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Susannah Grant

Susannah Grant

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: January 4, 1963 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: screenwriter, producer, actor, journalist, magazine fact checker (at Rolling Stone)

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Susannah Grant was a screenwriter and director who first gained widespread acclaim in 2000 for her Oscar-nominated screenplay, "Erin Brockovich." A former television writer for the feel-good drama "Party of Five" (Fox, 1994-2000), Grant made a name for herself crafting strong, fully-realized female lead characters. Grant continually experimented in genres from drama to comedy to family fare, never losing focusing on the underrepresented lives of diverse women.Grant was born on Jan. 4, 1963, in New York City, NY and raised in Ridgewood, NJ. She spent her childhood fascinated with fairy tales and fantasies, and went on study English at Amherst College in Massachusetts. In 1984, after college, she moved to New York City to take a stab at acting while doing entry-level editorial work at places like Rolling Stone magazine, which, incidentally, would review her directorial debut some 15 years later. But at the time, the Big Apple was not panning out too well, so after four years, Grant headed to San Francisco. She snagged a production job at the KPIX television station that allowed her plenty of downtime on the clock to work on her own writing projects, and she began to hone in on screenwriting as a solid...

Susannah Grant was a screenwriter and director who first gained widespread acclaim in 2000 for her Oscar-nominated screenplay, "Erin Brockovich." A former television writer for the feel-good drama "Party of Five" (Fox, 1994-2000), Grant made a name for herself crafting strong, fully-realized female lead characters. Grant continually experimented in genres from drama to comedy to family fare, never losing focusing on the underrepresented lives of diverse women.

Grant was born on Jan. 4, 1963, in New York City, NY and raised in Ridgewood, NJ. She spent her childhood fascinated with fairy tales and fantasies, and went on study English at Amherst College in Massachusetts. In 1984, after college, she moved to New York City to take a stab at acting while doing entry-level editorial work at places like Rolling Stone magazine, which, incidentally, would review her directorial debut some 15 years later. But at the time, the Big Apple was not panning out too well, so after four years, Grant headed to San Francisco. She snagged a production job at the KPIX television station that allowed her plenty of downtime on the clock to work on her own writing projects, and she began to hone in on screenwriting as a solid career direction. A few years later she was accepted to the screenwriting program at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1992, while studying at AFI, she penned "Island Girl," which was awarded a prestigious Nicholl Fellowship and opened doors for her in Tinseltown.

Grant soon landed on the premiere season of FOX's family drama, "Party of Five," starting in 1994 as a full-time writer and then working as a consulting writer-producer and director for two more years. During her stint on the show, "Party of Five" earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Drama. In 1995, she was tapped to write the screenplay for the animated Disney feature, "Pocahontas," which helped set her professional compass towards female-centered story-telling. The same exec that had hired her for "Pocahontas" called Grant again in 1998; this time, with an idea to make a Merchant Ivory-styled version of Cinderella. Grant's natural tendency to create self-reliant, capable, energetic female characters transformed "Ever After" into a lively and empowering tale about ignoring societal limits and trying to achieve what other consider impossible. The film, starring Drew Barrymore, was not a huge box office success, but it did succeed in charming critics and boosting her reputation.

When Grant got wind that the real-life story of Erin Brockovich was being made into a feature film, she was chomping at the bit for a chance to take on such a meaty project. It would be a stretch, coming from the softer, gentler screenplays on Grant's resume, but co-producer Gale Lyon believed that Grant could faithfully portray the fiery, working-class hero who fought against industrial pollution and won. She set right to work on the enormous task of researching everyone involved in both the case and Brockovich's personal life, weaving them together into a portrait of a heroine and a dramatic story of success. And in a complete 180 degree spin from her previous works, this script had to be tough-talkin' and full of curse words to remain true to its bawdy real-life subject. Grant's script was nominated for an Oscar and a WGA award, and the Steven Soderbergh-directed film went on to earn countless nominations and awards, with Julia Roberts emerging as the Best Leading Actress of the year at the Oscars. Grant's accolades were contested by Richard LaGravenese, who had done punch-up work on the script, but in the end, she retained her sole credit.

Her next feature, "28 Days" (2000), starred Sandra Bullock as a cynical rehab patient, and departed from Grant's usual women-in-control formula with a woman who was totally out of control. Critics were divided over the film, but no one could deny that Grant had again created a rare sighting in Hollywood - a fully developed female lead character. "28 Days" also gave Grant a chance to work with renowned director Betty Thomas, whom she had studied carefully with an eye towards transitioning into directing as Thomas had done.

