Danny Strong

10 Screenwriters to Watch

Certainly, the controversial 2000 U.S. presidential election is ripe for film treatment.

And just as certainly, an actor best known as the ultimately villainous schoolmate of a vampire slayer named Buffy isn’t anyone you’d expect to write it.

“It was kind of a miracle,” says Strong. “No one expected me to set this up. I actually turned to my producer when we were in the lobby of HBO and said, ‘I don’t believe I am sitting here.’

“He said, ‘You know, this is a better story if you sell it.’ ”

Strong countered his inexperience with a 30-minute pitch accented by visual aids — most notably the infamous butterfly ballot — and walked away with the go-ahead on “Recount,” which shoots this fall with Oscar winner Sydney Pollack directing.

The two are revising Strong’s well-received first draft together, while also visiting Florida — the center of the Al Gore/George W. Bush contretemps — to conduct more interviews on top of the 35 Strong had already done.

“When I started researching it, I saw what a fascinating chapter of American history this was, and how little I knew about it and how little anybody knew about it,” Strong says. “I felt like I had discovered gold.”

Notes Pollack: “All I can tell you is he was able to organize a mass of material and create a muscular, exciting re-examination of this thing. It’s not an easy job. He has a terrific sense of structure. He had the ability to do all that research and digest it and distill it into something that comes out as real suspenseful drama, even though we already know how it comes out.”

“If you were to read the histories on the recount, I don’t think they naturally adapt to a movie, and I think that’s why it hasn’t been done yet,” adds Strong, who plans to continue acting, but already has a miniseries on tap for HBO.

While structuring the complicated story was his biggest challenge, Strong’s temperament was well suited. He says he tries not to beat himself up figuring out what he doesn’t know. “I’ve got a friend who just destroys himself when he writes scripts — just this painful process,” he says. “I don’t do that at all. For me it’s enjoyable, it’s creative, it’s challenging, and when I don’t have it, I just leave it alone.

“My conscious part is figuring out what’s problematic so I can tell my subconscious, ‘Go work on that.’ ”

Vital stats
Age: 33
Provenance: Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Inspired by: “Arthur Miller is just my biggest inspiration. His stories are dramatically so exciting and engaging. They grip you by the throat and don’t let you go. And then when it’s done, it has such a moral clarity to it. He’s able to grab you viscerally and stimulate you intellectually at the same time.”
Reps: Agency: CAA; manager: Lindsay Williams at Gotham Group; attorney: Rob Szymanski at Eclipse Law Corp.

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