John Orloff got his break writing two episodes of the Emmy-winning HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. His latest script is another true-life tale -- Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart, just out on DVD. Heart focuses on Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie), a reporter whose husband Daniel, an American journalist, was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan. The script just earned Orloff an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay. The awards will be held on February 23rd.
Cinematical: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
John Orloff: I still don't know whether I want to be a writer! I went to UCLA Film School, and I had a great writing teacher who thought I had a particular skill in that department. So I kept taking that teacher for the whole time I was at UCLA, kept on writing. At the end of it I was 22, it was the late 80s, and people weren't really hiring young writers, so I started to work in advertising. Spent about ten years miserably working in commercials, until I met a woman -- who is now my wife -- who was working in the business as a development exec at HBO. And she was bringing home all these screenplays, and they were horrible! Just awful! And these people had agents, and they were working. So I pitched my wife a non-fiction movie that I had been thinking about writing for ten years, with the incredibly commercial idea of a sixteenth century English melodrama. It was actually about the Shakespeare authorship issue -- who wrote the plays? I wrote the script and had the misfortune of writing it two months before Shakespeare in Love came out. But I sent out this script, trying to get an agent, and did finally get "hip-pocketed" by an agency.
Cinematical: And that script eventually got you your big break with Tom Hanks -- pretty decent guy to start out with, no?
JO: Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, yes! The most important thing that happened out of the Shakespeare script was that Tom's company was among the readers. They liked it, and I met with Tom about another project, but every time I sat down with him I would ask if he had hired writers on Band of Brothers. I'm a huge World War II buff, and I think I eventually just wore him down. He finally asked me to write a script, and I wrote one episode. He was very happy with it and asked me to write another. So, that was my first paying gig.