For the next few years Grant did some uncredited writing on the features "Center Stage" (2000) "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and "Unfaithful" (2001), before she penned her next original screenplay, "In Her Shoes." The 2005 film featured not just one - but two exceptional women characters, sisters Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette. Its smart, insightful, tone stood out above the crowd of shallow chick flicks - enough to attract critically revered director Curtis Hansen to the project.

Grant, now a mom, re-entered children's fare territory with the 2006 live action film "Charlotte's Web," starring Dakota Fanning as Fern and, reuniting again with her "Erin Brockovich" lead, Julia Roberts as the voice of the doomed Charlotte. Her deft adaptation of E.B. White's beloved childhood classic was a huge hit, respected by the older crowd for avoiding the sickly-sweet tone of so many "family" movies, and considered by many to be heir to the crown of talking pig films. In quick succession, Grant made her much-anticipated directorial debut with the Jennifer Garner vehicle "Catch and Release" in early 2007. However the film caused critics to question whether the writer who was once been a dependable voice for the modern, empowered woman was perhaps losing her fresh perspective and teetering on the edge of Nora Ephron territory. "Catch and Release" tanked at the box office.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:


CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

2001:
Hired to do rewrite work on "Unfaithful," a remake of the French film "La Femme infidele"
2000:
Penned the screenplay for "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts; earned a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination
2000:
Reportedly did uncredited work on the screenplay for "Charlie's Angels"
2005:
Wrote the screenplay adaptation for "In Her Shoes," which is based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner
1994:
Hired as a story editor and teleplay writer for the FOX drama, "Party of Five"
2007:
Made directorial debut with "Catch and Release," a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Garner as a woman mourning her fiance's death
1998:
Produced the film adaptation of the fairy tale Cinderella, "Ever After"; also co-wrote
:
Wrote and produced local television in San Francisco
1995:
First film credit, as co-writer of the Disney animated feature, "Pocahontas"
2000:
Wrote the Sandra Bullock dramady, "28 Days"
:
After college, worked as magazine researcher and fact checker
2006:
Penned the live-action/animated feature adaptation of "Charlotte's Web"
2009:
Wrote the screenplay for "The Soloist"; based on a series of columns written by <i>Los Angeles Times</i> columnist Steve Lopez
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Education

Miss Porter's School: Farmington, Connecticut -
Amherst College: Amherst, Massachusetts - 1984
Center For Advanced Film Studies, American Film Institute: - 1991
AFI Conservatory: Los Angeles, California - 1992

Notes

Grant was award a Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting (a competition sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) in 1992.

"I respect the marketplace," Grant says. "I respect that when you ask a studio to give you $20 to $30 million to make a movie, or whatever it's going to be - sometimes far more than that - you've got to respect that they want it back. And there aren't a whole lot of people, relatively speaking, who want to go see a love story between a 55-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman." --From "Daring to Be Good" by Judith Lewis in L.A. Weekly, March 24-30, 2000.

"Directors who understand the script aren't threatened by the writer -- the person who really knows the script. Still, when I'm on the set and I see an actor heading toward me and we're within sight of the director I'm like, 'Oh no, stay away. Don't ask me anything!'" --Susannah Grant speaking on a panel with fellow writer Amy Holden Jones at the 2000 Los Angeles International Film Festival, quoted in article on www.insidefilm.com

Betty Thomas was the director of "28 Days". Says Grant, "I wrote for another nine months after she signed on. And even during the shooting she sometimes said something wasn't working and needed to be rewritten. I'd tell her, 'You had that in one of the many drafts I wrote for you,' and I'd tell her where she could find that. You see, lots of things she asked me to try I had tried before and already gone through that process. It's frustrating to have to help someone learn what you already learned the hard way -- especially when you're the one who has to do the work."

But Grant was quick to point out that working with Thomas was not without its benefits. "She always treated me with respect and that made the writing easier. And since I knew that I was going to be directing my next picture, I considered this an internship and I learned a lot from her about directing, so working with Betty was great." --From "Susannah Grant and Amy Holden-Jones Speak at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival" at www.insidefilm.com

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Christopher Henrikson. Nonprofit executive.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Olivia Henrikson. Born in summer 1999.

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