Whether one saw Jerry Stahl as a dark cult-force storyteller or simply a junkie who got lucky, the author and screenplay writer wrote about subjects that fascinated the American public. While Permanent Midnight remained his landmark book, Stahl was writing for television well before he penned that famous autobiography that exposed a starkly personal view of a heroin addict's life. From quirky comedic television to dark crime dramas, Jerry Stahl remained a driven writer whose work reflected a darkly humorous side to the American way of life.
Born in Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, Jerry Stahl's start in life was like that of many of his generation. He attended university, dabbled in writing for various magazines and dreamed of being famous. Like many writers of his day, he also wrote pornography under a pseudonym to pay the bills. It was his work on the cult porn film ¿Cafe Flesh¿ (1982), a bizarre post-apocalyptic tale of a nightclub following a nuclear war, that initiated Stahl's entry into the world of television sitcom writing. A chance meeting with a television insider who had seen and enjoyed the film led to Stahl writing several episodes of the sitcom television show ¿Alf¿ (NBC 1986-89), his entry point into writing for television.
During the 1980s, Stahl wrote for a number of television series including the sitcom ¿You Again?¿ (NBC 1986-87), the divisive generational drama ¿thirtysomething¿ (ABC 1987-1991) and the legendarily troubled (behind the scenes) romantic comedy/drama ¿Moonlighting¿ (ABC 1985-89). His book about the experience of simultaneously shooting heroin and writing for middle America is the central focus of his landmark book Permanent Midnight, published in 1995. During the years he worked on the book, he continued to write for such landmark television shows as ¿Northern Exposure¿ (CBS 1990-95) and ¿Twin Peaks¿ (ABC 1990-91), garnering a reputation for writing darkly ironic episodes with a certain flair.
With the publication of Permanent Midnight and the resulting attention, the memoir was turned into an acclaimed 1998 film starring Ben Stiller as Stahl. Following the film's critical success, a chance meeting with ¿CSI: Crime Scene Investigation¿ (CBS 2000- ) actor William L. Peterson led to a ten-episode gig writing for the series.
With the notoriety of his book and several successful television shows under his belt, Stahl began work on his first full-length film, the TV movie ¿Hemingway and Gelhorn¿ (2012). The Phillip Kaufman-directed film delved into the legendary romance between journalist Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway that became the inspiration for Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. Stahl's writing partnership with Barbara Turner on this project proved to be successful; the pair were nominated for a Writer Guild Award for the film. It went on to garner Golden Globe nominations for its stars Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman and won two Primetime Emmys; it was nominated for 13 additional Emmys and for several Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild Awards.
Stahl continued to pursue his literary work throughout his time as a screenwriter. In 2013 his work on Hollywood legend and bad boy Fatty Arbuckle caught the eye of Johnny Depp, whose production company Infinitum Nihil optioned the film rights. The book, titled I, Fatty, was written from the viewpoint of the silent-film star and details his heroin addiction and the out of control behavior that led to his trial (and subsequent acquittal) for the sexual assault and murder of actress Virginia Rappe.
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
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First produced screenplay "Nightdreams"
Wrote two episodes of "Thirtysomething"
Wrote an episode of David Lynch and Mark Frost's TV sensation "Twin Peaks"
Published <i>Permanent Midnight</i>
Ben Stiller-starring adaptation "Permanent Midnight" hit theaters
Wrote many episodes of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"
Wrote several episodes of "Maron"
Co-wrote "Urge," starring Pierce Brosnan
Was co-writer on Chuck Wepner biopic "Chuck"