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10 Famous Screenwriters from Houston

Famous Screenwriters is a collection by The Script Lab during which our resident cinema historian, Martin Keady, seems at the great screenwriting cities of the world – people who have produced most of the world’s biggest screenwriters. He has previously coated London, New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

For Half 5, he seems to be at Houston, the town at the coronary heart of Texas and the center for area exploration.

“Houston” is synonymous with the words, “We have a problem”, famously uttered by astronaut Jack Swigert aboard the Apollo 13 expedition to the Moon in 1970. Truly, Swigert apparently stated, “Houston, we’ve had a problem”, however in true cinematic type, the phrase was reworked into the present tense (for larger immediacy) in the film by Ron Howard. However, whether or not it is uttered within the present tense or past, the phrase put the Texan city on the worldwide and cinematic map.

As with every featured metropolis, not all the writers on this record have been born in Houston or even lived there. Nevertheless, all of them have a robust cinematic reference to the town, having written films that have been set or shot there, which helped to create the cinematic legacy of a metropolis that seemingly has one foot stuck prior to now (the Wild West and its frontier mythology) and the other set firmly in the future (as a centre for area journey and the try by people to flee Planet Earth).

Listed here are 10 nice Houston screenwriters.


Robert E. Kent is an honorary Houstonian by virtue of getting conceived of the story and written the screenplay for The Houston Story (1956), a movie noir about an audacious try and siphon off oil from one of the many oilfields that encompass Houston and which might be a serious source of the town’s wealth. With its memorable tagline, “The Hijack Mob Moves In On The Lone Star State”, The Houston Story is a sometimes noirian tale of gangsters and double-crossers performed out towards the backdrop of Texas’s oilfields.

Robert E. Kent was a Hollywood veteran who wrote (and sometimes also produced) greater than fifty films throughout his long career, though the overwhelming majority of them have been B-movies about cowboys, mobsters or monsters, for many of which he used the pseudonym “James B. Gordon”, presumably to attempt to cowl his embarrassment. Nevertheless, he also wrote or co-wrote two of an important films of the 1950s.

The primary was The place The Sidewalk Ends (1950), a genuinely basic movie noir a few corrupt cop who by accident kills a conflict hero and then makes an attempt to cover up his crime. The director was the good Otto Preminger and certainly one of Kent’s co-writers on the film was none aside from the good Ben Hecht. And the second was Rock Around The Clock (1956), which can not have been a lot of a film but was none the much less really historic for introducing much of the world, together with Britain, to rock ‘n’ roll, in the type of the title monitor sung by Bill Haley.



The marvelously named Doran William Cannon (which apparently was his real identify) was a screenwriter, tv writer and writer of Authorship: The Dynamic Rules of Writing Creatively (1993), a information to writing, including screenwriting. He came to the fore as a screenwriter on the finish of the 1960s when he wrote two very totally different scripts for two very great administrators.

The first was Skidoo (1968), a satire of the counterculture that was abruptly turning into the mainstream tradition, a minimum of in California. It was one of the final movies directed by Otto Preminger and, sadly, was a pale shadow of his early classics, comparable to Laura (1944) and the aforementioned The place The Sidewalk Ends. Nevertheless, Cannon’s second main script was Brewster McCloud (1970), which he wrote for Robert Altman and which stays one of many key movies that is both set in and about Houston.

Brewster McCloud was the primary movie by Altman after the era-defining MASH (also 1970) had begun his extraordinary run of early to mid-1970s masterpieces, together with McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971), The Lengthy Goodbye (1973) and Nashville (1975), during which Altman virtually singlehandedly reanimated such basic American genres because the Western, the noir and the musical respectively, by way of such terribly creative methods as using overlapping dialogue and a focus on characters who would have been at greatest marginal in earlier examples of these genres.

Brewster McCloud just isn’t fairly within the class of those Altman epics, however it’s however an interesting and fascinatingly odd movie. The title character, performed by Bud Cort (who would famously play Harold in Hal Ashby’s darkish masterpiece, Harold and Maude, a yr later) is a scholar who secretly lives within the just lately constructed Houston Astrodome and builds a set of wings so that he can understand his dream of chickening out. With its echoes of the parable of Icarus, and its foreshadowing of Birdy (1984), Alan Parker’s excellent story of one other would-be birdman, Brewster McCloud is, if nothing else, one of the best films concerning the age-old human want to actually take to the air.



