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Laura Jones

Laura Jones

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Birth Place: Profession: screenwriter

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An acclaimed Australian screenwriter, Laura Jones first garnered attention with "High Tide" (1987, directed by Gillian Armstrong), an original and atmospheric character study of a troubled woman who is reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption. The writer quickly became noted for her adaptations of novels with strong female characters at the center of the story. While her feminist slant to the material she writes has met with some critical opprobrium (chiefly "The Portrait of a Lady" 1996 and "A Thousand Acres" 1997), in general, Jones has proven to be expert at condensing unwieldy fiction to suit the conventions of film.After establishing herself in Australian television, Jones wrote her first, and to date, only original script, the aforementioned "High Tide." She teamed with director Jane Campion for the richly observed three-part Australian miniseries "An Angel at My Table" (1990). Drawn from the autobiographies of writer Janet Frame, Jones managed to avoid the pitfalls of other similar film biographies by not allowing the story to lose its focus from the key role writing played in the life of the writer. The character is followed from childhood through a harrowing misdiagnosis as a...

An acclaimed Australian screenwriter, Laura Jones first garnered attention with "High Tide" (1987, directed by Gillian Armstrong), an original and atmospheric character study of a troubled woman who is reunited with the daughter she gave up for adoption. The writer quickly became noted for her adaptations of novels with strong female characters at the center of the story. While her feminist slant to the material she writes has met with some critical opprobrium (chiefly "The Portrait of a Lady" 1996 and "A Thousand Acres" 1997), in general, Jones has proven to be expert at condensing unwieldy fiction to suit the conventions of film.

After establishing herself in Australian television, Jones wrote her first, and to date, only original script, the aforementioned "High Tide." She teamed with director Jane Campion for the richly observed three-part Australian miniseries "An Angel at My Table" (1990). Drawn from the autobiographies of writer Janet Frame, Jones managed to avoid the pitfalls of other similar film biographies by not allowing the story to lose its focus from the key role writing played in the life of the writer. The character is followed from childhood through a harrowing misdiagnosis as a schizophrenic to a successful adulthood as a published and respected woman of letters. The character's quirkiness and solitary nature is not overlooked or dismissed, nor is presented with cliche. Rather, the episodic structure employed by Jones and Campion, movingly depicts Frame's struggles and triumphs. An edited version was released theatrically.

Continuing to work with the leading female directors of her native country, Jones reteamed with Campion for "The Portrait of a Lady," an exceedingly contemporary spin on James' work. Most critics felt that Campion and Jones imposed a feminist viewpoint to the original material and, though the performances were generally fine, the overall result was misguided, even boring. The screenwriter also came under fire for her adaptation of "A Thousand Acres" (also 1997) directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse. A modern version of "King Lear," adapted from Jane Smiley's Pulitzer-winning novel, the film garnered mostly negative reviews with many faulting the screenplay. Jones, however, fared better with two other literary dramatizations. The Australian-made "The Well" (1997) was a combination ghost story, thriller and relationship drama centered on two headstrong women. "Oscar and Lucinda" (also 1997), meanwhile, saw Jones turn Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel into a satisfying and thoughtful rendering. With director Gillian Armstrong, the screenwriter deftly telegraphed the parallel lives of the central characters, a ungainly Anglican minister and a strong-willed Australian heiress, who both share a penchant for gambling. Jones and Armstrong successfully translated Carey's multi-layer book into a study of fate and managed to preserve as a set piece the central image of the novel, a glass church that is transported through the Outback. Continuing with her streak, Jones had been tapped to turn yet another prize-winner into celluloid, Frank McCourt's childhood memoir of a life in poverty, "Angela's Ashes."

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1977:
Early TV screenwriting credit, the Australian telefilm "Say You Want Me"
1978:
Penned the teleplay for "Cass", directed by Chris Noonan
1988:
First original screenplay, "High Tide"; also first screen collaboration with director Gillian Armstrong
1990:
Adapted Janet Frame's memoir, "An Angel at My Table" as a three-part miniseries for Australian TV; directed by Jane Campion, the work was released theatrically in an edited form in Europe and the USA
1996:
Reunited with Jane Campion for "The Portrait of a Lady"
1997:
Adapted the Elizabeth Jolly novel "The Well", helmed by Samantha Lang
1997:
Penned the screen adaptation of Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "A Thousand Acres", directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse
1997:
Wrote the adaptation of Peter Carey's novel "Oscar and Lucinda", directed by Gillian Armstrong
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Notes

"Jones says [Peter] Carey equates adaptation with smashing a pot and remaking it. 'I am much more tender in the beginning. After that,' Jones says, 'I like to put the pot away and let the pot's spirit stay with me." --From "Sydney 2000: Olympic City", a supplement to VARIETY, September 15-21, 1997

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