Roger Roberts Avary (born August 23, 1965) is a Canadian screenwriter and director whose career is almost entirely overshadowed by former writing partner Quentin Tarantino. Avary won an Academy Award for his contributions to Pulp Fiction (The Gold Watch chapter was based on an original script of his). In the final film, he's given a "story by" credit and, while this may seem minimal, it's more than he received for his contributions to True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Has directed the original film Killing Zoe, and adapted The Rules of Attraction to the screen. Penned the film version of Silent Hill and, along with Neil Gaiman, wrote the script for Beowulf (2007).
Works by this creator:
Written and directed:
- Killing Zoe — An American safe-cracker goes to Paris, meets a callgirl, does heroin, and sits at the middle of a massacre.
- "The Whole World Lost It's Head" — Music video for The Go-Go's single of the same name. Roger Avary was living in Belinda Carlisle's guest house at the time.
- Mr. Stitch — The very first Sci Fi Channel original movie, starring Wil Wheaton, Rutger Hauer, and Ron Perlman. A reworking of the Frankenstein story, with modern technological twists. Has yet to get a region 1 dvd release.
- The Rules of Attraction — Adapted from the Bret Easton Ellis novel, about beautiful, vain, vapid college students being beautiful, vain, and vapid. Better than it sounds.
- Glitterati — An improvised, unreleased (so far) film made from the 70+ hours of footage complied for Victor's European trip montage in The Rules of Attraction. Shot over two weeks with a crew of just Roger Avary, producer Greg Shapiro, and actor Kip Pardu, who had to stay in-character as Victor for the whole shoot. Reportedly, it's two hours of Kip-as-Victor actually seducing and sleeping with women. Releases were signed by all participants, but music rights were not gained, which has prevented it's release so far.
- Lucky Day — Spiritual sequel to Killing Zoe.
- La voix humaine — A 30-minute film adaptation of Jean Cocteau's one-woman play.
- Pulp Fiction — The Gold Watch chapter was adapted from Avary's script, Pandemonium Reigns, written when the film was still meant to be an anthology from three directors. Roger Avary had to miss out on rewrites, as he was busy working on Killing Zoe. In the finished film, Roger Avary received a "story by" credit.
- True Romance — Began with Avary's script, "The Open Road", which he described as "an odd couple relationship between an uptight business man and an out-of-control hitch-hiker who travel into a Hellish mid-Western town together." He became blocked at the 50 page mark and asked friend Quentin Tarantino to help him expand it. In Roger's own words, Quentin turned it into a "500 page, handwritten, Bible of pop culture." With Avary typing, the pair worked together on rewrites, which eventually became a combination of True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Reportedly, it played like a greatly expanded version of Natural Born Killers (their original NBK, not what Oliver Stone ended up doing), told in Quentin's trademark chapter fashion. True Romance happens when Mickey and Mallory Knox escape from prison and decide to kill the screenwriter who wrote a movie about them which they hated. The screenwriter goes on the run, and True Romance is the movie he writes while running. When Roger and Quentin felt the stories were well developed enough to sell, they (wisely) split them into two movies. Quentin further refined the script into the form that was sold. When Tony Scott wanted to reorder the story chronologically, Avary was brought on to do the polish, also writing (again, at Scott's request) the new ending where Clarence doesn't die. Ultimately Roger Avary went uncredited, and was given a "Special Thanks" acknowledgement.
- Natural Born Killers — Like True Romance, the script for NBK started with The Open Road. Eventually he and Quentin worked it into their final script, which they originally planned to shoot independently, guerrilla-style on the streets of LA, without permits. When both wanted to move to other projects, they decided to sell the script. After being sold, Avary was hired to do the first script polish to make it less "weird" (remember, Quentin's style was still new and, thus, considered "wrong"). Neither Avary nor Quentin had anything to do with Oliver Stone's further drastic changes. The final film bears very little resemblance to their original script, and, while Tarantino received a "Story By" credit, Roger Avary again went uncredited. He's very happy with that.
