After years of hard work, 2017 was a year that paid off for Hollywood screenwriter Andrew Lanham, 33, a 2003 graduate of Bangor Christian School.
Two films for which he co-wrote the scripts — “The Glass Castle,” an adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ 2005 memoir that stars Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, and “The Shack,” an adaptation of the 2007 spiritual novel starring Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer — were released this year. And a script he’d been working on for years, “The Kid,” a retelling of the story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, is now in the early stages of production, with Vincent D’Onofrio directing.
“It’s been a slow and steady process. It takes so much willpower and passion to actually get a movie made, so if you find people that have that, it makes all the difference,” said Lanham, whose family still lives in the Camden area. “You’ve really got to stick with it.”
Lanham, who in 2010 was awarded a prestigious Nicholl Fellowship for screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, found passionate people to work with like D’Onofrio, who has been working with him on “The Kid” for some time now. He’s also developed a working partnership with producer Gil Netter, who produced both “The Shack” and “The Glass Castle.”
Adapting “The Glass Castle,” in particular, resonated with Lanham for its unflinching story of an unconventional, often traumatic, childhood. Walls’ memoir, a bestseller for several years after it came out, had been in development as a film for nearly a decade before Lanham came on board to write the script with director Destin Daniel Cretton, with whom Lanham also wrote the screenplay for “The Shack.”
“The Glass Castle” is Walls’ memoir of growing up in a poverty-stricken family, with an alcoholic father (Harrelson), an unstable, eccentric mother (Watts) and three siblings. The family moved frequently before settling in a rundown house in West Virginia. Eventually, as they come of age, the siblings all escape their family life — one by one — and moved to New York.
“It’s a really beautiful book, and instead of approaching this really difficult childhood with anger, she approaches it with just honesty … I think it gives everything a magical quality, and that was the challenge in adapting that story,” said Lanham.
Lanham is the son of Stephanie Laite Lanham Summers of Camden and the late Samuel Lanham, a longtime Bangor attorney and supporter of the arts in the region, who passed away in 2013. As a teenager in Bangor, Andrew Lanham was a voracious reader and lover of film. He later studied screenwriting at the University of Texas Austin’s prestigious film program. He has lived in Los Angeles for the past five years.
Andrew Lanham’s first screenplay, “The Jumper of Maine,” remains unproduced as of yet, but is what won him the Nicholl Fellowship. Set in Maine, it focuses on a paramedic with Tourette’s syndrome — something Andrew Lanham knows well because he has it himself.
In addition to working on “The Kid” with D’Onofrio — a film that presently has actors Ethan Hawke and Dane DeHaan slated to star — Andrew Lanham is also working on another screenplay called “Just Mercy.” That film, an adaptation of the acclaimed nonfiction work of the same name by legal scholar and anti-death penalty activist Bryan Stevenson, is light-years, story-wise, from Andrew Lanham’s three other scripts. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do think I’m drawn to things that have a kind of larger than life element, whether it’s this wild, intense story in ‘The Glass Castle’ or important social justice issues, or iconic characters,” said Andrew Lanham. “I hope to be lucky enough to continue to write about lots of different types of things, and to find people that are equally passionate about each project.”