By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com March 20, 2013 at 2:45PM
Screenwriters historically get a rough ride in Hollywood. If a film works, they're normally skipped over when it's time to hand out the credit; if it doesn't they're the first to be blamed. They're rewritten, fired, replaced, rehired, fired again, underpaid, made to do free drafts, generally abused, and disrespected. And then the star takes the credit for the best lines anyway. And yet, no movie that you love would exist without a screenwriter to come up with the damn thing in the first place; they're the most consistently and perplexingly undervalued part of the process.
As such, we like to give the writers some props from time to time, and having looked at some bright young actors, actresses, cinematographers and composers who are worth paying attention in 2013, we want to focus on the noble typewriter monkeys today. We've done this twice before, in 2010 and 2012, and our picks have gone on to find success with things like "Prometheus" and "New Girl," or be hired for high-profile projects like "Fifty Shades Of Grey" and "The Devil In The White City." Will our 2013 picks follow in their footsteps? We reckon they've got a damn good chance to do so. Take a look below, and let us know who you're keeping an eye on in the comments section.
It's probably safe to say that Brian Duffield had a rocky start to the week. His first produced film, the western "Jane Got A Gun," was supposed to start filming on Monday, but as has been well documented, director Lynne Ramsay failed to turn up for work. But given that, in the first place, the script managed (at one point) to attract not only Ramsay, but also Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton and Michael Fassbender, and given the quality of his earlier scripts, we have no doubt that the woes around the film are just a minor bump in Duffield's ascension. The Pennsylvania-born writer (who's an active and honest presence on Twitter, and a one-time contributor to awards site In Contention) broke through in 2010. While he was working in a clothes factory in Vernon, Cailfornia, his script "Your Bridesmaid Is A Bitch" managed, through friends, to make it into the hands of management/production company Circle Of Confusion, who snapped both it, and Duffield up, with the script landing on that year's Black List. Following a broken-hearted twentysomething who discovers that his sister has chosen his ex-girlfriend to be the bridesmaid at her wedding, it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it's a smart and funny take on the rom-com, with snappy dialogue and characters a few shades more complex than what you'd normally expect from the genre. It's set up at David Ellison's Skydance Productions, with "Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil" helmer Eli Craig attached to direct. This led to some other spec script movement, including the action-comedy "Worst Honeymoon Ever," about a couple, one of whom is a superspy, and "Monster Problems," a "Zombieland"-ish post-apocalyptic comedy that's set up at Paramount with Shawn Levy producing. But it's 'Jane' that got into production first, at least until the recent hitch, and it's very different; a dark Western, that shows what a versatile writer Duffield can be. We suspect that, once the Ramsay controversy has become trivia, there's a lot more to see from the screenwriter.
At one point, Brad Ingelsby had one of the hottest scripts in town. His crime drama "The Low Dweller," another Black List hit, written while AFI grad Inglesby was working as an insurance salesman, sold to Relativity Media back in 2008, with Leonardo DiCaprio set to star, and Ridley Scott considering directing. The latter didn't commit, ultimately, but commercials helmer Rupert Sanders came on board the next year. Ultimately the film -- a pitch-black, brutal and strangely poetic picture about a convict seeking revenge for the death of his brother at the hands of a local crime lord -- didn't move forward in that incarnation. But after a few years on other projects, Inglesby heavily rewrote the script, and it ended up retitled "Out Of The Furnace," with "Crazy Heart" helmer Scott Cooper directing, and an impressive cast including Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana and Woody Harrelson. The film's now in the can awaiting release, and Ingelsby has been busy. He wrote a remake of Korean crime flick "Die Bad" for Marc Forster, adapted comic book "Sleeper" for Sam Raimi and Tom Cruise, and penned another crime flick, "Buried," that "Little Children" director Todd Field was considering at one point. More recently, he was also tapped for the remake of Gareth Evans' cult actioner "The Raid," although word's been quiet on that for a while. "Out Of The Furnace" is set to be his first produced screenplay, impressively, but we shouldn't have long to wait after that. Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman are starring in the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed father-son action thriller "All Nighter" this fall, while "Buried" has been retitled "Hold On To Me," and will star Robert Pattinson and Carey Mulligan, with Field stepping aside for "Man On Wire" helmer James Marsh. Good things come to those who wait, then...
The winners of previous Black Lists have come from a varied range of experiences, from first-time writers to industry veterans. So it's fitting that the first writing team to place first, Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman, are quite the odd couple. Joseph is one of the most acclaimed playwrights of his generation, thanks to works like "Animals Out Of Paper," "Gruesome Playground Injuries" and the Pulitzer-shortlisted "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" which hit Broadway in 2011 starring Robin Williams. Rothman, meanwhile, is a screenwriter who leans towards the comic side of things, who'd previously sold screenplays "First Timers" and "Frat Boy" to New Line and Warner Bros respectively. The two were close friends at NYU, and have remained so since, partly due to their love of football, which led to the idea of "Draft Day," their Black List topper, revolving around the NFL Draft. Compared to "Moneyball" by many, the script, which focuses on a General Manager for the Buffalo Bills, was written in only a week, and swiftly sold to Ivan Reitman's company Montecito Pictures, and set up at Paramount. The project faltered at first, put into turnaround by the studio, but after placing first in the Black List, has been revived by Lionsgate, with Reitman and star Kevin Costner still involved. They've got another script, an adaptation of Alan Paul's book "Big In China," in the works at Montecito, and were recently hired to pen a remake of German comedy "Kokowaah" as a potential directing vehicle for Bradley Cooper.