- Crying Freeman — dialogue polish on Christophe Gans' film, based on the manga of the same name.
- RPM — "A professional car thief pulls off the heist of a lifetime when he steals a prototype supercar," so reads the IMDB synopsis. David Arquette and Famke Janssen star. This was meant to be his follow-up to Killing Zoe, with a cast including Jean-Hughes Anglade, Eric Stoltz, Chow Yun-Fat, Dolph Lundgren, and Nastassja Kinski, amongst others. After several producer-imposed rewrites, Avary left the project and requested his name be removed from the film. He goes uncredited.
- Silent Hill — Second collaboration with director Christophe Gans, both of them being fans of the popular video game series.
- Beowulf (2007) — Written with Neil Gaiman, Roger Avary was originally planning to direct in a very raw style, comparing his vision to Roman Polański's Macbeth and Terry Gilliam's Jabberwocky. Despite being a very low-budget project, nobody would fund his vision, and he was eventually coaxed into selling his script to Robert Zemeckis, who subsequently hired Avary to rewrite the script. Eventually shot in a 100% CGI environment, with lots of motion capture. The whole tale of Avary's involvement is told in the published screenplay, which also included his and Neil's first draft, as well as the final shooting script.
- The Sandman — Adaptation of Neil Gaiman's revolutionary series. Roger elaborates on his time with the project: "As I was reading the serialized version of Sandman: The Doll's House, it was like having a third eye open in my forehead. Johnny Depp as Dream. Fairuza Balk as Death. I would subcontract Jan vankmajer or the Brothers Quay to animate the transitions from the dream realm into our own world, so as to simulate the graphic style of Dave McKean's covers. It would be a glorious and magnificent epic. A year and a half after my first meeting, I politely left the project, not wanting to be the guy who ruined the Sandman film adaptation. I simply couldn't imagine the Lord of Dreaming throwing a punch. Just because it looked like Batman at first glance didn't mean it was. But Jon Peters, the 'savant' producer Warners had attached to the project couldn't be dissuaded. I moved on, a year and a half of my life gone to the ether. No more real to me now than the memory of a dream." He was replaced by future Pirates of the Caribbean writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. Eventually, the project was put in turnaround and has yet to be made by anyone.
- Glamorama— Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, Avary was given the lifetime rights after Ellis was thoroughly impressed with The Rules of Attraction. Originally was set to be made right after Rules, the low box-office of that film has kept Glamorama from being shot yet. Ellis insists Avary is the only man who can make the film, and Roger Avary is still shopping the project around.
- Lunar Park— Another Easton Ellis property, it's unknown if Avary is set to direct or just write, but his name has been attached to it since it was first announced. Like Glamorama, nobody wants to move forward with an Ellis movie, so it's yet to be made.
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein — Based on the FPS video game, of which Avary is a professed fan. Was set to write and direct before he was sent to jail for vehicular manslaughter. The project was put on hold for years, before a press release saying it was back on, with Avary. It's been a while since that announcement, and so far nothing has happened.
- Lucky Day— The original idea was an immediate sequel to Killing Zoe. Zed and Zoe are on the run from the French authorities and end up at a Moroccan casino run by Eric's twin brother, who they find out is "a very different kind of monster than Eric." After more than a decade of time, was rewritten into more of a spiritual sequel, which was eventually released in 2019.
- Driver — Based on the video gamer series, he was hired to write and direct. "In the Driv3r game, Timmy Vermicelli was a joke character based on Tommy Vercetti, the character from GTA 3. So I made Timmy the villain, who kills Tanner, who would be played by Michael Madsen who voiced the character in the game. Tanner's son, Driver, hunts the killer around the world for revenge, eventually ending up in Iraq, where the mob has been hired by the U.S. government as a subcontractor of drugs and prostitution in the green zone. The basic idea is that Vermicelli drives around shooting people in Iraq, much like GTA, but it always gets blamed on insurgents — so he does it with impunity. Think of the movie as GTA set in Bagdad." After submitting extensive storyboards to the producers, a higher-up from the studio came down and insisted the movie be made for $40 million. The project was dead less than a week later. Avary has commented that seeing Drive (2011) "nullified my need to make the film."
