Peter Hedges

Peter Hedges

Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Hedges was born. His father was a minister and his mother was a drug and alcohol counselor who would later succumb to cancer in 2000. With his dad being a minister, Hedges spent much of his youth attending funerals and visiting nursing homes, an experience, according to the writer, that granted him an acute sense of mortality-a recurrent theme that would wend its way into his work. After graduating Valley High School, Hedges attended the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where he majored in theater and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1984. Hedges then formed the Edge Theater, an experimental theater group, with classmates Mary-Louise Parker and J Mantello. Over the course of four years, he wrote and directed twelve productions, many of which were staged at free theaters. Apart from the Edge Theater group, Hedges produced his original play, "Imagining Brad," off-Broadway for the Circle Repertory Theater. While teaching at Bennington College in Vermont, Hedges wrote a monologue that would be the genesis for his first novel, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," published in 1991. In 1993, Hedges adapted his own novel for Paramount Pictures. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("My Life as a Dog," "Chocolat"), and co-starring Johnny Depp and a then-unknown Leonardo DiCaprio, the film tells the story of Gilbert Grape (Depp), a 24 year-old trapped in a small town and a dysfunctional family. The film helped DiCaprio earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards. However, Hedges wouldn't write another film until "A Map of the World" (1999), an adaptation of the Jane Hamilton novel, starring Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore. In between screenwriting projects, Hedges returned to the stage, producing "Baby Anger" for Playwrights Horizons and "Good as New" for the Manhattan Class Company. These plays and others were published by the Dramatists Play Service, one of the premiere play-licensing agencies for English-speaking theater. Hedges' finest moment as a screenwriter came with his collaboration on the adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, "About a Boy" (2002). Along with fellow screenwriters Chris and Paul Weitz (both also directed the film), Hedges was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Despite not winning an Oscar, Hedges earned both critical acclaim and industry respect for "About a Boy." He traded this in for the opportunity to direct his first feature film, "Pieces of April" (2003), which starred Katie Holmes, Patricia Clarkson and Oliver Platt. At a crisp 80 minutes, the digitally shot film tells the story of April Burns (Holmes), a wild 21 year-old living on her own in New York City who invites her estranged, straight-laced family--including her terminally ill, hyper-critical mother (Clarkson) over Thanksgiving dinner, even though she d sn't know how to cook. Though always busy with writing, Hedges has made the time to reach out to those trying to make it in the industry, serving as a Creative Advisor at the Sundance Screenwriter's Lab. Hedges was also awarded residencies at Yaddo (an artists' retreat in Saratoga Springs, NY), the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, and the Millay Colony in upstate New York.