William Harrison didn’t develop up in Houston, but in Dallas, Houston’s great economic and sporting rival in Texas. Nevertheless, he wrote Rollerball (1975), one of the seminal Houston-set movies, which is a few future sport that’s much more harmful than the good Texan obsession of gridiron, or American football.

Rollerball was based mostly on Harrison’s personal brief story, Curler Ball Murder, a few made-up sport that was in all probability probably the most well-known made-up sport in films until the arrival of Quidditch a quarter of a century later. Rollerball is an ultraviolent sport performed out on motorcycles in a league made up of teams from the good cities of the world (together with Houston). It examines, amongst many different things, the character of sporting obsession, and precisely what sporting teams, and extra importantly their house owners, will do to realize success, specifically anything.

The original Rollerball was remade in 2002 and a comparability of the two films is massively enlightening about how Hollywood changed within the remaining quarter of the 20th century. The 1975 unique, directed by the good Norman Jewison, is a worthy addition to the good early to mid-1970s tradition of fascinating Hollywood sci-fi films, comparable to Soylent Inexperienced (1973) and Westworld (also 1973), and though it’s flawed it completely overflows with ideas about sport, life and the relationship between the two. The 2002 remake, directed by John McTiernan (of Die Exhausting fame), is awful and has nearly no ideas in any respect. As an alternative, it simply delights in moronic motion and bloodshed.



James L. Brooks is a superb writer-director-producer, answerable for such fantastic films as Broadcast News (1987), which he wrote, directed and produced, and Huge (1988), which he produced. Normally, I eschew writer-directors in any consideration of screenwriters, as I favor to concentrate on screenwriters who’re writers in the beginning, and who, in consequence, are more likely to be writer-producers, or screenwriter-playwrights or novelist-screenwriters. Nevertheless, any examination of Houston screenwriters should embrace a mention of James L. Brooks, whose debut movie as a writer-director-producer was probably the most memorable movies about Houston, Terms of Endearment (1983).

Terms of Endearment was based mostly on the novel of the same identify by Larry McMurtry, who is the greatest author about modern-day Texas. His phenomenal achievements in several totally different mediums embrace the novel, The Final Picture Present (1966), which five years later was made into a lovely and virtually unbearably poignant movie by Peter Bogdanovich; the novel, Lonesome Dove (1985), which was tailored into an Emmy-winning TV collection; and the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain (2005), for which he and his co-writer, Diana Ossana, deservedly gained the Academy Award for Greatest Tailored Screenplay. And of course, McMurtry additionally wrote the novel Phrases of Endearment (1975), which James L. Brooks become one of the crucial commercially and critically profitable films of the 1980s.

Terms of Endearment begins in Houston after which moves round America, following Emma (performed by Debra Winger) and the fantastically named Flap Horton (whose identify, as we’ll see, is unquestionably an homage to another nice Houston author) as they fall out and in of love with each other, and different individuals. Ultimately, Emma develops terminal cancer, which brings her again into the orbit of her previously overbearing mother (memorably performed by Shirley MacLaine), who has her own on-off relationship with a former astronaut (equally memorably played by Jack Nicholson). With its uncommon however undeniably shifting combination of comedy and drama, Terms of Endearment cleaned up on the Oscars and confirmed that both its unique creator, McMurtry, and the person who adapted it for the display, James L. Brooks, have been really great writers.



Bill Forsyth is, in fact, a Scottish writer, relatively than an American (let alone Houston) writer. And but arguably his biggest movie, Native Hero (1983), is all concerning the tradition clash that arises between Houston oilmen and Scottish fishermen when an entire new oilfield is discovered off the coast of a Scottish village.

