The hits just keep on coming for Stuart Beattie, former Writers’ Program student and first place winner of the inaugural Diane Thomas screenwriting competition. The veteran screenwriter adds G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to a long list of writing credits that include such successes as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Collateral, and he has many more projects in the hopper. Here, reprinted with the permission of, is a Q & A with Stuart about his past, present, and future writing projects.


Stuart Beattie got an early start on his career, winning a Diane Thomas screenwriting award while attending UCLA extension courses. He began doing rewrite and polish work, immediately leading to the sale of a script, “Collateral.” That caught fire, eventually leading to a quirky little movie based on a Disneyland ride, of all things — “Pirates of the Caribbean.” So what’s he working on next? Well, there’s “Without Remorse” from the novel by Tom Clancy, “The 89th War” for Ron Howard and the much-anticipated “Halo,” which he wrote as a spec script during the writer’s strike. He makes his directorial debut in the upcoming “Tomorrow, When the War Began.” Here, Beattie talks about this weekend’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Halo,” videogames as art and the evolution of Jack Sparrow.

You’ve done spectacle before, with “Pirates.” I recall there was resistance to Johnny’s take on Jack Sparrow.
Yeah, I created Jack Sparrow. His name came from the idea of a beautiful bird that should never be caged. I wrote him as this kind of swashbuckling Errol Flynn-type pirate, more like Captain Blood.

He did all the same things. He stole the bigger ship to get the smaller ship, breaking out of jail, coming into town without a boat, always trying to get a boat.

So all the actions are the same and all the dialogue is the same — but Johnny played it 180 degrees different than anyone expected. It’s why you love actors, right?

And, yeah, there was this initial knee-jerk reaction to seeing something that you weren’t expecting to see. To be fair to the Disney executives, they were looking at rushes and getting Johnny Depp’s version of Jack Sparrow for an hour of rushes. And when you see the film, it’s cut up into bits. It’s two minutes here and then three minutes there and one minute there. It works totally in the movie — but maybe it’s just an overload in an hour full of nothing but Jack Sparrow.

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