Freshman screenwriter in harm's way in Iraq

Thirty-six-year-old journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal didn’t always cover the military.

“Before 9/11, I covered politics, the war on drugs, technology and the Internet in relationship to privacy, but it was always hard news and investigative reporting. Then Sept. 11th happened, which was a big turning point for me in terms of what I wrote about. After that, I started covering the war on terror and writing about the military. ”

Paul Haggis bought one of his articles and turned into “In the Valley of Elah.” That, along with Boal’s own experiences embedded with a bomb squad in Baghdad, led to “The Hurt Locker.”

He gained the trust of the troops simply by sharing their risks. “I was standing on the street when people were shooting and close enough to a bomb to get hit if it went off. … They knew I wasn’t just flying in for the weekend.”

Hometown: Greenwich Village, N.Y.

School: Oberlin College

First writing gig: A journalist for the Budapest Sun — a Hungarian English-language newspaper aimed at expats.

Influences: George Orwell, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, John Cassavetes and cinema of the ’70s.

Screenplays that impressed this year: “The Informant”

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