Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Alexander (left) and Karaszewski (right) in 2014
Born
Scott Alexander
(1963-06-16) June 16, 1963 (age 61)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Larry Karaszewski
(1961-11-20) November 20, 1961 (age 62)
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
Alma materUSC School of Cinematic Arts (both)
OccupationScreenwriters
Years active1990–present
SpouseLarry:
Emily Karaszewski
(m. 1991)
ChildrenScott: 3[1]
Larry: 2

Scott Alexander (born June 16, 1963) and Larry Karaszewski (/ˌkærəˈzjski/; born November 20, 1961) are an American screenwriting duo, recognized for their unique approach to biopics. They introduced the term "anti-biopic" to describe their distinctive style of storytelling, which focuses on individuals who might not traditionally be considered worthy of a biographical film.[2] Instead of highlighting conventional "great men," their work often centers on lesser-known figures within American pop culture.[3] Their notable films in this genre include Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, Big Eyes, Dolemite Is My Name, and the series The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

Most of the their biographical screenplays are available in book form; Ed Wood was published by Faber and Faber, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon were published by Newmarket Press, and Big Eyes was published by Random House.[4]

Biography

Before they met, Alexander and Karaszewski were both teenage filmmakers. Alexander's Super 8 film work was later featured in a traveling theatrical release spotlighting young directors that also included J. J. Abrams.[5] Karaszewski spent his youth as actor/writer/director on the award winning student television program Beyond Our Control.[6] They first met as freshman roommates at the University of Southern California, graduating from the School of Cinematic Arts in 1985.[7]

The duo's first success was the popular, but critically derided, comedy Problem Child. They claimed that their original screenplay was a sophisticated black comedy, but that the studio replaced them and watered it down into an unrecognizable state.[8] The film proved to be Universal Pictures' most profitable film of 1990.[9] With the studio in a hurry to make a sequel, they returned to write Problem Child 2.[10]

In 1992, dissatisfied with their careers, Alexander and Karaszewski decided to write a biopic about Edward D. Wood, Jr. Rather than mocking him, they identified with the obscure filmmaker and his struggles.[11] Tim Burton loved their script Ed Wood and agreed to direct it. They wrote the screenplay in six weeks.[12] The film won two Academy Awards and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.[13] They did uncredited rewrites on Burton's next film Mars Attacks!, inventing the Martian language of "Ack Ack Ack".[14]

Ed Wood's acclaim led to a succession of offbeat biopics. They wrote The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon (about the short life of comedian Andy Kaufman), both films directed by Miloš Forman. Alexander and Karaszewski won the Best Screenplay Golden Globe for their work on Larry Flynt.[15] The film also won the top award at the 1997 Berlin International Film Festival.[16]

In 2000, they made their directorial debut with Screwed.[17] The hit Bollywood musical De Dana Dan is an unauthorized remake of Screwed.[18] In 2002, they served as producers on the Paul Schrader film Auto Focus, chronicling the downfall and subsequent murder of Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane.

The duo wrote and produced Tim Burton's 2014 film Big Eyes, a biopic about painter Margaret Keane. They were initially slated to direct, but later dropped out.[19] The film took them eleven years to get made.[20]

In 2016, Alexander and Karaszewski created their first television series, American Crime Story, a true crime anthology drama. The first season is based on the O. J. Simpson trial.[21] The show won nine Primetime Emmys after it aired on FX in 2016, with Alexander and Karaszewski nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special. They won the Emmy, Golden Globe, Writers Guild Award, and Producers Guild Award for this miniseries. It was also a ratings juggernaut becoming cable television’s most watched new show.[22]

In 2019, they wrote the biopic Dolemite Is My Name, Eddie Murphy's return to the big screen, which has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[23] The film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor at the 2020 Golden Globes.[24]

Other ventures

Unproduced screenplays include biopics on Howard Hughes (for Miloš Forman to direct),[25] the Marx Brothers,[26] Robert Ripley (for Tim Burton to direct),[27] Patty Hearst (for James Mangold to direct)[28] and the Grateful Dead (for Martin Scorsese to direct).[29] They were also the first writers of a planned 1996 live action film of the cartoon series The Jetsons, which was shut down during pre-production due to the budget.[1]. They were also hired to write a screenplay based on the Monopoly game for Ridley Scott,[30] and adapted Shoe Dog and King of the Jungle.[31][32]