- Medal of Honor — Miniseries based on the lives of servicemen who have been awarded the medal of honor. Was written in collaboration with John Milius, who was also going to produce. Pitched to HBO and Showtime, who both passed due to the high budget and perceived "limited appeal." As of 2012, Milius is still hoping to get the project developed.
- Black Hole — Based on the comic series. Roger Avary wrote the script with Beowulf partner Neil Gaiman. David Fincher was attached to direct for a while, but gave up to do The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The current status of the project is unknown.
- 99 Days — A Paris-set thriller about a man who gets bitten by a vampire and has 99 days until he's completely turned. Roger Avary has this to say about it: "at one point it was set for Russell Mulcahy to direct. Eventually, rights reverted to me and I tried for a while to make it with myself directing, but other vampire movies continuously got in the way, and the genre soon changed altogether into the Blade/Underworld/Twilight latex/abs productions we have now. At one point, Guillermo del Toro, who is a good friend, begged me to give it to him. When I didn't he went off and made Blade II, later telling me that he shamelessly stole all the good bits from my script...which is fine, and doesn't upset me in the slightest. The movie is much more classic and gothic, at least in my eyes, but the last time I dusted it off I was told by Samuel Hadida that it felt old now and picked clean by everything that's come since I first wrote it. Such is the way in Hollywood."
- Gala Dali — Surreal biopic about Salvador Dalí and the turbulent relationship he had with his wife Gala. Al Pacino was attached to play Salvador. The studio abandoned the project for a more traditional Dali film from Simon West. Eventually, West's film went into turnaround, and no Dali film has yet been made. May be worth noting that Avary named his daughter Gala (she's also become a screenwriter). He stated in a 2020 interview promoting Lucky Day, "Ive spent years attempting to mount the film, with Al Pacino, Adrien Brody, Vincent Cassel and others, and Ive never been able to pull it together. It is my white whale."
- Hatchet Man — Written in the mid nineties for John Woo. Roger Avary mentions the project on the Criterion Collection commentary for Woo's Hard Boiled. His enthusiasm is evident, and he talks about his great admiration of John Woo's style. Plot is unknown; the project was not a favorite of the studio and they encouraged Woo to do the more commercial Broken Arrow (1996) instead.
- Mexicali — "Bill Paxton trapped in a Mexican prison and being chased by the Mexican Mafia through open sewers. A Hitchcockian 'man in a foreign land' movie on peyote. The day I turned in my draft the company, Destination Films, went belly up. I went in and all the executives were in their street clothes, packing boxes and watching a football game on TV. The rights have since changed hands and been absorbed several times. Who knows where it is now...?"
- Silver Surfer — Written on spec in the late 80s. Based on Fantastic Four numbers 48-50, but with all references to the super hero team removed. In Avary's words: "Instead of Johnny Storm traveling to the Negative Zone, it's the Surfer. Instead of The Punisher guarding the Ultimate Nullifier in the Negative Zone I had a gold-skinned surfer-like guardian. Alecia Masters has no relationship with Ben Grimm, but is still a blind sculptress through her I have the Surfer rediscovering the humanity he lost when he transformed from Norrin Radd to the herald of Galactus. Lastly, my first draft supposed that Galactus wasn't necessarily a sentient entity, but a massive and complex planet eating robot-ship that's operated by millions of creatures Borg-like (before there were Borg)." Over a decade later, Fox went with a different script for their Silver Surfer movie.
- 2NDS — Remake of John Frankenheimer's film Seconds, of which Avary confesses to "adore." An assignment job, it was written for Jonathan Mostow to direct. Though Avary didn't feel it needed to be remade, he reportedly had fun writing it. The project went into turnaround and was cancelled.
