Michael Arndt

Michael Arndt

Michael Arndt spent his formative years in Northern Virginia, but due to his father's work in the Foreign Service, he also lived in Sri Lanka and India for two years. He attended junior high and high school in McLean, VA, and then graduated from New York University's film school. Arndt first worked as a script reader for a few years, and then as a personal assistant to actor Matthew Broderick. In 2000, Arndt spent three days writing the first draft of what later became his first filmed screenplay, "Little Miss Sunshine," a poignant and humorous story about a dysfunctional family who embarks on a mishap-filled road trip to bring their daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) to the finals of a beauty pageant in Southern California. From that draft, Arndt labored through almost 100 revisions over a year before he sold the script to Focus Features. However, the project was stalled in various stages of production for almost three years because the production company reportedly wanted Arndt to change the script and make the movie about Olive's father, Richard (Greg Kinnear). Arndt insisted on keeping the story about a family trying to understand each other in the beginning and ending together, so he was fired, only to be rehired a month later when the new writer left.Not only did "Little Miss Sunshine" generate critical buzz when it premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, it was also a smash hit among mainstream moviegoers. Thanks to stellar performances by its cast, which also included Alan Arkin (who won an Oscar for his work in the film), Toni Collette, Paul Dano and Steve Carell, and Arndt's heartwarming and witty script, the movie won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Arndt for Best Original Screenplay in 2007. Following the critical and commercial success of "Little Miss Sunshine," Pixar pegged him to write the script for the next installment of its blockbuster computer-animated movie franchise, "Toy Story 3" (2010). Much like the movie's previous releases, the film centers on its animated dynamic duo - the loyal cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and the brave robot Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) - as they dealt with an uncertain future as their owner, Andy, heads off to college. Arndt's bittersweet script elevated the movie's lighthearted theme to show how each character matured. Special effects and lifelike characters aside, the movie's heartwarming and timeless story enjoyed critical praise, and helped make it one of 2011's most buzzed about films. Arndt went on to share in an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay.From there, the writer penned later drafts of the Tom Cruise sci-fi thriller, "Oblivion" (2013), which turned out to be perfect training ground for his next project, "Star Wars: Episode VII." Following George Lucas' shocking announcement that he had sold his "Star Wars" franchise to Walt Disney Studios, Arndt landed the gig of a lifetime when he was tapped to write the next installment to the series, which was set to be released sometime in 2015. Naturally, details about which direction the series would take remained obscure at best, but reports circulated that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and even Harrison Ford were open to reprising their famed roles. As he was working on pages for the seventh episode, Arndt was also named as being a potential screenwriter for parts eight and nine, though both projects were in the very early stages of development.By Shawn Dwyer