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Interview with Katrin Benedikt - Co-Writer of Olympus Has Fallen

Interviews
by Melissa Silverstein
March 20, 2013 2:00 PM
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Angela Bassett as Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs

Hollywood is such a crazy place that this year there are two films that focus on the White House being taken over.  The first one out of the gate is Olympus Has Fallen starring the terrific Gerard Butler.  

Of the two, only one, Olympus Has Fallen has a female co-writer, Katrin Benedikt.  Women and Hollywood was able to ask her some questions about the process of making a big action movie.

Women and Hollywood: How did you and Creighton Rothenberger come up with the story?

KB: Well, actually Creighton and I met in a screenwriting class about 13 years ago in Philadelphia. And at that time we were writing separately, and then shortly thereafter, probably within six to eight months, we started writing together. And this was actually an original idea that he came up with at that time. And his idea process was, what would be the most impossible building in the world to take over. And so that's how he came up with that. And he was also brainstorming about the character of Mike Banning, the protagonist, because he had always said it would be great to see another Secret Service agent in their prime. Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire, he was kind of beyond his prime at that point, and he thought, wouldn't it be great to have a Secret Service agent in his prime really kicking butt. That's kind of how it all started. And then we just started came up with the story from there and all the different pieces and decided to write it together.

WaH: I was reading the bios and your bio was short because you're new to the business. So a question for me is how to you get this to the right people?


KB: Well, it's interesting, because I always find it funny when I listen to how other screenwriters got their start and everybody has a different story and  and no two stories are the same. For us we had been writing for well over ten years, so in addition to this script, we have written at least 20 other scripts, together and separately. We've had a lot of close calls where we had interest in various scripts over the years and for whatever reason, didn't come together.  And I think what happened with this one is that my husband, Creighton, he's my writing partner, had won a fellowship some years ago and got representation through that.  But they weren't really championing a lot of his projects so we ended up getting new reps at the end of 2011.  We got our new reps from another spec script we wrote, not Olympus Has Fallen.  After we signed with them, our manager said, let me look at everything you guys have.  A lot of these specs no one has seen. And then he was the one who decided let's go out with Olympus Has Fallen. I think this is the time for this one. It wasn't the time, you know, ten years ago, but I think the climate is good for this now. 

WaH: So when was this actually completed?

KB: The first draft was completed in 2002.

WaH: Interesting.

KB: That is how long we've had the script. And at that time 9/11 had just happened. The climate wasn't great for it, obviously. And then 24 had come out on TV. They were doing something similar, so we kind of just had it on the back burner, and I think that happens to a lot of writers. You have a lot of specs. You have a lot of projects you work on and for whatever reason the stars aren't aligned to make it happen, so you sort of put it on the shelf and you move on to your next script. That's what we did.  We kept moving on, writing script after script, and it was our manager that we got in 2011 who kind of went back and said, wait a minute, let me look at this script.  But we had to do a page one rewrite of it just to get it cleaned up and updated and take in all of their notes and our agent's notes before we took it out to market. So we probably spent four months rewriting it before we got it back out there.

WaH: You are overnight sensations have been working for a decade?

KB: Exactly. We're the ten-year overnight success.

WaH: Is this the first one that you've actually sold?

KB: It is the first one we've sold. We optioned a couple things along the way, but this is the first actual sale, exactly.

WaH: So people bought options on other scripts?

KB: Yes.

WaH: But it never went to production.

KB: No.  We had a couple things optioned by a few independent producers, not a major studio, so then we finally got -- this is our first big sale.

WaH: Excellent. And it's a big production. Was that a little overwhelming? I mean, I guess you knew you were writing something big?

KB: There’s no question that we were writing this to be a big movie. We started to write smaller specs that were more contained thrillers with lower budgets, thinking we might have a better chance with that, so that's what we were writing over the last five years which got the attention of our reps. And it was interesting, they said, hey, no, let's go out with this one. We think this is going to be great. We knew it was going to be a bigger budget film and they were still kind of really excited about it, so we said, okay, great, we'd love to see this made. And we have to say, I mean, Millennium was 110 percent behind this thing from the get-go.

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