Forsyth loved one of the biggest runs ever by a writer-director in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as he effectively turned a one-man equivalent of the good Ealing Comedies of the 1950s. Just as Ealing’s Passport to Pimlico (1949), The Ladykillers (1955) and its different works of genius demonstrated that an anarchic spirit lurked beneath the supposedly stiff English higher lip, so Forsyth’s small however mighty masterpieces, from That Sinking Feeling (1979) to Comfort and Joy (1984), showed that there was infinitely extra to trendy Scotland than the heritage nonsense of kilts and cabers. And when Forsyth educated his forensically funny eye on the oil business, which had turn into Scotland’s great late 20th century business after the invention of oil within the North Sea, his cinematic journey inevitably took him to Texas.

Local Hero opens in Houston, with “Mac” MacIntyre (performed by Peter Riegert), being despatched to Scotland by the eccentric owner of his oil agency, Felix Happer (played by Burt Lancaster in in all probability his last nice display position), solely on the idea of his having a Scottish-sounding identify (though it quickly emerges that he has no Scottish ancestry). What follows is a superb salmon-out-of-water story as “Mac” tries to accumulate the rights to the newly found oil from the military of eccentrics who inhabit the village, solely to discover that the seashore required to convey the oil ashore is actually owned by an aged beachcomber who’s reluctant to unload his personal piece of paradise. An absolute masterpiece (which, it is rumored, will soon be become a musical), Local Hero is a superb Scottish film, an amazing Houston film and a fantastic movie full cease.



If a Scotsman, Invoice Forsyth, could be considered an honorary Houstonian for Native Hero, then so can these most well-known sons of Minnesota, the Coen Brothers, for Blood Simple (1984). Their still-astonishing debut function, which is about in and round Houston, effectively established the template for therefore lots of their later masterpieces, which someway handle the exceptional trick of being concurrently violent and hilarious.

Blood Easy opens with one of many nice opening voiceovers of any movie, with M. Emmet Walsh’s personal investigator, Visser, opening (on the peak of the Chilly Warfare): “Now in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else – that’s the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas. And down here, you’re on your own.” It is vital that he refers not to “America” but to “Texas”, which might be probably the most American of all the US states in its adherence to the previous Western credo of self-reliance and distrust of everybody else.

The film that follows that opening monologue proves the veracity of Visser’s phrases, as he’s hired by a cuckolded husband first to spy on his spouse and her lover and then to kill them. Paradoxically, in fact, the only evidence of actual, significant human collaboration in the movie, as all the characters are lowered to the standing of rats making an attempt to stay alive in a world of cats, is in the actual writing, directing and producing, because the Coen Brothers share the credits for all three. And even now, almost four many years on, Blood Simple may just be their biggest movie (and script) of all.



Horton Foote (after whom Flap Horton in Terms of Endearment is unquestionably named) was truly “Horton from Wharton”, relatively than “Horton from Houston”, Wharton being a metropolis about sixty miles to the south of Houston. However, for the purposes of this listing, Wharton could be thought-about virtually as a suburb of Houston and Foote a Houston author. And regardless of the deserves (or otherwise) of that strategy, there’s absolutely little question that Horton Foote is likely one of the biggest ever Texan screenwriters, having written two masterpieces of cinema more than 20 years aside.

First, Foote adapted Harper Lee’s basic southern-set 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, into the 1962 movie of the identical identify, for which he gained the Academy Award for Greatest Adapted Screenplay. In fact, To Kill a Mockingbird has been again within the news just lately, with all of the furore over Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation, which introduced him into conflict (at the least initially) with Harper Lee’s estate. Nevertheless, Foote was the primary man to adapt the novel for an additional medium and he did a spectacular job in doing so.

Considerably surprisingly, after his Oscar success, Foote did not exactly “cash in” on his newfound cache as a screenwriter. As an alternative, he most popular to write down for the stage, together with The Younger Man From Atlanta (1995), for which he gained he Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Nevertheless, he did write one other incredibly profitable screenplay, which was additionally about his deep information of the Deep South. That was Tender Mercies (1983), the story of a seemingly washed-up nation music singer who tries to rebuild his life with a younger widow in rural Texas, which contrasted the good expanses of Texan farmland with the usually cramped, if not crippled, emotional states of its inhabitants.



Lest anybody complain concerning the relative shortage of Houston-born writers on this record, relaxation assured that the last three are all native Houstonians, who not only hail from the town but have typically written about it. The primary of them is William D. Broyles Junior (which, like Horton Foote and Flap Horton, is unquestionably another identify that would only have been given in Texas), who wrote arguably the last word “Houston movie”, Apollo 13 (1995).

