views updated

HELGELAND, Brian 1961-

PERSONAL: Born 1961, in Providence, RI; son of Karin Helgeland; children: two. Education: Marymount University, received degree.


ADDRESSES: Offıce—Directors Guild of America, 7920, West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046-3300. Agent—Mary Bauer, United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Suite, 500, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

CAREER: Producer of films, including Highway to Hell, Hemdale Releasing, 1992, and L.A. Confidential, Warner Bros., 1997; director of television episode of Tales from the Crypt, HBO, 1996; director of films, including Payback, Paramount, 1998, Sin Eater, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999, and A Knight's Tale, Sony Pictures, 2000.


AWARDS, HONORS: Academy Award for screenplay based on material previously produced or published, New York Critics Circle award, Boston Society of Film Critics award, and Broadcast Film Critics Association award, all 1997, and Florida Film Critics award and Writers Guild of America award, both 1998, all for L.A. Confidential; Academy Award for adapted screenplay, 2003, for Mystic River.


WRITINGS:

SCREENPLAYS

(With Scott Pierce) A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: TheDream Master (based on a story by Helgeland and William Kotzwinkle), New Line Cinema, 1988, published as The Dream Master, Abdo & Daughters (Minneapolis, MN), 1992.

(With Rhet Topham) 976-EVIL, New Line Cinema, 1989.

Highway to Hell, Hemdale Releasing, 1992. Assassins (also known as Day of Reckoning), Warner Brothers, 1995.

(With Curtis Hanson) L.A. Confidential (based on the novel by James Ellroy; produced by Warner Bros., 1997), Warner Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Conspiracy Theory, Warner Bros., 1997.

(With Eric Roth) The Postman, Warner Bros., 1997.

(With Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pikser) Bulworth, 1998.

Payback, Paramount, 1999.

A Knight's Tale (produced by Sony Pictures, 2001), published as A Knight's Tale: The Shooting Script, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Blood Work, Malpaso, 2002.

The Order, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2003.

Mystic River (based on the novel by Dennis Lehane), Warner Bros., 2003.

Man on Fire, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2004.


Also author of episodes of television series Friday the 13th: The Series and Tales from the Crypt, 1996.

SIDELIGHTS: Brian Helgeland is a screenwriter and film director who has earned kudos for adapting well-known novels such as L.A. Confidential and Mystic River for film. He won Academy Awards for those two screenplays and has proved his skill with numerous other successful projects, including Conspiracy Theory, Payback, and Blood Work.


Some of Helgeland's earliest work was for the television horror programs Friday the 13th: The Series and Tales from the Crypt. His first big-screen credit was also in the horror genre, as contributor to the story and screenplay for the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Although it was the fourth installment in the long-lived film series, The Dream Master has been called one of the most imaginative as well. Helgeland continued in the horror genre with work on 976-EVIL, which is about a phone-in astrology service that gives its callers supernatural powers while also enslaving them to the devil. Highway to Hell, another early effort, is the story of an eloping bride who is escorted to Hell by a demonic police officer. Her fiancé pursues her in an attempt to save her. Though the movie begins with a comedic tone, it becomes increasingly horrific as the plot unfolds.


Helgeland moved into the action genre with Assassins, a film featuring Sylvester Stallone in the role of a professional killer. Conspiracy Theory, another action screenplay, was produced in 1997 and featured Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts in the lead roles. Gibson plays Jerry Fletcher, a New York cabbie who seems like a paranoid madman but who is actually privy to some very frightening truths. He is the self-appointed guardian of Roberts's character, Alice Sutton, a lawyer in the Manhattan offices of the Justice Department. Alice slowly comes to realize that Jerry is not as crazy as he seems, and that in fact he holds the key to her father's violent death. Entertainment Weekly writer Lisa Schwarzbaum found the movie's ending to be somewhat unsatisfying, but called the film's first part "a really interesting, jittery, literate, and witty tone poem about justified contemporary paranoia (and the creatively unhinged dark side of New York City)."


Helgeland came into his own in 1997 with the Academy Award-winning screenplay adaptation of James Ellroy's novel L.A. Confidential. Set in 1950s Los Angeles, it is an atmospheric, film noir-style piece that tells a twisted tale involving a crime spree, police corruption, and a high-priced brothel where women undergo plastic surgery so they will look like famous movie stars. L.A. Confidential was a critical and commercial success, and Esquire reviewer David Thomas had particular praise for the adaptation. Calling Ellroy's books "a fascinating cross between literature and slangy pulp," Thomas noted that they seemed "too jagged and dense to adapt. Too much happens in them, too much of it hard to follow. Plus, Ellroy's writing style defies movie translation; to make a picture the way he writes would be to court mannerism, for his unique terseness is filled with his own near-psychotic passion." Still, director David Hanson and Helgeland "have clarified the book's lines while scheming a tricky, challenging plot that we have to work with, but one that means all the more because of the effort." Film Comment reviewer Donald Lyons called L.A. Confidential "a challenge to the senses, a shock to the system, a sweet for the eyes, a joy for the ears, a jolt in the veins, and it never quits multilayering its seductions."

