“‘I loved ‘Gravity,’ but the screenplay sucked” went the relatively common refrain. We’d wager that the people who said that were often the same who expressed confusion when silent film “The Artist” was nominated for an Oscar nomination for its original screenplay. You can find fault with the writing in “Gravity” and “The Artist,” but if you enjoyed both, that’s in large part down to the writing, and the popular conception that writers are responsible only for the dialogue is just one of the reasons that screenwriting remains one of the most misunderstood and curiously unsung aspects of filmmaking.
Too often, writers are ridden roughshod over during production, overlooked by the press and forgotten when the reviews and awards come pouring in (if they do). And yet thousands still set out to make their living as writers, because the rewards for the lucky few who do make it to the top of the tree are enormous, and every year brings an exciting new batch of talent whose writing skills make them as crucial as any part of a movie-making team.
As part of our ongoing series of On The Rise pieces (read about our picks for 2014’s outstanding actors, composers, and cinematographers), we’ve selected a dozen of the writers who’ve made an impression on us recently and who we expect to hear more from in the coming months and years. Our previous picks have included “Guardians Of The Galaxy” co-writer Nicole Perlman, “Sandman” scribe Jack Thorne, “50 Shades Of Grey” writer Kelly Marcel, and “Iron Man 3” and “Mission Impossible 5” pen Drew Pearce. Who’s joining them in the class of ’14? Find out below.
After a couple of decades as an in-demand playwright, Lucinda Coxon is about to have a very big 2015, with two big projects on the way, one a big Hollywood genre prospect, the other a potential Oscar juggernaut. The 52-year-old Londoner started off her career on the London fringe theater scene, graduating from the Finborough Theatre to the Bush, before picking up commissions for the National Theater’s Connections series for young people. Her first entry into the screen world was inauspicious: she penned the script for a low-budget romance called “Lily And The Secret Planting” back in 2001, which had Winona Ryder and Gael Garcia Bernal attached, but Ryder dropped out two weeks into filming due to illness, and the film was never completed. Her luck improved two years later, with period melodrama “The Heart Of Me,” starring Helena Bonham-Carter, Paul Bettany and Olivia Williams, a raw, underrated picture that never quite found an audience. More stage work followed: she reteamed with Williams at the National Theatre for the acclaimed “Happy Now?,” which crossed the pond to New York, and more recently there was the very solid “Herding Cats,” starring Olivia Hallinan. But she’s really found a groove on screen in the last few years, penning the charming hitman comedy “Wild Target,” with Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt in 2010, and the next year was responsible for the excellent miniseries adaptation of Michel Faber’s “The Crimson Petal And The White,” starring Chris O’Dowd and Romola Garai. The latter, nominated for BAFTAs and a Critics Choice Award, opened doors as Guillermo Del Toro picked Coxon to collaborate with him on his upcoming Gothic horror romance, “Crimson Peak,” starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowsa and Jessica Chastain, which hits next October. Soon after, another Coxon screenplay will be hitting screens: her adaptation of David Ebershoff‘s novel “The Danish Girl,” about transgender artist Lili Elbe. Directors including Tomas Alfredson and Lasse Hallstrom have flirted with the project, but the film goes into production shortly with “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper, and Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in leading roles. Beyond that, she’s been adapting another ghost story, Sarah Waters‘ “The Little Stranger,” for “Frank” director Lenny Abrahamson, and has also been working on a screenplay of Ian McEwan‘s excellent recent novel “Sweet Tooth,” along with a WW2 spy series called “Enemy Lines” for the BBC.