The duo are active cineastes in Los Angeles hosting screenings of classic films for the American Cinematheque.[33][34] They are also frequent guests on film related podcasts; among the shows they have appeared on are Maltin on Movies, Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, The Movies That Made Me, The Pure Cinema Podcast, The Dana Gould Hour, The Marx Brothers Council Podcast, The Big Picture, The Treatment, The Film Scene with Illeana Douglas, The Adam Corolla Show, Post Mortem with Mick Garris, The Cannon with Amy Nicholson and The Empire Film Podcast.[35] Karaszewski's numerous film commentaries can be found on the website Trailers from Hell.[36]

In 1999, they both served as advisors to the Sundance Screenwriting Labs.[37] Karaszewski served six years as a Governor for the Writers Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was Vice President of History and Preservation for the Academy.[38] At various points, he served on the juries for the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2010,[39] the Independent Spirit Awards in 2011,[40] and the Indie Memphis Film Festival in 2022.[41] He also co-chaired the Oscar's International Executive Committee from 2018–2020 and was instrumental in changing the name of the category from Best Foreign Language Film to Best International Feature.[42] Currently, Karaszewski serves on the board of directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation.[43] In 2023, Alexander was elected to his fourth term on the Board of Directors for the Writers Guild of America West.[44]

In 2007, they were both featured in the documentary Dreams on Spec, a film looking at the Hollywood creative process from the perspective of the writer. Karaszewski appeared on Turner Classic Movies as a guest host with Ben Mankiewicz for a series called Reframed, spotlighting films considered groundbreaking and controversial.[45]

Accolades

Actors often win awards playing characters created by Alexander and Karaszewski. Martin Landau won the Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, National Board of Review, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago Film Critics awards for Ed Wood.[46] For The People vs. Larry Flynt, Woody Harrelson was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe. Courtney Love was also nominated for a Golden Globe and won the New York Film Critics Circle award[47] Jim Carrey won the Best Actor Golden Globe for Man on the Moon.[48] Amy Adams won the Best Actress Golden Globe for her portrayal of Margaret Keane in Big Eyes.[49] Almost the entire cast of The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story won accolades: Sarah Paulson won the Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics Choice awards. Both Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance won Emmys and Critic Choice awards.[50]

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles has spotlighted their career with several exhibits including a display of "scene cards" from the third act of The People vs. Larry Flynt and the original Kaypro computer that the team use to write Ed Wood.[2][3] A quote from Karaszewski serves as a motto for the museum: "The Future of Cinema is in your hands."[51]

The WGA magazine "Written By" featured Alexander and Karaszewski on the cover of the January 2015 issue in a painting by artist Drew Friedman.[52] In 2022, they were inducted into the Final Draft Screenwriter Hall of Fame; others include Quentin Tarantino and Robert Towne.[53] That same year, Film Forum screened a week long retrospective of their biographical films.[4] In 2023, the duo received the Bill Wittliff Award for Screenwriting at the 30th annual Austin Film Festival.[54]

Filmography

Film writers

Year Title Director Note
1990 Problem Child Dennis Dugan
1991 Problem Child 2 Brian Levant
1994 Ed Wood Tim Burton Nominated–Saturn Award for Best Writing
Nominated–Writers Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay
1996 The People vs. Larry Flynt Miloš Forman Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay
Writers Guild of America Paul Selvin Award
1997 That Darn Cat Bob Spiers
1999 Man on the Moon Miloš Forman
2000 Screwed Themselves
2003 Agent Cody Banks Harald Zwart
2007 1408 Mikael Håfström
2014 Big Eyes Tim Burton Also Producers
Nominated–Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay
2015 Goosebumps Rob Letterman Story only
2019 Dolemite Is My Name Craig Brewer

Producers

Television

Year Title Writers Executive
Producers
Note
1993–94 Problem Child No Yes
2016–present American Crime Story Yes Yes Also creators
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series (2016, 2018)
Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film (2017, 2019)
Producers Guild of America Award for Best Long-Form Television (2017)
Producers Guild of America Award for Best Limited Series Television (2019)
Writers Guild Award for Television: Long Form – Adapted
Nominated–Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special