Helgeland followed L.A. Confidential with Payback, a dark, revenge-oriented film starring Mel Gibson, A Knight's Tale, a story of medieval jousting competitions given a modern sound and feel, and Blood Work, a Clint Eastwood vehicle in which a retired policeman is induced to solve the murder of the woman whose heart has been transplanted into his body following his collapse from heart failure. While these films all drew some favorable comment, it was the 2003 film Mystic River that again proved Helgeland to be among Hollywood's best screenwriters. Adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane, Mystic River is the story of three childhood friends who are bound together by a horrible incident. In adulthood, they seem to have gone their separate ways, but when tragedy strikes again, they are drawn back together in the roles of victim, crime suspect, and investigating policeman. Directed by Eastwood, the film was described as "dark and forbidding, full of violence and guilty secrets," according to Joseph Cunneen in National Catholic Reporter, with a screenplay and photography that "make us believe we are living in working-class 1975 Boston." An Economist reviewer stated that the film has a "social dimension" that "raises the novel above the level of a simple mystery," and credited Helgeland with doing "a fine job of transposing Mr. Lehane's portrait of a working-class community." Newsweek writer David Ansen credited the film with possessing "bruising force," concluding that "the act of violation that begins the film sets off a devastating chain of events that no one could foresee or forestall."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Cineaste, summer, 1998, review of L.A. Confidential, p. 41.

Daily Variety, August 5, 2002, Todd McCarthy, review of Blood Work, p. 2.

Economist, October 18, 2003, review of Mystic River, p. 84.

Entertainment Weekly, August 8, 1997, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, "Tales from the Script," interview with Brian Helgeland, p. 37; August 15, 1997, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Conspiracy Theory, p. 48; February 12, 1999, Owen Gleiberman, review of Payback, p. 54; July 30, 1999, Ty Burr, "Homicidal Mania," p. 76; May 18, 2001, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of A Knight's Tale, p. 57; October 10, 2003, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Mystic River, p. 97.

Esquire, October, 1997, David Thomas, review of L.A.Confidential, p. 50.

Film Comment, November-December, 1997, Donald Lyons, review of L.A. Confidential, p. 10.

Hollywood Reporter, August 24, 2001, Maria Matzer Rose, "Producer Suing over 'Knight's,'", p. 3; October 15, 2001, Gregg Kilday, "'Knight' Maker Pares Fee Suit," p. 3; May 23, 2003, Kirk Honeycutt, review of Mystic River, p. 8; September 9, 2003, Sheri Linden, review of The Order, p. 20.

Nation, September 8, 1997, Stuart Klawans, review of Conspiracy Theory, p. 35; March 1, 1999, review of Payback, p. 35.

National Catholic Reporter, October 10, 1997, Joseph Cunneen, review of L.A. Confidential, p. 13; October 31, 2003, Joseph Cunneen, review of Mystic River, p. 12.

National Review, January 26, 1998, John Simon, review of The Postman, p. 52.

New Republic, November 3, 2003, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Mystic River, p. 32.

New Statesman, October 31, 1997, John Diamond, review of L.A. Confidential, p. 37.

Newsweek, September 22, 1997, David Ansen, review of L.A. Confidential, p. 83; February 15, 1999, Jeff Giles, review of Payback, p. 72; May 14, 2001, David Ansen, review of A Knight's Tale, p. 57; October 13, 2003, David Ansen, review of Mystic River, p. 70.

New Yorker, October 13, 2003, David Denby, review of Mystic River, p. 112.

People, February 15, 1999, review of Payback, p. 29; October 13, 2003, Leah Rozen, review of Mystic River, p. 29.

School Library Journal, September, 2001, review of AKnights Tale: The Shooting Script, p. 260.

Time, August 18, 1997, Richard Schickel, review of Conspiracy Theory, p. 62; September 15, 1997, Richard Schickel, review of L.A. Confidential, p. 100; May 21, 2001, Richard Schickel, review of A Knight's Tale, p. 84.

Variety, May 19, 1997, Todd McCarthy, review of L.A.Confidential, p. 48; August 4, 1997, Todd McCarthy, review of Conspiracy Theory, p. 34; December 22, 1997, Todd McCarthy, review of The Postman, p. 57; February 8, 1999, review of Payback, p. 74; April 23, 2001, review of A Knight's Tale, p. 16.

Video Business, December 15, 2003, Ed Grant, review of The Order, p. 15.


ONLINE

Filmfestivals.com,http://www.filmfestivals.com/ (December 14, 2004), Lynn Barker, interview with Helgeland.

Writers Guild of America Web site,http://www.wga.org/ (December 14, 2004), Alan Waldman, interview with Helgeland.*

About this article

Helgeland, Brian 1961-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article