Within the space of only a few years, London-based American writer Patrick Ness became one of the most acclaimed, original and beloved writers in the young adult genre. And as he goes from success to success, it looks like he’s going to be conquering Hollywood very shortly as well. The 42-year-old Ness grew up on army bases in the U.S. before studying English at U.S.C (having been accepted to but declining to attend film school), working as a copywriter, and then moving to London in 1999, as he was working on his first novel, “The Crash Of Hennington,” published in 2003, with a short story collection, “Topics About Which I Know Nothing,” following two years later. But Ness (who’d been teaching creative writing at Oxford University in the intervening years) really broke out in 2008 thanks to “The Knife Of Never Letting Go,” the first book in his “Chaos Walking” trilogy for young adults. Tough, brainy and literary, it’s a heady sci-fi tale set in a world where everyone is able to hear each other’s thoughts. Two equally acclaimed sequels followed in successive years, “The Ask And The Answer” and “Monsters of Men” (the latter of which won the prestigious Carnegie Medal) and a movie version has been brewing for a while, with some huge talent involved: Charlie Kaufman wrote the screenplay, and Robert Zemeckis is attached to direct. Other successful books followed including the beguiling “More Than This” and “The Crane Wife,” both published last year, but it was 2011’s book “A Monster Calls,” which also won the Carnegie, that saw to Ness’ entrance into screenwriting. Based on an idea by Ness’ friend and colleague Siobhan Dowd, who passed away before completion, it’s the strange, sad and moving story of a young boy, Conor, whose mother is dying of cancer, and who’s woken at night by a tree monster who tells him three stories. Gorgeous and raw, it’s a hell of a book, and when Ness came to adapt the screenplay himself, the result placed a deserved fourth on last year’s Black List. Focus Features snapped up the rights in a hefty deal, and “The Orphanage” helmer Juan Antonio Bayona is about to go into production on the project, with Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson starring, and it’s already been set for an October 2016 release date. Beyond that, Ness doesn’t seem to have any other screenwriting work lined up yet, but his own fiercely original and beautifully written novels are ripe for adaptation, and we’re sure that his new book “The Rest Of Us Just Live Here” will be the subject of a fierce bidding war: Ness described it by saying “What if you lived in a world a lot like a YA novel? Where people you know have already battled vampires and zombies and soul-eating ghosts and whatever this new thing turns out to be? What if you just want to go to prom and graduate before someone goes and blows up the high school again?” We can’t wait to find out what the answer is.
Unlike most of the figures on this list, Justin Simien
has broken out with a film that he directed as well as wrote: buzzy
Sundance picture “Dear White People,” which was one of the most talked
about films in Park City this year. Simien’s clearly very talented in
both areas, but it’s a writer’s movie, sharp and fast and
very funny, so while he’s clearly an auteur to watch, we wanted to
highlight his Final Draft skills above and beyond anything else.
30-year-old Simien, a Houston native who studied film at Chapman
University, got his start in the industry (like another recent
Sundance breakout, Ava DuVernay) as a publicist, working for Focus,
Paramount and Sony. He’d been working on the idea for “Dear White
People,” a cutting yet warm satire about African-American students at
an Ivy League college, since he was at Chapman in 2007, but after
packing his day job in to focus on filmmaking full time, the project
finally started to become a reality two years ago. It started as a TV series called “2%,” but eventually mutated into a feature with
the help of producer Lena Waithe, with the script’s bold ideas and
rigor attracting “Boyz ‘n the Hood” and “Real Women Have Curves“
producers Stephanie Allain and Effie T. Brown. Cannily,
Simien used his background in publicity to get word about the project
early: a proof of concept video went viral, and an Indiegogo campaign for the movie raised $40,000 ($15,000
more than the target) back in 2012. Attracting talent like Tessa
Thompson, Tyler James Williams and Dennis Haysbert, the script finally
lensed in the summer of 2013 before premiering at Sundance to stellar
reviews. And rightly so. Evoking the early work of Spike Lee (Simien has
described the film as a direct response to African-American cinema
seeming to consist only of Tyler Perry pictures or biopics like “12
Years A Slave“), it’s a dizzyingly smart, breathlessly funny riposte to
the idea that we’re living in post-racial America. We’re eagerly anticipating Simien’s future projects, which
include a half-hour comedy project called “Twenties“.
