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The Hollywood Ten - Up and Coming Screenwriters


Screenwriter’s Monthly (article ran in the January 2004 issue) would like to spotlight ten screenwriters who you are likely to hear much more from in the near future. Some of these rising stars have already seen their work produced while the rest have several active projects in development with major talent attached. In no particular order, here then are ten screenwriters to watch for:

David Benioff: His first screen credit was an adaptation of his own novel “The 25th Hour,” which was directed by Spike Lee. Hailed by many critics as one of the best films of 2002, The 25th Hour put Benioff on the map as a screenwriter, but it was the $1.8 million payday for his spec script Stay that labeled him as Hollywood’s new “It” screenwriter. That psychological thriller is now filming under the direction of Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) with a cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling.

Benioff also penned the screenplay for next summer’s historical epic Troy, which borrows liberally from Homer’s classics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” in its retelling of the Trojan War. The Warner Brothers project was directed by Wolfgang Petersen and features an all-star cast including Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O’Toole, Julie Christie, Brian Cox and Saffron Burrows.

Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris: This twenty-something writing team seemingly rose overnight from obscurity to become the credited screenwriters on one of this summer’s biggest hits, X2: X-Men United. The scribes have since been hired to script 20th Century Fox’s re-imagining of Charlie Chan, which will be produced by and star Lucy Liu.

Dan Harris has also struck out on his own as a director, recently making his feature film directing debut with the comedy/drama Imaginary Heroes. The picture stars Sigourney Weaver, Judd Hirsch, Kip Pardue and Jeff Daniels.

Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring: This prolific writing team has sold a number of spec scripts recently, including the pirate tale Black Flag to Warner Brothers for low seven figures. Tomb Raider director Simon West is attached to direct it. Their screenplay El Diablo was produced as A Man Apart, which starred Vin Diesel and was directed by F. Gary Gray. Warner Bros. later hired them to help bring the cartoon classic Speed Racer to the big-screen, and DreamWorks has snapped up their action tale Wish You Were Here for Josh Hartnett to star in. Their next produced film will be the MGM-based thriller Mexicali, in which Pierce Brosnan will star for first-time director Pietro Scalia.

Simon Kinberg: He graduated Phi Beta kappa and magna cum laude from Brown University and also attended Columbia University’s Film Program. Kinberg has scripted two high-profile genre scripts that are currently gearing up for production. The first is his long-in-development original script Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a spy yarn that has been reported as a cross between The War of the Roses and True Lies. That 20th Century Fox project has Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie attached to star as married assassins with The Bourne Identity’s Doug Liman onboard to direct it.

Kinberg’s second high-profile writing gig is xXx2, the sequel to the 2002 actioneer starring Vin Diesel. Ice Cube recently replaced Diesel as the star of that franchise, and Die Another Day’s Lee Tamahori will direct it. Filming begins next summer for a 2005 release. Kinberg has also scripted Airshow for Charlie’s Angels director McG and The Ghouls of New York for Redeemable Features.

John Logan: This Chicago playwright has found consistent employment in Hollywood the last three years as the writer of both highbrow historical fare and “popcorn” genre flicks. Logan broke through with his screenplay for RKO281, which dramatized Orson Welles’ making of Citizen Kane. He later rewrote work on the Best Picture winner Gladiator, which earned Logan an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The success of Gladiator has led to work on other period films, including The Last Samurai (starring Tom Cruise) and Steven Spielberg’s planned biopic of Abraham Lincoln.

But John Logan has also been credited with a number of flops in the science fiction and fantasy genres, including the remake of The Time Machine, Bats and the animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Logan, a self-proclaimed Trekkee, also scripted the box office disappointment Star Trek: Nemesis, reportedly the last installment in Paramount’s lucrative franchise to feature the Next Generation cast. Despite these commercial setbacks, Logan remains one of the hottest new A-list screenwriters in Tinseltown. His next produced credit is for Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

William Monahan: This novelist-turned-screenwriter (and former editor of Spy magazine) exploded onto the Hollywood scene in the last two years after Warner Bros. optioned his first book, “Light House,” for director Gore Verbinksi. His spec script Tripoli, a historical epic that was slated to reunite Gladiator director Ridley Scott with Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, sold to 20th Century Fox for mid-six figures in fall 2001. Filming on Tripoli has been delayed for a number of reasons, which has led Scott to place it on the back burner in favor of another Monahan-scripted historical epic.

Kingdom of Heaven is set during the 12th century Crusades and follows a young blacksmith who becomes a knight and falls in love with a princess. That project begins filming in early 2004. Meanwhile, Monahan has also been tapped to script the fact-based war drama Mazar i Sharif for Columbia Pictures as well as Jurassic Park IV. He’ll also pen the American remake of the Hong Kong hit Infernal Affairs for Brad Pitt and Warner Bros.

John Rogers: A stand-up comedian with a degree in physics, John Rogers began his screenwriting career on the television series Cosby and The Jackie Chan Adventures. He has since scripted a number of tongue-in-cheek films, including American Outlaws and The Core, although box office success has so far eluded him. His upcoming projects include screen adaptations of the comic books Catwoman, Mage and Queen and Country as well as Killing Floor, based on the novel by Lee Child.

Hans Rodionoff: He is fast becoming for red hot Marvel Studios what David Goyer was to them during the 1990s: their go-to-man for scripting the big-screen adaptations of their comic book properties. Rodionoff penned suspense flicks like The Skulls II and Clive Barker’s Saint Sinner before landing the writing chores on such upcoming Marvel projects as Man-Thing and Werewolf By Night.

Rodionoff’s non-Marvel comic book movie adaptations in development include Spawn 2 for producer Don Murphy and Grendel for Dark Horse Entertainment. He is also writing Tortured Souls for Universal, which is based on the action figure toy line created by Clive Barker and Todd McFarlane. - JV

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