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Cinematic: Bruin Box Office: Alien Concepts


By Sheila Roberts

Published Jan 1, 2010 8:00 AM


Big blue: Actor Sam Worthington eyes his 10-foot Nav'i avatar in James Cameron's characteristically ambitious 3-D motion-picture epic. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television has a reputation for producing graduates who work on the cutting edge. So it's no surprise that screenwriting alumna Laeta Kalogridis M.F.A. '94, who co-wrote Night Watch with Timur Bekmambetov and Alexander with Oliver Stone in 2004, figures prominently in two highly anticipated winter films — James Cameron's sci-fi adventure, Avatar, and Martin Scorsese's dark thriller, Shutter Island.

Cited in the Los Angeles Times as one of 10 break-out talents to watch in Hollywood, Kalogridis has collaborated with Cameron on scripts for almost a decade. Indeed, the Florida native admits that Cameron's visionary approach to reinvigorating the action genre and reconceptualizing the female action hero as a complex protagonist inspired her to come to the West Coast.

Avatar, which stars Sam Worthington, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi, was conceived and written before the technology even existed to make it. The film incorporates new, intuitive CGI technologies to transform the environments and characters into photorealistic 3-D imagery and create an alien world rich with imaginative vistas, creatures and characters.

The upcoming Shutter Island was also scripted by Kalogridis, who shares an executive producer credit. The film, based on the Dennis Lehane novel, stars Leonardo DiCaprio.


Disney's The Princess and the Frog. Courtesy of Disney Enterprises.

The 44-year-old Kalogridis is currently collaborating with Cameron on The Dive (about freediver Francisco "Pipin" Ferraras and his wife, Audrey Mestre) and an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's popular manga, Battle Angel. She recently co-wrote the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action-comedy Knight & Day, which is now in production. And DreamWorks has hired Kalogridis to adapt the popular Japanese manga, Ghost in the Shell, about a counter-terrorist group in a futuristic Japan, into a live-action feature film.

Another Bruin-influenced holiday movie is the Disney animated feature, The Princess and the Frog, a fairy tale set in New Orleans and the mystical bayous of Louisiana. The film's soundtrack boasts original songs and an orchestral score composed and conducted by Oscar winner Randy Newman '65.

"Luckily, I love the music that was happening [during the 1920s, when the movie takes place]," says Newman. "I love Cajun stuff and the jazz of the period, so I took to it well and it interested me. Even if it hadn't interested me, I would have done it."