Family & Companions
Often one hears of the lack of solid leading roles for women, but that complaint clearly doesn't apply to the career of screenwriter and director Don Roos. He has crafted several memorable characters essayed by the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sharon Stone, Whoopi Goldberg and Christina Ricci (to name a few). That is not to say he doesn't create well-rounded male characters, but the thrust of his work has been built around strong women.
One of five children in an Irish Catholic family, the openly gay Roos was raised in upstate New York and Virginia. While attending the University of Notre Dame, he took a screenwriting course taught by Tony Bill and became hooked. In 1978, he settled in Southern California and embarked on an eight-year career writing and producing for the small screen, all the while harboring a desire to make the move to features. In the late 80s, Roos took a sabbatical to concentrate on completing his first screenplay "Love Field," which was eventually filmed in 1990, but not before going through a troubled production history. The male lead of a black man running from the law with his daughter who befriends a Southern woman on her way to President Kennedy's funeral proved especially difficult to cast. Both Denzel Washington and Eric LaSalle were attached before each dropped out over "creative differences." With relative newcomer Dennis Haysbert in the role opposite Michelle Pfeiffer, the film was made only to have the studio, Orion Pictures undergo reorganization, delaying the release for almost two years. When "Love Field" finally opened theatrically in 1992, it received mixed reviews but Pfeiffer won particular notice and earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
By then, Roos had already experienced a box-office hit with the thriller "Single White Female" (1992) which had opened in the summer. Working in tandem with director Barbet Schroeder, the film transcended the subgenre of the "fill in the blank from hell" horror/thriller flicks that had gained in popularity. Thanks to Roos' clever script and the intelligent acting of leads Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Single White Female" proved a rarity, an intelligent and believable tale that owed a passing debt to of all films Bergman's 1966 masterpiece "Persona." Roos continued to fashion powerful female leads with his next script "Boys on the Side" (1995), a female buddy road movie that offered three-dimensional characters for its trio of actresses--Whoopi Goldberg as a lesbian, Mary-Louise Parker as an AIDS patient and Drew Barrymore as a free spirit. Although Roos clashed with director Herbert Ross and was banned from the set, the screenwriter has said in interviews that the completed film came the closest to capturing his vision of all his produced scripts to date. He again ventured into strong woman territory with the uneven remake of "Diabolique" (1996), which teamed Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani and offered Kathy Bates (as a the investigating detective) meaty roles.
Moving to the director's chair, Roos helmed his own script for "The Opposite of Sex," one of 1998's most vibrant features. Having become savvy to the ways of Hollywood, he had made his directing it a condition of the sale. With a budget under $5 million, Roos managed to assemble a perfect cast from Christina Ricci in the lead as a manipulative Lolita-esque teenager who wreaks havoc in the life of her gay older half-brother to Lyle Lovett as a stalwart lawman. The tyro helmer also elicited especially fine performances from Lisa Kudrow (as a prim schoolteacher), Martin Donovan (as Ricci's half-brother) and Ivan Sergei (as Donovan's handsome, somewhat confused lover). Roos' sardonic script (which Ricci's character narrated) was highly praised and the film earned its share of year-end citations, including two Independent Spirit Awards.
Now established, Roos reactivated a dormant project, "Bounce" (2000), which teamed Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck in a love story about a self-absorbed executive and the widow of a man to whom he has a unique connection. The busy hyphenate also did a rewrite on the thriller "Bless the Child" (2000) and created, directed and produced the NBC midseason replacement sitcom "M.Y.O.B.," about an adopted teenager who seeks out her biological relatives when her adoptive parents are killed.
Roos would patiently bide his time to find ways to shepherd his personal projects to the screen unsullied, filling the gaps with uncredited rewriting jobs on studio fare like "Trapped" (2002). His next effort, "Happy Ending" (2005) took several years to get into production but was worth the wait. A seriocomic, mutliplot, multicharacter effort revolving around intertwining tales of secrets and sexuality, the film featured a potent ensemble of actors including Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tom Arnold, Steve Coogan, Jason Ritter, Jesse Bradford and more--indeed, having written the parts for Kudrow and Arnold, he got some of their finest work out of them, while Gyllenhaal's work was no less than relevatory. Continuing to demonstrate a deft wit in the writing, Roos also showed, with his assured balance of the disparate storylines and clever narrative tricks, that his directorial hand had grown even more assured.
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Special Thanks (Special)
Moved to Hollywood to pursue career
Served as executive script consultant and writer for the ABC series "The Colbys"
Provided the story for and wrote script for the ABC Disney movie "Casebusters";
Took a sabatical to write first screenplay, "Love Field" (filmed in 1990; released in 1992)
Served as one of the producers on the NBC drama series "Nightingales"; also wrote one episode; first credits as Don Roos
Penned the hit thriller "Single White Female"
Scripted the female buddy road movie "Boys on the Side"; clashed with director Herbert Ross and was banished from the set during filming
Wrote the remake of "Diabolique", starring Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani
Feature directorial debut with the well-received black comedy "The Opposite of Sex"; also scripted
Wrote and directed the pilot for the NBC sitcom "Mind Your Own Business", about a teenager who seeks out her biological relatives when her adopted parents are killed; pilot picked up as a midseason replacement for the 1999-2000 season under the title "M.Y.O.B."; announced to air in summer 2000
Was one of the writers on the thriller "Bless the Child"
Wrote and directed second feature "Bounce", a romantic drama which teamed Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck
Executive produced the romantic comedy "All Over the Guy"
Helmed "Happy Endings" a drama that weaves multiple stories to create a witty look at love, family, and the sheer unpredictability of life itself