Scripter found success after tough beginnings

Screenwriter John Carlen died Dec. 10 in San Diego, Calif. He was 64.

He suffered a stroke on Dec. 5 at his home in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

According to an obituary submitted by his friend Tracy Quinn, Carlen was born in a Dallas whorehouse, out of which his great-grandmother ran a criminal empire. He spent time as a male prostitute and a bank robber, then served time in prison.

Carlen taught himself to write in a jail mop closet. His first Hollywood job was a technical advisor on the film, “Straight Time,” where he advised Dustin Hoffman and Harry Dean Stanton how to act like real robbers.

With help from the late Jennifer Alward, Rosilyn Heller, and Joan Hyler, he became a fulltime screenwriter.

His first sale was one of the scripts he’d written in prison, the CBS telepic “Thompson’s Last Run,” starring Robert Mitchum and Wilford Brimley.

In 2002 Nicolas Cage made his directorial debut with Carlen’s feature script, “Sonny,” loosely based on Carlen’s life.

He is survived by two brothers.

A celebration of John Carlen’s life will be held shortly. For further information, contact

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