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Writer Laeta Kalogridis in good company with Scorsese, Cameron

June 21, 2009|Rachel Abramowitz

It's not many screenwriters who can boast having films with Martin Scorsese and James Cameron in the same year, yet for the 43-year-old Kalogridis, who's been toiling in Hollywood ever since she sold her first script (an epic about Joan of Arc) while still at UCLA film school 16 years ago, 2009 has been a grand slam.

That's in part due to a willingness to gamble on her talent to create smart, epic fare. When the option for Dennis Lehane's gothic thriller "Shutter Island" expired at Columbia, producers Mike Medavoy and Brad Fischer of Phoenix Pictures picked it up for Kalogridis, with the explicit proviso that she work for almost nothing.

"It's a very smart way of giving the writer a certain amount of artistic license because you are in essence writing on spec with only the input of the producers," explains Kalogridis. The payoff came later when the Oscar-winning director signed on -- making Kalogridis the first female writer on a Scorsese movie ("Shutter Island," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, comes out this October).

Kalogridis' relationship with Cameron has been more of a slow burn -- the two have been collaborating on Cameron's scripts for the last eight years, including this Christmas' "Avatar" and upcoming projects "Battle Angel" and "The Dive." Enthuses Kalogridis, sounding like the neophyte she isn't: "The whole reason I came out to Hollywood was the influence of [Cameron's] work, his transformation of how we think of action, and how we think of female heroes in action."

Next up? Kalogridis has spent the last few weeks feverishly polishing the new Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz spy comedy "Wichita" from director James Mangold.

-- Rachel Abramowitz

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Hot in Hollywood: An article in the June 21 Calendar about breakout talent in Hollywood said that Laeta Kalogridis was the first female writer on a Martin Scorsese-directed film -- the upcoming "Shutter Island." Melissa Mathison wrote the 1997 film "Kundun" for the director.

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