Spoilers for The Ides of March to follow.
Your background is in politics. Were the people you'd worked with concerned when they heard you were writing a play on this subject?
A lot of them didn't even know I was a playwright, and I didn't work on any campaigns thinking, "Oh, I'm going to use this for some kind of material." I worked on the campaigns because I believed in the candidates, and I wanted to see them get elected. And I was so obscure and unknown as a writer. I don't think anyone was shaking in their boots if they heard I was writing a play about it.
Let's talk about adapting the play for the screen. How did your co-writers, George Clooney and Grant Heslov, first come to the project?
When I first wrote the play in 2004, I sent it to about 40 theaters across the country on my own. I didn't have an agent at the time. Months and months and months went by. A lot of them didn't even respond at all, and those who did said "thanks but no thanks." So I figured "all right, this isn't the one," and put the play back on the shelf.
Why did you take it off the shelf again?
I teamed up with my current agent, and he read my work and wanted to send it out. I said, "Good luck. Maybe you'll have better luck than I did." And he did. I think part of it was the fact that an agent was sending it out, and part of it was it was getting close to two years out until the 2008 presidential election. Politics was in the air, it was a very important election for obvious reasons, we were at war. And I'd like to think a little bit of it had to do with the play connecting with readers, and people actually liked it.
So at that time you weren't trying to make it as a film?
I first teamed up with Jeff Richards, who produced Spring Awakening and Homecoming. He came out to lunch with me and said, "I want to put your play on Broadway." So boldened by that, we sent out the play to L.A. I don't know exactly how—I still haven't been able to figure it out—but somehow it made it into the hands of the folks at Warner Brothers. I got that fairytale phone call from my agent one day: "Look, Warner Brothers wants to option your play into a movie, and by the way, George Clooney and Leo DiCaprio's companies want to produce. How does that sound?" I probably didn't respond with actual words—I think it was more like sounds.
Were you brought on to the adaption right away? Was it always the idea you'd adapt your own play?
Yes. That was part of the deal from the beginning. We said that right away. My agent said, "Beau would like to adapt it," and they said, "Great, we want him to." That's also another rare thing. I wrote the first few drafts of the screenplay, and then George decided he wanted to direct the movie. And when he directs movies, he always likes to have a hand in the script. So I turned my screenplay over to George and his writing partner, Grant, and they did a few drafts.