David Webb Peoples
Prior to making his mark in fiction film, Peoples worked primarily as a news and documentary film editor (and occasional writer) in northern California, often in collaboration with his wife, producer-writer Janet Peoples. The pair worked together on Jon Korty's Oscar-winning "Who Are the DeBolts? (And Where Did They Get 19 Kids?)" (1977) and the Oscar-nominated "The Day After Trinity" (1980). The latter was an acclaimed profile of American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in producing the first atomic bomb. Peoples began dabbling in fiction filmmaking in the 1970s working as an editor on the action flick "Steel Arena" (1973) and the X-rated "The Joy of Letting Go" (1976). Impressed by one of Peoples' unproduced scripts, director Tony Scott referred it to his brother Ridley. This lead to Peoples' feature debut as a screenwriter (with co-scenarist Hampton Fancher) on the sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" (1982). Though a box-office disappointment, the film was a critical and cult hit that boosted the reputations of many of those involved with the project. Peoples next surfaced as the writer-director of the unimpressive sci-fi actioner "The Blood of Heroes" (1989) starring Rutger Hauer and Joan Chen in a grim post-apocalyptic future. He did not fare much better penning a poorly received underwater version of "Alien" entitled "Leviathan" (1989) and used the pseudonym Anthony Able as the scripter of the direct-to-video "Project: Alien" (1990). Peoples' career was transformed in 1992: two major films made from his scripts--Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" and Stephen Frears' "Hero"--were released within months of each other, just as "Blade Runner," finally recognized as a masterpiece, was successfully reissued in a "director's cut" version. While "Hero" received a lukewarm response from both press and public, "Unforgiven"--written in 1976 when Peoples was an unknown quantity--was a critical and commercial smash. Hailed as a classic Western, "Unforgiven" was credited with revitalizing both the genre and the career of star-director Clint Eastwood. The film's many honors included Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman). Peoples received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Meanwhile, the flawed comedy-drama "Hero" took some cues from Frank Capra to tell an implausible story of mistaken identity and slippery notions of heroism. Peoples and his wife Janet reteamed creatively to pen the screenplay for Terry Gilliam's sci-fi think piece "12 Monkeys" (1996). Inspired by Chris Marker's memorable 1962 French short "La Jetee/The Runway," the film was a gloomy time-travel tale starring Bruce Willis as a man from a post-apocalyptic future looking for salvation in the past. Gilliam usually writes his own scripts but he was intrigued by the intelligence of the Peoples' screenplay. He observed: "The story is disconcerting. It deals with time, madness and a perception of what the world is or isn't. It is a study of madness and dreams, of death and rebirth, set in a world coming apart." Nonetheless, the film opened to good reviews and respectable business, netting Oscar nods for supporting actor Brad Pitt and costume designer Julie Weiss.