If screenwriting is a wildly male-dominated field, genre screenwriting is doubly so, but Lisa Joy is one of a number of writers who look to be causing a minor revolution in the next few years. Joy (or, to give her full name, Lisa Joy Nolan: she’s married to “The Dark Knight,” “Person Of Interest” and “Interstellar” writer Jonathan Nolan) started out in the corporate world (she worked for Universal Studios for a while), before returning to law school. Having written poetry for years, she took up screenwriting in what little spare time she had, and just as she started work with the firm that funded her tuition, a “Veronica Mars” spec she written got her a job on the writing staff of Bryan Fuller‘s cult show “Pushing Daisies.” Though she had several years of what she describes as “indentured servitude” under her belt, she followed her dreams, having to pay back her tuition in one chunk almost immediately, but was soon at work on ‘Daisies,’ racking up four credits before the show was cancelled in 2009. Joy didn’t skip a beat, moving over to spy favorite “Burn Notice,” eventually becoming a co-producer on the show’s fifth season. Joy left after that, having co-written a pilot with Fuller (who soon went on to run the exceptional “Hannibal“) called “Mind Fields,” about reclusive, romantic scientists, and also developed a show at Fox called “Headache,” based on her own graphic novel, published the previous year, about a young girl who turns out to be the embodiment of the goddess Athena in the present day. Neither project moved forward, but another TV show did: Joy and husband Nolan co-wrote the upcoming HBO series remake of “Westworld” for J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot with a stellar cast including Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and Miranda Otto rounded up for the pilot. After that project sold, Joy became pregnant with her first child, but used the time to pen spec script “Reminiscence,” a sci-fi noir about a man who runs a service allowing clients to relive certain memories. It’s a terrific read, and became an immediate hot property when it went out to executives: It placed tenth on last year’s Black List, and became one of the biggest spec sales of the year when Legendary Pictures picked it up for a whopping $1.75 million. There’s been no news on the project since, but Joy’s going to be busy regardless: she’s writing the female-centric “Spider-Man” spin-off for Sony, which is targeting a 2017 release, and will be showrunning and executive producing “Westworld” if it moves forward.
After conquering the stage, the small screen and even Broadway in recent years, Dennis Kelly is heading to cinema, and there’s every reason to think that he’ll prove just as successful. The 43-year-old Barnet, North London native didn’t put pen to paper until he was 31, spending his twenties working in a supermarket and packing art prints before his 2001 debut “Debris,” performed at Theatre 503. Shocking, violent and uncompromising (the play begins with a father crucifying himself), it set the pace for much of what was to follow, including the controversial “Osama The Hero,” 2005’s “After The End,” 2006’s “Love & Money,” 2009’s “Orphans” and 2010’s “The Gods Weep,” the latter a riff on “King Lear” for the Royal Shakespeare Company starring Jeremy Irons. In 2006, Kelly penned his screen debut: with actress Sharon Horgan, he co-wrote “Pulling,” an acerbic, honest and very funny sitcom about three thirtysomething women, which was critically acclaimed but cancelled prematurely (a pilot for a U.S. remake, starring Kristen Schaal and June Diane Raphael, was made last year, though wasn’t picked up). He also wrote an episode of long-running British spy series “Spooks,” and was working on a script called “Blackout,” about an alcoholic who loses his daughter, for “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Attack The Block” producers Big Talk, although it never moved forward. But it was in 2010 that his career really went supernova when Kelly penned the book for award-winning smash musical “Matilda,” an adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s story. It’s become a long-running hit, both in London and New York (he won a Tony for his work on the show once it hit Broadway), and Kelly is attached to translate the show onscreen at some point. Last year, he moved even closer to household name status with Channel 4 series “Utopia,” a dark, distinctive and stylish conspiracy thriller with some truly compelling characters. It’s the best thing that’s been on British TV in a long time, and the show is getting a remake in the States with “Gone Girl” writer Gillian Flynn penning the script, David Fincher directing the first episode and Kelly executive producing. Kelly returned to the stage last year with “The Ritual Slaughter Of Gorge Mastromas,” but more importantly for our purposes, he will finally breaking his cinematic cherry early next year: Kevin MacDonald has helmed his terrific script “Black Sea,” described as an submarine-set version of “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” and starring Jude Law and Scoot McNairy, and it’ll hit theaters in 2015.