References

  1. ^ "Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski". Final Draft. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  2. ^ Bingham, Dennis (2010). Whose Lives Are They Anyway?. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-8135-4658-2.
  3. ^ Ressner, Jeffrey (December 26, 1999). "The Odd Fellows". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved May 20, 2023.
  4. ^ "Amazon.com : Larry Karaszewski". www.amazon.com. Retrieved May 25, 2023.
  5. ^ Longwell, Todd (November 22, 2011). "Gerard Ravel and the Super 8 Festival that Launched J.J. Abrams | Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine | Publication with a focus on independent film, offering articles, links, and resources. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  6. ^ "Beyond Our Control, Lou Pierce Article, 2001". www.beyondourcontrol.org. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  7. ^ "An Evening with Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski". Cinema.usc.edu. November 2, 2010.
  8. ^ "LARRY KARASZEWSKI TALKS TO PAUL ROWLANDS ABOUT 'ED WOOD'". Money-into-light.com. June 30, 2012. Archived from the original on November 11, 2014. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  9. ^ Gajewski, Ryan (July 26, 2015). "'Problem Child' Turns 25: Director on John Ritter Ad-Libs, Test Audience Walkouts". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  10. ^ "Problem Child/Problem Child 2". Vern's Reviews On the Film of Cinema. July 20, 2021.
  11. ^ Alexander, Scott (1995). Ed Wood (First ed.). Great Britain: Faber and Faber. p. vi. ISBN 0-571-17568-6.
  12. ^ Yahoo.com
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  19. ^ Seidman, Lila (December 2, 2014). "Want to Make a Biopic About an Iconic Weirdo? Call These Guys – LA Weekly". www.laweekly.com. Retrieved May 20, 2023.
  20. ^ Fleming, Mike (January 6, 2015). "Hard Road to Oscar". Deadline.
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  26. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (December 1, 1999). "Duck Soup for Fans of Marx Brothers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 30, 2023.
  27. ^ "Burton, Carrey May Believe". IGN. November 29, 2005. Retrieved June 30, 2024.
  28. ^ Lang, Brent (December 6, 2017). "James Mangold to Direct Patty Hearst Drama, Elle Fanning in Talks (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  29. ^ Kroll, Justin (November 18, 2021). "Jonah Hill To Play Jerry Garcia In Martin Scorsese-Directed Grateful Dead Pic For Apple". Deadline. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
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  31. ^ "Netflix Options Nike Founder Phil Knight's Memoir 'Shoe Dog' For Movie Treatment". July 26, 2018.
  32. ^ "Zac Efron To Star In Comedy 'King Of The Jungle' For 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' Directors, MadRiver – AFM". November 4, 2019.
  33. ^ "Scott Alexander Presents HORSE FEATHERS & DUCK SOUP". American Cinematheque. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  34. ^ Cinematheque, American (May 5, 2015). "MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN: Conversations at the Cinematheque: Mel Brooks for THE PRODUCERS, 3/7/15". MOVIES ON THE BIG SCREEN. Retrieved April 27, 2022.
  35. ^ "Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast". www.gilbertpodcast.com. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
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  37. ^ Torres, Vanessa (May 4, 1999). "Pix in mix for Sundance Institute labs". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  38. ^ "Board of Governors". Oscars.org | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. September 1, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  39. ^ Horowitz, Lisa (June 17, 2010). "Charles Burnett, Larry Karaszewski Among LAFF Jurors". TheWrap. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  40. ^ "2011 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations Announced". Film Independent. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  41. ^ "2022 Festival – Jury". Indie Memphis. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  42. ^ Kay2019-11-18T13:00:00+00:00, Jeremy. "Oscar committee co-chairs explain the international category name change". Screen. Retrieved March 15, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
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  45. ^ Bergeson, Samantha (November 1, 2022). "'Reframed' Season 2 Trailer: TCM Revisits Legacy of Groundbreaking Queer and Diverse Films". IndieWire. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
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  52. ^ "Written By JANUARY 2015". bluetoad.com. Retrieved May 16, 2023.
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  54. ^ "Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski Set To Receive Austin Film Festival's Bill Wittliff Award For Screenwriting". May 30, 2023.