Invoice Broyles (as he is typically referred to as for short) was born and educated in Houston. After enlisting in the Military at the end of the 1960s, he served in Vietnam with medal-winning distinction, and later wrote an acclaimed television collection, China Seashore, based mostly on his experiences. Then, on the back of that televisual success, he began writing screenplays for films, together with Forged Away (2000) and The Polar Categorical (2004), both of which have been directed by Robert Zemeckis. Nevertheless, it is his very first screenplay, for Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, that is still his greatest.

Apollo 13 is an interesting film and particularly, it has an interesting screenplay. The famous phrase that was uttered during it and that turned the film’s tagline was already universally recognized before the film was made, but Broyles advised the story behind it, brilliantly depicting how a lunar expedition almost led to tragedy before, in true Hollywood fashion, it was rescued at the final minute by the ingenuity of its crew and, crucially, these again on terra firma in Houston.



Drew Goddard is one other Houston native who has grow to be one of the successful screenwriters of the last 20 years, each in television and film. He was born in Houston, in 1975, before his mother and father relocated to Los Alamos, New Mexico, the place he was raised. He started his writing career on such late 90s/noughties TV staples as Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Misplaced (2004-2010), earlier than making the transition to the large display together with his unique screenplay for Cloverfield (2008), an completely trendy “found footage” movie that additionally used the age-old trick, as shown in The Dangerous and the Lovely (1952), of barely displaying the monster that was terrifying the movie’s characters.

Since Cloverfield, Goddard has develop into some of the successful screenwriters in Hollywood, following it up by writing or co-writing other commercially successful horror films similar to The Cabin In The Woods (2012), which he additionally directed, and World Conflict Z (additionally 2012). Extra intriguingly, nevertheless, he additionally successfully adapted Andy Weir’s The Martian, a novel that had begun life as a collection of blogs, into the movie of the same identify, which lastly enabled Ridley Scott to realize his inventive hat-trick of creating three great sci-fi movies, after directing Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982) greater than three many years earlier.



In so some ways, Wes Anderson is an anti-Texan, or at the very least a Texan who doesn’t come near conforming to any of the stereotypical pictures of Texans. He’s avowedly mental and urbane, and the films that he has written and directed, together with Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Grand Budapest Lodge (2014), have created such a singular world-view that he’s typically considered one of the influential film-makers of the early 21st century. And yet he hails from Houston (the place he was born in 1969) and so he is deservedly the last identify on this listing.

It really all started for Anderson not together with his second, or sophomore, movie, Rushmore (1998), which he co-wrote with Owen Wilson (who, in fact, has subsequently develop into a massively successful actor). Rushmore, which takes its identify from the personal faculty (Rushmore Academy) by which it is set, tells the story of one of many strangest love triangles ever. The three factors of the triangle are Max, a precocious but emotionally immature scholar; Rosemary, the thing of his adolescent affection, who’s a ravishing but widowed instructor (as can also be the case with Tender Mercies and Phrases of Endearment, widows are something of a staple of Texas-set dramas); and Herman, the rich but unhappily married father of two other boys on the faculty, who also falls in love with Rosemary. As the teenager and the industrialist struggle it out for Rosemary’s affection, Rushmore becomes one of many nice trendy coming-of-age tales.

Anderson has made a number of high-quality films since Rushmore, particularly, The Grand Budapest Lodge, which is usually regarded alongside David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) and Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) as one of many best movies of the 21st century to date. Nevertheless, with its completely beguiling mixture of cinematic invention and genuinely universal story-telling, it’s debatable that he has by no means equaled, not to mention surpassed, Rushmore.


Martin Keady is an award-winning scriptwriter whose work has been produced for movie, tv, stage and radio. His major credit embrace: The Ultimate, a short film concerning the well-known ending of the 1979 FA Cup Last, which was proven on Channel 4; Moon the Loon, a play concerning the legendary Who drummer, Keith Moon, which was premiered at The Edinburgh Pageant; and a set of love poetry, Shards, extracts from which have been broadcast on Radio Four.” http://theshakespeareplays.com/

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