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Paul Rudnick

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Also Known As: Joseph Howard, Libby Gelman-Waxner Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Piscataway, New Jersey, USA Profession: screenwriter, playwright, novelist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A mainstay of New York theater since the early 1980s, the openly gay Paul Rudnick has become a latter-day Dorothy Parker, animating plays, screenplays, novels and a column in PREMIERE magazine (under the pseudonym Libby Gelman-Waxner) with his subversive wit. Soon after graduating from Yale, his off-Broadway debut, "Poor Little Lambs" (1982, starring Kevin Bacon and Bronson Pinchot), received mixed notices but attracted Hollywood attention, although ultimately languishing in developmental limbo before the rights reverted to Rudnick. The former book jacket blurb writer took a break from playwriting, penning two novels (1986's "Social Disease" and 1989's "I'll Take It") before poking fun at the pretensions of "high art" with the critically-acclaimed "I Hate Hamlet" (1991), inspired by his own move into a Greenwich Village apartment once owned by the late John Barrymore. That legendary drunk could not have been any naughtier than Nicol Williamson, however, whose antics in the play made headlines and alienated cast mates and purportedly led to the show's early demise. The playwright then enjoyed an even bigger Off-Broadway success with "Jeffrey" (1992), an episodic romantic comedy about a gay man who...

A mainstay of New York theater since the early 1980s, the openly gay Paul Rudnick has become a latter-day Dorothy Parker, animating plays, screenplays, novels and a column in PREMIERE magazine (under the pseudonym Libby Gelman-Waxner) with his subversive wit. Soon after graduating from Yale, his off-Broadway debut, "Poor Little Lambs" (1982, starring Kevin Bacon and Bronson Pinchot), received mixed notices but attracted Hollywood attention, although ultimately languishing in developmental limbo before the rights reverted to Rudnick. The former book jacket blurb writer took a break from playwriting, penning two novels (1986's "Social Disease" and 1989's "I'll Take It") before poking fun at the pretensions of "high art" with the critically-acclaimed "I Hate Hamlet" (1991), inspired by his own move into a Greenwich Village apartment once owned by the late John Barrymore. That legendary drunk could not have been any naughtier than Nicol Williamson, however, whose antics in the play made headlines and alienated cast mates and purportedly led to the show's early demise. The playwright then enjoyed an even bigger Off-Broadway success with "Jeffrey" (1992), an episodic romantic comedy about a gay man who decides to abstain from sex when the specter of AIDS turns his encounters into nerve-racking negotiations. Naturally, once he is celibate he meets the man of his dreams, who just happens to be HIV positive, with their relationship played out amusingly.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Making the Boys (2009)
2.
 Celluloid Closet, The (1995) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Moved to NYC after graduating from Yale
:
Worked as a writer of book jacket blurbs
1982:
First produced play, "Poor Little Lambs", optioned by Hollywood but never produced
1986:
Published first novel "Social Disease"
1989:
Published second novel "I'll Take It"
1989:
Began writing a monthly column for PREMIERE magazine under the pseudonym Libby Gelman-Waxner (date approximate)
:
Moved into a West Village apartment once owned by John Barrymore; served as the inspiration for the play "I Hate Hamlet" (1991)
1991:
Worked as an uncredited script doctor on "The Addams Family"; first collaboration with producer Scott Rudin
1992:
First produced screenplay, "Sister Act", credited as Joseph Howard; originally written as a vehicle for Bette Midler; when Whoopi Goldberg was cast and script was revived, opted for pseudonym
1993:
First screenplay billed under his name, "Addams Family Values"
1994:
Returned to Off-Broadway with "The Naked Truth", a satire suggested by the furor over the photographs of Robert Maplethorpe
1995:
Wrote screen adaptation of hit 1992 Off-Broadway play "Jeffrey", feature directing debut of Christopher Ashley, who also staged the play; also served as co-producer; Nathan Lane had scene-stealing cameo as musical comedy loving priest
1996:
Did an uncredited rewrite on "The First Wives Club", produced by Rudin and starring Midler
1997:
Scripted the gay-themed hit comedy "In & Out", loosely inspired by Tom Hanks' Oscar acceptance speech; fifth collaboration with Rudin
1998:
Penned the stage hit "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" (directed by Ashley); act one featured a retelling of the Old Testament from a gay perspective (i.e., the creation story features Adam and Steve, not Eve); second act set in a Chelsea loft during a contemporary Christmas Eve
2000:
Wrote the screenplay for "Isn't She Great", loosely based on the life of pulp author Jacqueline Susann and starring Bette Midler and Nathan Lane
2004:
Wrote the screenplay for the remake of ''The Stepford Wives,'' Bryan Forbes' 1975 cult classic
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Yale College, Yale University: New Haven , Connecticut - 1977

Notes

"Gloom doesn't help anyone. It's been the general rule that you don't use wit in the face of tragedy because it might trivialize it. That's crazy. It's especially important at those times. You acknowledge the awfulness. I mean, it's not 'Oh, AIDS, la-de-da.' But you don't let the disease rule. If you do, then it wins. And that is really intolerable." --Rudnick quoted in the Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1993.

"Hollywood will not only break your heart, it will also transplant it into a baboon. So if you go in, allowing your life and your imagination to hinge on a film project, you will be destroyed. I try to do the best work that I can, but I don't allow that kind of work to define me or be a personal source of happiness. If I did, it would kill me." --Rudnick to Michael Kaplan for Movieline, November 1993.

On the pitfalls of political correctness: "The sad thing is that there are so few gay movies that each one bears the burden of every ounce of political correctness. You forget that 'Philadelphia' was one film; it's extraordinary that it was made at all. You don't see people going after 'Intersection' in that way, saying, 'What about all the other Canadian architects?'" --Rudnick in Elle, June 1994.

Responding to the question, "Have you ever had the experience of someone like Carrie Fisher doctoring one of your scripts?": "It happened to me only early on, with 'Sister Act', which was my idea. I'd developed it for many years for Bette Midler. Eventually, it was rewritten by about half of Southern California. It became a form of jury duty. You had to spend five days on 'Sister Act'. It was actually more cruel than jury duty--and more lives were lost. It was a good lesson. And sad: I was fond of the original script." --Rudnick to Robert Hoffler for Buzzweekly, c. September 1997.

About writing "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told": "I began to feel like God, creating the world, only of course I worked much harder--God never had to fix things during previews. As I wrote, I was forced to confront my own feelings about the largest possible issues: What do I believe in? How can anyone cope with the nightmares of plagues, holocausts and everday evil? And why do I look ridiculous in a yarmulke, especially if there is a bobby pin involved?

"We live in a world where Bed, Bath and Beyond sells menorahs molded with characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh books, where images of Jesus miraculously appear on taco shells, and where fans admire Madonna's recent study of the cabala and its effect on her toned triceps.

"In groping for spiritual exaltation, I've decided that there is only one god I can worship without question: comedy." --Rudnick from his article "If Sex Has Lost Its Shock Value, How About God?" in The New York Times, December 6, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
John Raftis. Physician. Relationship began c. 1993.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Norman Rudnick. Physicist. Died from lung cancer in 1992; second generation Polish Jew.
mother:
Selma Rudnick. Publicist. Second generation Polish Jew.
brother:
Evan Rudnick. Older.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Social Disease"
"I'll Take It"
"Poor Little Lambs"
"I Hate Hamlet"
"Jeffrey" Plume
"If You Ask Me: The Collected Columns of America's Most Beloved and Irresponsible Critic" St. Martin's Press
"The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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