Oz thesp morphs into hot H'wood scribe
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Repped by: Andrew Deane of Immortal Entertainment; Marty Bowen, Hayden Myer and Peter Benedek of United Talent Agency
Films that changed his life: ” ‘Rear Window’ and ‘Vertigo’ are very transporting movies for me. I watch them both at least once a year. ‘The Exorcist’ definitely changed my life. I slept with the light on for years after seeing it.”
Worst advice or studio note ever received: “In my screenplay ‘Till Human Voices Wake Us’ the pivotal incident for the main character involves the loss of his childhood sweetheart when she drowns in a river. Two weeks into shooting, I was asked whether I could drop the river scene.”
Michael Petroni’s long and winding career in entertainment began years ago when he was an actor in an amateur theater company in Sydney, Australia. From there, he and two friends formed a comedy troupe that toured Australia performing a show they all wrote together.
He stepped out with a solo act and was invited to perform in and write for a comedy show on Australian national television. It was during this stint in TV that he began to realize he was far more comfortable writing than performing.
While working for the small screen, Petroni penned several shorts that sat at the bottom of his drawer until he applied to the American Film Institute in 1994. His first script, “Till Human Voices Wake Us,” soon earned him the 1995 AFI Student Screenwriting Award and the Scenario Magazine/WGA National Student Screenplay competition the following year.
The script has been made into a film, directed by Petroni himself, and starring Guy Pearce as a man who is visited by the ghost of his childhood sweetheart (Helena Bonham Carter).
Petroni has also contributed to “Queen of the Damned,” the eagerly awaited sequel to “Interview With the Vampire,” both of which are based on Anne Rice novels. His next assignment is to pen an original supernatural thriller for Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios, about a woman (think Julia Roberts) whose husband vanishes suddenly.
Petroni says he drew on his own upbringing when writing “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys,” a drama about a group of Catholic students who are caught reading an obscene comic book, starring Jodie Foster and Vincent D’Onofrio.
“I guess that’s why any writer wants to write something,” he says. “We think we can do something with the material, incorporate ourselves into it.”