Coming in at the top of the Black List isn’t necessarily the massive door-opener that you might assume it is: for every writer like Allan Loeb and Danny Strong who becomes seemingly omnipresent after their script takes the catbird seat, there’s a Christopher Weekes (2010’s “The Muppet Man“), or Wes Jones (“College Republicans” in 2011), who are still waiting for their big break. But given the quality of Andrew Sodroski‘s “Holland, Michigan,” and the talent that has been attracted to both that script and Sodroski’s other projects, we can’t imagine that he’ll fall between the cracks. Sodroski is a Boston native who majored in medieval history at Harvard, before getting an MFA in screenwriting at Columbia, from which he graduated in 2010. He racked up his first credit on a 2007 short film called “The Handmaid,” and while at Harvard co-wrote an animated romance called “The Squid & The Robot” with James Strzelinski, winning honors at the Columbia University Film Festival, and in 2011, co-wrote an action thriller called “Dark Ops,” which got notice at the Austin Film Festival. But it’s “Holland, Michigan” that really saw him take off: a black comedy about a woman who suspects that her eccentric husband is having an affair, it’s beautifully written and packs a killer twist at the halfway mark, no doubt one of the reasons it picked up 46 votes to top last year’s Black List. Even before that, the film had been picked up by production company Le Grisbi, with beloved documentarian Errol Morris (pictured) making a rare return to narrative features on the project, and Naomi Watts, Bryan Cranston and Edgar Ramirez all attached to the project. Sodroski (who lives, interestingly, in Kosovo, and is mysterious enough that we can’t find any photos of him) has other projects in the works as well, including writing “Vor V Zakone” for Warner Bros, a thriller about the origins of the Russian mafia during the revolution of 1917. And more recently, he was picked out by the same studio to pen crime picture “American Blood“ for Bradley Cooper to star in and produce.
Theatergoers, especially those of British extraction, will no doubt already be aware of the work of 28-year-old Polly Stenham, and while the rest of us have a little catching up to do, there’s no doubt she’s one of the most exciting new talents to cross over from stage plays to screenplays in recent times. She wrote her debut play, “That Face,” at 19 years old, making her the youngest playwright to open in London’s West End for over forty years. It starred Matt Smith and Lindsay Duncan, was a critical hit, and won her the Most Promising New Playwright award. It’s the story of the hugely dysfunctional, occasionally incestuous relationships in an upper class British family (it was mounted off-Broadway in 2010) and those themes have recurred in her two subesquent plays “Tusk, Tusk” (which is in development as a feature) and “No Quarter.” 2014 however has seen Stenham change tack somewhat, with her new play “Hotel” moving away from themes of familial dysfunction and, most excitingly from our point of view, she involved with Nicolas Winding Refn‘s long-brewing “I Walk With The Dead,” an all-female horror movie potentially starring Carey Mulligan. “He’s got a lot of stick for doing films some people think are violently misogynistic,” Stenham said about taking on the movie. “So he approached me with the idea of doing something different.” Were it any other project for any other director, it’s probable Stenham would still be too unproven as a screenwriter even for this list of up-and-comers. But her precocious success in the related world of theater, and her selection by one of the most exciting filmmakers at work today to write such an intriguing-sounding film, render hers a name we’re keeping a close eye on.
Let us be clear: We’re not fans of nepotism in show business. It’s hard enough to break through into any part of the film industry, particularly screenwriting, without having to compete with the studio boss’s kid. But the right connection can only get you through the door, and you have to have real talent to stay in the writer’s room. And anyone, like Olivia Milch, who shares genes with one of the finest American dramatists, certainly has our attention, especially if she keeps booking high-profile gigs at the rate she’s managed. 25-year-old L.A. native Milch is the Yale-educated daughter of David Milch, who broke through with “Hill Street Blues” and co-created “NYPD Blues” before creating classic Western HBO series “Deadwood,” as well as the more divisive “John From Cincinatti” and “Luck.” It was evidently Milch’s studies that brought her into screenwriting. After studying William Faulkner‘s “Light In August” at college, an encounter with Lee Caplin, the executor of the writer’s estate, led to her father’s company Red Board Productions making a deal with Caplin to produce TV shows and movies based on the writer’s canon, with HBO offering a first look deal on the project. Father and daughter penned the first project, an adaptation of “Light In August” together, and she’s attached as co-ordinating producer on any projects that result from the deal. But she’s been branching out firmly on her own as well, and her script “Dude,” a “Fast Times At Ridgemont High“-style comedy about four female friends who just graduated high school, made last year’s Black List. She’s already started picking up big studio gigs, and late last year, Sony hired her to write a new version of Louis May Alcott‘s beloved “Little Women.” And more recently, Fox brought her on to rewrite “Queen & Country,” an actioner based on Greg Rucka‘s acclaimed graphic novel about a female British spy, which the studio is developing as a vehicle for Ellen Page. Obviously the proof will be in the pudding when one of these projects makes it to production, but Milch certainly looks like a hugely promising prospect moving forward.
