than they had been in the old West ... It's a great story. Those two guys and that pretty girl going down to South America and all that stuff. It just seems to me it's a wonderful piece of material."
The irony of course is that the characters' flight to South America caused one executive to reject the script, as it was then unusual in Western films for the protagonists to flee. Luckily, with a few changes, Goldman managed to preserve the unique second act and the rest is history...literally, it was history and that is why Goldman defended the second act so much. Stay tuned!