- Airspace — Described as "Duel in the air," Roger was only set to direct from a script by Briana Hartman, with John Cusack starring. Cusack would play a charter airline pilot on his way home when he "must escape a sudden attack by a heavily armed MiG fighter jet after finding a mysterious briefcase in his plane." Nothing has been heard since the project was announced in fall 2012.
- Phantasm's End — A proposed fifth film in the Phantasm series. Avary, a long-time admirer of Don Coscarelli as well as a fan of the series, collaborated with him in the mid-nineties about the project. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Bruce Campbell was slated to star. The budget needed was too large, so Coscarelli made Phantasm IV: Oblivion as a sort of prelude to this project, even including moments that were intended as set ups to this film. After the failure of Phantasm IV, the chances of funding Phantasm's End became even slimmer. Coscarelli reportedly still wanted to make the film, but after a decade of silence he instead went with a different script for what would become the fifth film, Phantasm V: Ravager.
- Domino — Tony Scott, who enjoyed working with Roger on True Romance, asked him to contribute a draft of his long-in-development Domino. Eventually, Scott went with a script from writer/director Richard Kelly. Scott viewed Domino Harvey as a living movie character, and said he didn't use Avary's script because it read more like a traditional biopic than the movie Domino was meant to star in. After reading Kelly's script for Southland Tales, Scott was impressed enough to ask him to write a draft. Avary holds no grudge, and remained friends with Tony to his untimely death.
- Lords of Dogtown— David Fincher asked Avary to do a rewrite on his developing film about the seminal Z-Boys skateboard team. After Fincher eventually left the director's chair, Avary's draft was discarded and they went to another writer.
- Sanctuary —Adaptation of the William Faulkner novel, he was tapped to write and direct for COPS producer John Langley. The story involves rape, murder, abduction, and other brutal acts set against the backdrop of the American South during Prohibition. Was said to be a more faithful adaptation than the earlier 1933 version (titled "The Story of Temple Drake") which had to conform to the The Hays Code. Project was announced in 2011, and very little has been heard about it since.
- Jesus of Nazareth — Adaptation of Paul Verhoeven's meticulously researched novel of the same name. Verhoeven is a member of the Jesus Seminar, a group of religious scholars that meet once a year to present and discuss new evidence and theories about the historical Jesus. "Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure," proclaims the back of the book. An article in 2012 said Avary was picked to write the "realistic take on Jesus' life in which his mother is raped by a Roman soldier instead of experiencing an immaculate conception and all of Christ's miracles from the New Testament are intentionally removed... the adaptation will depict Jesus in a more human light, hence the reason the miracles and the resurrection are being stripped from the story. Instead, Jesus will be portrayed as an ethicist and a radical prophet, whose message became too politically strong for the Romans to idly accept and endure." The film was picked up for financing by Muse Productions that same year, and would have competed with Darren Aronofsky's Noah and Ridley Scott's Exodus around 2014, but for some reason filming never commenced. Current status of the project is unknown, through Verhoeven still appears gung-ho about it. Avary's involvement is also uncertain.
- Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll — Marilyn Manson's long-delayed horror re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice stories. In June 2013, Manson said Avary was going to direct, though that's all thats ever been said of his involvement. Manson and Avary are known to be friends (Avary has related a story about attending Manson's birthday party and enjoying the lactating cabaret dancers), and Avary has released one chapter of an (apparently private)docu-series of the two of them on a road trip, titled My Week With Marilyn (Manson). In February 2014, Manson said the movie was finally shooting, and that he couldn't reveal who the director was. It's possible Roger Avary actually clandestinely shot this film, and it's currently in post-production. Or these are just rumors. Time will tell.
- The Rules of Attraction tv series — Announced in 2014 to be airing on the Bravo network, the series was described as, "Inspired by the book and film of the same name, the high concept series takes the students and faculty at the fictional Camden College and unravels a murder mystery by telling the same story through 12 different points of view. Children of the 1%-ers live as unhinged and wild adults in a Bret Easton Ellis world with seemingly no rules to hold these privileged few down." Since then, there's been no word on the project.