Through the moments of writer’s block, through the hours and hours of grueling day jobs meant to sustain you, virtually every writer gets to daydream about getting a phone call from Steven Spielberg and selling a script to him. Very few actually manage it, but the dream came true for British writer Matt Charman, whose as-yet-untitled screenplay is about to go in front of Spielberg’s cameras. The 35-year-old from Crawley, Sussex got his start a decade ago after being inspired by a summer job in a garage to write his first play, “A Night At The Dogs,” which premiered at the Soho Theatre in April 2005. This immediately made him one of the hottest young playwrights in the U.K., and three plays followed at the prestigious National Theater in London: 2007’s “The Five Wives Of Maurice Pinder,” 2009’s “The Observer,” and 2011’s “Greenland” (the latter co-written with Penelope Skinner, “Jane Eyre” screenwriter Moira Buffini and “Sandman” scribe Jack Thorne). But the project that brought him to U.S. fame was “The Machine,” a bold retelling of the chess match between Garry Kasparov and computer Deep Blue, which premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2012 before heading to New York a few months later. Before that, Charman’s only screen credits had been writing on a couple of episodes of Nick Frost-starring sketch show “Man Stroke Woman,” but the work has been stacking up in the last few years. First, Disney bought the screen rights to “The Machine,” with Charman set to adapt it into a movie. Then he penned the adaptation of Irene Nemirovsky‘s “Suite Francaise” for director Saul Dibb, and the finished film, which stars Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts and Kristin Scott-Thomas, should hit theaters next year. And a TV show, “Our Zoo,” about the founding of an animal park in the North of England, from Big Talk Productions, will air on the BBC next month. But it’s the Spielberg project that’s likely to put him on the map in a major way. After stumbling across the story of James Donovan, an attorney who helped negotiate the exchange of an shot-down American pilot for a Soviet spy, Charman pitched the story to a DreamWorks executive back in October, who put the director in touch. By the end of the meeting, Spielberg had committed to directing, and the movie goes into production less than a year after (with the help of a dialogue polish from the Coen Brothers), with Tom Hanks playing Donovan, and Amy Ryan, Mark Rylance and Alan Alda also on board. Charman’s lined up further work with an A-list director, collaborating with “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” helmer Tomas Alfredson on a top secret 10-part TV drama, while he’s also going to be shopping a heist movie spec next month.
We can all agree that the romantic comedy has been
in dire straits in recent years, with every promising attempt to
revive the genre tending to fall flat. But if
anyone’s going to give the genre a new lease on life, it’s British writer Tess Morris,
who loves the idiom more than most, and has a potentially great new project on the way in 2015. Morris broke through at a very young age when her
short script “Beer Goggles” won the Lloyds Bank Channel 4 Film Challenge in 1997, and was filmed by future “Starred Up” director David Mackenzie.
After that, her career was on a slow-burn, as she combined work in
production (she was an assistant producer on 2011’s “Resistance“
starring Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen) with script-editing,
lecturing in screenwriting, and writing for long-running British teen
soap “Hollyoaks,” and comedy hit “My Family.” But when Morris made the
Brit List (the British equivalent to the Black List) in 2011 with “Man
Up,” that’s when her profile blew up. The story of a young single
woman (Lake Bell) mistaken for the blind date of a stranger (Simon
Pegg), it’s not a wild reinvention of the genre on the page, but does
what it does better than almost any other romantic comedy in recent
memory. Big Talk and Studio Canal filmed the project this year with “The
Inbetweeners Movie” helmer Ben Palmer directing, and Olivia Williams
and Rory Kinnear in the cast, and it’ll hit theaters next year. Morris
has remained busy otherwise: with David Allison, she penned teen comedy
“Charlie Ferrari” for Jeva Films, about a boy who wakes up from his coma
with no memory of his unpopular past (the project’s no longer moving forward, unfortunately), and did some uncredited punch-up
work on “The Love Punch” and “Cuban Fury.” And the folks at Big Talk clearly think a lot of her. She’s developing a sitcom “Is This
It?” with them, and is currently working on a family Christmas-themed
script “Secret Santa” at the company. Given that Big Talk helped
birth the careers of Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Ben Wheatley, it’s worth keeping an eye on Morris.
