“My whole career has happened in the past six months,” Jonathan Stokes says in his first-ever interview
Stokes, an emerging writer, recently joined the Oscar-nominated "Frost/Nixon" writer as one of only four scribes ever to have two scripts on Hollywood's Black List – the annual list of the best unproduced screenplays — in one year.
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"After toiling in a vaccuum for so many years, it was a huge pleasure to be recognized twice in one year," Stokes told TheWrap in his first-ever media interview.
One of his two Black List screenplays, "Murders and Acquisitions," already was already sold to Warner Bros. in late September.
The film is a dark action-comedy in the vein of "Pulp Fiction" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." It follows a fired CEO who hires an assassin to kill the Wall Street shark who stole his company.
That sale came just months after Stokes signed with UTA and Energy Entertainment, on the strength of his other Black List screenplay, the action/thriller "Blood Mountain." That was in late June, and on July 11, they sold yet another Stokes screenplay, "El Gringo," to After Dark. Joel Silver is executive producing the action-comedy.
"My whole career has happened in the past six months," Stokes said. "It's been a whirlwind."
Stokes, a Manhattan native, graduated with a philosophy degree from the Claremont Colleges. He then moved to Los Angeles and began performing improvisational comedy. "Whatever I think I might know about writing, I credit to improv," he said. "You learn that your subconscious is much smarter than you are, and to just always trust your first instinct."
"Seth and I were best friends growing up," Stokes told TheWrap, recalling that they collaborated for a super 8 movie called "Alienators" when they were in the fifth grade. "He always wanted to come to Hollywood, and I always wanted to be a writer, so I had a good feeling we'd meet again," he said.
Stokes was actually trying to sell his "Blood Mountain" screenplay when Grahame-Smith caught wind of "Murders and Acquisitions."
"I slipped him a script no one else had read yet," Stokes said, noting it took him two weeks to write the script. "He said he wanted to take it to Warner Bros. to buy it."
Stokes also has finished the first "Murders" rewrite for Warner Bros., and they're currently working on the direction for a second rewrite. A start date for pre-production has not been set.
In the later stages of development is "El Gringo," which Stokes wrote in 2009. Starring Scott Adkins, Yvette Yates and Christian Slater, it has wrapped shooting and is being edited in Louisiana. A theatrical release date hasn't been set.
Ironically, "Blood Mountain" — the script that won over his manager, Energy's Brooklyn Weaver — still hasn't been sold. Among the 73 scripts on the Black List, it's one of 14 that hasn't found a buyer.
The gritty, Western/action story takes place in a war zone in Pakistani tribal territory.
"I wanted to take an American solider and a [Pakistani] militant and show the ways in which they're diametrically opposed but live by a code of honor and come to respect one another as equal," Stokes said of the screenplay, which he wrote in three weeks earlier this year.
If offered three choices for a leading actor, Stokes answered: "Ryan Gosling, Ryan Gosling, Ryan Gosling. I hope he reads the script, because he could knock it out of the park."
Stokes said the film could be made for as little as $5 million. "All you need is a desert of a bloody mountain," he joked.