Andrea Berloff first caught the development world’s attention as a master of the female-driven period pic, so when she landed Double Features’ testosterone-heavy “Untitled World Trade Center Project,” everyone but the producers were surprised.
“She’d written two biopics, one on Amelia Earhart and one on Harry (Bing) and Caresse Crosby in Paris, and we’d done those (types of films) successfully in the past,” Double Features partner Michael Shamberg explains.
“She was not someone we would have fallen for immediately (for the World Trade Center project), but she came back to us having done an enormous amount of research, all on spec, with an enormous amount of enthusiasm, and we said, ‘Sure, let’s take a chance on Andrea.’ ”
Shamberg and partner Stacey Sher encouraged Berloff “to take leaps of chance structurally and narratively, but always within the truth. And she just nailed it,” Shamberg says.
“It’s extremely rare to find somebody with such mastery of character and desire to explore the depths of humanity, who also has tremendous structural discipline,” adds Sher.
“I didn’t think — at all — that I was going to be hired for this job,” says Berloff, who credits her research ethic and ability to create believable characters to her early theater career as an actress and dramaturg. “But I went in and did a really strong pitch because I thought at least let them remember me for the next job.”
She believes people have responded to the World Trade Center script because “it’s really an intimate story and it’s not grotesque or exploitive in any way.”
The pic, still being packaged, tells the story of two surviving Port Authority cops who become trapped under the collapsed WTC towers.
Berloff turned down several femme-heavy scriptwriting offers after “Harry and Caresse” (now in turnaround from New Line) and “I Was Amelia Earhart” so as not to get pigeonholed as “the female period-piece chick.”
She penned the rewrite of Scott Free’s “Borders,” about a Mexican-American border patrol officer, and is tackling Warner Bros.’ adaptation of Peter Craig thriller “Blood Father.”
Birthplace: Framingham, Mass.
Inspirations: “My teachers. They inspired me with the idea of curiosity, and I think curiosity is hugely important to a screenwriter.”
Favorite unproduced script: “Liberty,” a dark comedy about an amateur dart tournament in Ohio. Though it never sold, the response it generated “encouraged me to keep writing,” Berloff says.
Agent/manager: UTA; Jill McElroy at BenderSpink