Perhaps the most firmly “genre” of everyone on the list here, Marshall has had an up and down time for the past few years. Her first credit was an episode of “SGU Stargate Universe,” after which she wrote the feature “Triple Dog,” probably the most anomalous title in her filmography as it has no sci-fi/supernatural trappings and is instead about a girls’ slumber party spiraling out of control. The Canadian production never got a stateside release, but Marshall got hired as a staff writer on 2011’s big TV hope “Terra Nova.” Coming from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV, and originally penned by former On The Rise pick Kelly Marcel, the show dealt with a family going back in time from a ruined near future to try and colonise the planet in prehistory so, you know, dinosaurs! But despite strong early reviews, the series lost steam and was not renewed for a second season. But after that point, Marshall landed on the 2012 Black List with virus thriller “Peste,” which we’ve heard nothing but good things about. That film, which details a young girl caught up in a quarantine with her family when a deadly virus outbreak occurs, now appears to be moving forward under the title “Viral,” with “Paranormal Activity” franchise directors Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman on board and “Lucy” and “Two Night Stand” starlet Analeigh Tipton starring. Marshall’s next script “Exorcism Diaries,” is apparently based on the same source material that informed William Friedkin’s sine qua non exorcist movie, the film is being pushed forward by Summit, and if all goes well, Marshall sounds like she could make a big noise in the supernatural thriller world.
Morgan Davis Foehl
Since he quit his day job as an assistant editor on the unprepossessing likes of “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “Click,” and landed on the 2009 Black List with mob story “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” it could seem like we’re a little late to the Morgan Davis Foehl party. Yet the last five years have perhaps been frustrating ones for the writer: Despite the buzz he picked up for his Black List placement and subsequent scripts, none of them have yet to be produced. That will change when Michael Mann’s “Blackhat” hits the screen. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei and Wang Leehom, the cybercrime thriller has been long anticipated, perhaps most of all by Foehl, who, if it gains traction, will no doubt see some of his other scripts, like the aforementioned mob thriller, comic book adaptation “Crosshair” and independent sci-fi script “Alien Sleeper Cell” get some momentum. And it was the strength of his work on that last project, regarding a Bourne-esque sleeper cell of aliens who can disguise themselves as human, that got him potentially his highest-profile gig to date: rewriting the proposed “Mass Effect” videogame adaptation. Previously a videogame film might not have filled us with excitement, but as we discussed recently, perhaps the form is on the cusp of a breakthrough in terms of quality. Certainly the long-developing nature of “Mass Effect,” as well as the somewhat surprising decision to bring the relatively untested Foehl in to rework the project when a script had already been completed by Mark Protosevich, suggests that at least Legendary Pictures are giving the project due time and consideration. So perhaps something more will come of it than the usual rush-job, teal-and-orange, grimy shoot-em-up? And even if that project goes to hell in a handbasket, Foehl’s also attached to “The Asset,” about an ex-army ranger sent to bring down a shady group of rogue Special Forces soldiers. That property was a hot ticket recently and landed with Fox and Scott Free with Ridley Scott as one of the producers, so one way or another, expect “Blackhat” simply to be the first of many Foehl scripts we see getting before cameras in the near future.
