Hanley, Brent 1970-
HANLEY, Brent 1970-
Born August 21, 1970, in Dallas, TX. Education: Attended Emerson College, Boston, MA, 1995-97; graduated from Emerson College, Los Angeles, CA, 1997.
Home—Austin, TX. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Lions Gate Entertainment, 2700 Colorado Ave., Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90404.
Screenwriter and director. Worked as hotel auditor in Portland, ME, while working on a novel.
Frailty (screenplay), Lions Gate Entertainment, 2002.
Also author of screenplay draft of Louis Sachar's children's novel Holes, 2003; short screenplays, including He Dreams Awake; and an unpublished novel.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
Directing the film for He Dreams Awake; screenplay for novella The Karma Files, by Thomas Lane.
Texas-born screenwriter Brent Hanley made his debut with the screenplay for the 2002 film Frailty, a gothic horror tale about a rural widower who involves his two sons in what he believes is a mission from God to destroy evil townsfolk. The film starred actors Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, and Powers Boothe. Paxton also directed the movie.
Hanley told Jonathan Hickman, in an interview for Entertainment Insiders, that he wrote his first short story at the age of ten. A high-school dropout, Hanley worked in bookstores, where he educated himself by reading. He married his high school sweetheart, and the couple moved to Portland, Maine, where Hanley wrote a lengthy novel while working as a hotel auditor. Hanley then decided that he wanted to write screenplays, so he applied for admission to Emerson College in Boston. He told Hickman, "I happened to get this angel of a woman who read my essay and decided to take a shot on me and gave me all kinds of grant money to get into the school." Hanley took the GED test one week before his college classes began. As an intern, he wrote his first script, He Dreams Awake, which was accepted by Matthew McConaughey, beginning a relationship that launched Hanley's career.
Hanley told Hickman that he was influenced by the great screenwriter and director Alfred Hitchcock, especially the film Shadow of a Doubt, which has themes in common with Frailty. Robert Koehler, in a Variety review of Frailty, compared the film to Tobe Hooper's Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter.
Frailty begins when McConaughey's character, the adult Fenton Meiks, tells FBI agent Wesley Doyle (Booth) that his younger brother, Adam, is the long-hunted "God's Hand" serial killer (Adam committed suicide the night before). As Meiks tells his story, the film flashes back to the boys' childhood, when their Dad has a vision and believes he must wipe out the earth's demons as the apocalypse draws near. The calm and loving father then proceeds to murder townspeople with an ax, and the boys are witnesses. Fenton questions his father and is locked in the basement until he claims to have received a religious revelation. Adam remains trusting and steadfast in helping his father do his "duty."
Hanley told Hickman that the "Dad" character (played by Paxton) is "the quintessential Texas man who is a good man … who loves his children … the type of man that digs a ditch and doesn't whimper.…If you watch the film the first time, it's a horror movie"; the second time, Hanley said, it's "a tragedy."
A Washington Times contributor called Frailty "a taut, organic script that apparently escaped the studio committee rewrite ax: It has reached the screen with logic and integrity intact." Edward Porter, of the Sunday Times, on the other hand, commented, "Bill Paxton proves himself a capable director with this grisly thriller.…It's the screenplay (by Brent Hanley) that lets him down.…You're expecting a twist—and when it duly arrives, it's hopelessly contrived and silly."
Jonathan Romney, in the Independent, called Frailty an "ingenious Southern Gothic horror film," and said that "Hanley lays on the Southern flavour a treat, with some lines rich enough to suggest that William Faulkner contributed a polish from beyond the grave." New York Times contributor Stephen Holden noted that "by far the most important and troubling faith the movie explores is the instinctive faith children place in their parents."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Daily Variety, March 15, 2002, Claude Brodesser, "Scribe Hanley Will Adapt Karma Files with Camp," p. 7.
Independent (London, England), September 8, 2002, Jonathan Romney, "Daddy's Boys Doin' the Devil's Work," p. 9.
Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2002, Kenneth Turan, "A Powerful Depiction of Human Frailty: Though It Ultimately Out-Tricks Itself, This Spooky Angels-of-Death Story Provides Bill Paxton a Rich Directing Debut," section F, p. 16; April 18, 2003, John Horn, "On Unfamiliar Turf with His Own Book: Getting Louis Sachar to Write the Screenplay Based on His Popular Kids' Novel Holes Was Difficult, but the Director Got His Way," section E, p. 14.
New York Times, April 12, 2002, Stephen Holden, "When Dad Marches to a Terrifying Drummer," section E, p. 14.
Sunday Times (London, England), September 8, 2002, Edward Porter, review of Frailty, p. 8.
Variety, April 1, 2002, Robert Koehler, review of Frailty, p. 32.
Video Business, September 16, 2002, Samantha Clark, "Going Gothic," p. 16.
Washington Times, September 12, 2002, "Frailty Maintains Logic, Integrity, Dead-On Direction," section M, p. 24.
DVD Talk,http://www.dvdtalk.com/ (May 28, 2004), Phillip Duncan, "Interview with Brent Hanley."
Entertainment Insiders,http://www.einsiders.com/ (May 28, 2004), Jonathan Hickman, "An Interview with Brent Hanley."
Journalism Students' Online News Service—Emerson News,http://jsons.collegepublisher.com/ (April 18, 2003), Manny Paraschos, "Frailty Writer Tells Students to Focus on Their Education."*