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Buffalo News (20/Jan/1994) - Where there's 'Will,' there's a way



Where there's 'Will,' there's a way

When it comes to writing from personal experience, veteran screenwriter John Michael Hayes ("Rear Window," "Peyton Place") has gone the distance.

Like the main character Will Stoneman in Disney's new release "Iron Will" — about a treacherous, 522-mile cross-country dogsled race — Hayes, 74, says he faced huge odds in getting his story to the big screen. It was not only resurrecting a film career that had been in mothballs for 30 years, it was getting a project that he began in 1971 finally made.

The idea for "Iron Will" came from a 1917 newspaper article about a dogsled race. Bing Crosby Productions hired Hayes to write the script in 1972. It would take another 21 years to get it made.

Hayes was one of the highest-paid screenwriters of his day, penning such other Alfred Hitchcock classics as "To Catch a Thief," "The Trouble With Harry" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much," plus "The Children's Hour," "Butterfield 8" and "The Carpetbaggers."

Hayes' film breakthrough came in 1952 from Universal Pictures with such films as "Red Ball Express," starring Sidney Poitier, and "Torch Song," starring Joan Crawford. A year later he got the call from Hitchcock — who had been a fan of his "Suspense" radio program.

"He was working on 'Dial M for Murder,' his last picture for Warner Bros. Paramount told him he could come over there and make pictures if he could get a screenplay out of a little story called 'Rear Window,' " says Hayes.