We’ve done so much reporting on Oren Uziel over the past few years that it’s hard to remember that he only has one released film so far. However, that film is “22 Jump Street,” the meta, self-referential and very funny sequel that did huge numbers ($305m worldwide) and is a potentially good indicator of why Uziel looks like he’s going to dominate the big screen pretty soon. While he’s just one of three credited writers for ‘Jump Street,’ it seems that the irreverence, self-awareness and silly but knowing humor that film had in spades are something like trademarks for Uziel, whose next action/comedy film is winkily called “The Kitchen Sink” and features a fragile human/vampire/zombie alliance struck up when aliens land on Earth. It’ll be out in 2015, starring Ed Westwick and Mackenzie Davis and was at one time mooted as “Jump Street” star Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, though that is no longer the case. Bigger still, though, Uziel landed the “Men in Black 4” gig last year and all the way back in 2009 was reported as scripting the proposed “Mortal Kombat” reboot, which seems to have stalled again recently. But no need to shed too many tears, as there’s no shortage of more-promising-sounding Uziel projects in development. Longest in gestation is his 2009 Black List script “Shimmer Lake,” detailing the aftermath of a bank heist gone wrong but, according to one script reader site, is “told backwards” which is certainly intriguing. Further along the development line are sci-fi “God Particle,” a project JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot shingle is producing for Paramount’s microbudget division Insurge, “Heist” which has “Need for Speed” helmer Scott Waugh attached, and, just to prove he can write in any genre, family comedy “Overnight” that director Steve Pink signed up for recently, which concerns a father and son who get trapped in a toy store. In May we reported on “The Intern’s Handbook” which is set to star Dave Franco and which Uziel will adapt from Shane Kuhn’s novel; and a spec script Uziel penned with John Krasinski recently got picked up by Warners, with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street shingle producing. Phew. That’s not even an exhaustive list of Uziel’s developing projects —there’s also memory-erasure novel adaptation “Forgotten”; “The Disappeared” which is with Jason Bateman’s production company; an adaptation of the Chuck Klosterman novel “Downtown Owl” for Adam Scott’s Gettin’ Rad Productions; and “Just Another Love Story” which has Sam Raimi producing and Marc Webb slated to helm. Our fingers are tired from typing just the titles. Can you imagine how his must feel?
More Screenwriters To Watch
As usually, there’s a lot of rising talents out there that we should all keep an eye on. Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, the writing team behind “Neighbors” (and producers who have lived in Judd Apatow-land for quite some time) have a few developing projects that should see some movement after that film’s success. And we’d certainly mark out Craig Johnson and Eskil Vogt (whose “The Skeleton Twins” and “Blind” respectively won screenwriting awards at Sundance), actor/writer David Dastmalchian (“Animals” won at SXSW) and Guillaume Nicloux (Tribeca’s “The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq“) as projects to watch. And while Andrei Zvyaginstev has been around a while now (we’ve chiefly noticed him as a director before), his “Leviathan” which he also wrote with writing partner Oleg Negin definitely deserved the Cannes screenplay award (and possibly more than that, but we’ll leave that axe to grind another time).
Recent Black List graduates include Aaron Berg, whose hotly-tipped spy picture “Section 6” will be directed by Joe Cornish, along with Debora Cahn, who joined him in the Top 5 with “The Special Program.’ There’s also Simon Stephenson, who penned “Frisco,” Nicole Riegel, with “Dogfight,” comedian Bo Burnham who made the list with “Gay Kid and Fat Chick,” Stephanie Shannon and “Queen Of Hearts,” Stephany Folsom with Kubrick moon landing curio “1969: A Space Odyssey” and Meagan Oppenheimer with “The Remains,” among many others.
Also making an impression of late is: Dan Sterling, who wrote James Franco/Seth Rogen buddy picture “The Interview“; Michael R. Perry, who did an excellent job with Sundance flick “The Voices“; Michael Mitnick, whose “The Current War” is still gestating; writer/director Riley Stearns, whose Black Listed script “Faults” was a hit at SXSW; Jason Dean Hall, who penned Clint Eastwood‘s “American Sniper” while “Walking Dead” and “24: Live Another Day” writer/producer Sang Kyu Kim has the developing border control thriller “The Line” with Chris Pine attached. Additionally hitting the radar are Chris Sparling, who’s gone from “Buried” to writing Gus Van Sant‘s “Sea Of Trees“; Justin Lader, writer of the very clever “The One I Love“; Carrie Evans, whose “Scout Vs. Zombies” hits next year and Jonathan Asser, the psychologist-turned screenwriter who did a stellar job on “Starred Up.” Oh, and if you wanted to take a punt on who will be the next Kurtzman/Orci superteam now that they’ve split, you could do worse than backing “Star Trek 3” co-writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay who look like they’re being groomed, not least by Orci himself, in that direction. Anyone else that deserves consideration? Let us know below.
–Oli Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang