Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ronald Bass began to read and write before the age of six while bedridden by illness. He completed a novel by age 17. Later reworked, it was published as The Perfect Third.
Bass studied political science at Stanford University, then went to Yale Law School on a Woodrow Wilson fellowship.
During his 17 years as an entertainment attorney, Bass would frequently rise at 3AM to write. He completed two novels - Lime's Crisis and The Emerald Illusion, which became the 1985 film Code Name: Emerald. Around this time, Bass devoted himself fulltime to writing.
Variety editor Peter Bart remembers encountering Bass the showbusiness attorney in the 1970s. "...[A] short shaggy, unprepossessing man who spoke in a numb monotome as he efficiently but unimaginatively dealt with the nuts-and-bolts issues of his clients' careers. ...[H]e was a boring man who, I felt, was extravagantly overpaid for doing boring work."
Bass is probably the most successful writer in Hollywood history. He turns out about eight screenplays a year and gets producer or executive-producer credit and fees on many of them. He makes at least $10 million a year from his deal with Sony Pictures.
Some of Bass's contract specify that he cannot be rewritten without his consent.
While most screenwriters specialize in a particular genre, Bass has written all types of films. "I want always to be exploring new subjects and new settings," he says. "That's one reason I worked so hard to get to be doing what I am doing." (GQ 11/98)
Bass employs a staff of about ten people but insists that he writes every word of his scripts. Aides accompany him to story meetings.
Ron works on several projects at a time, another difference from his peers. "On a typical day, I may work six hours on my present script, then spend eight more hours outlining and blocking scenes for my next one. By the time I finish one project, I have a jump start into my next.
"I still get up at 4AM to ensure I have a full day. That may include writing after dinner. With the help of my creative team, I can write eight screenplays a year without fear of burnout." (GQ 11/98)
Preferably outside in good weather, Ron writes his scripts in longhand in pencil on a pad of paper.
Though Bass will criticize studio practices, you can never get this ex-lawyer to criticize any specific individual in the industry. In the 11/98 GQ, he calls Sony the best run studio since Irving Thalberg's MGM.
Bass's detractors say his scripts are sentimental. "Every character is a little too nice, and everything has to be tied up in a sweet little bundle," one director of a Bass script told Peter Bart.
Bass says about adapting the novel Snow Falling on Cedars: "The novel had a wonderful interconnectedness - love, war, politics, race, history. It said who we really are to each other gets lost in abstractions like race."