Shane Salerno

Shane Salerno

At the age of 20, Shane Salerno landed a one-year apprenticeship on the set of "NYPD Blue" (ABC 1993-2005) after meeting with the show's executive producer Gregory Hoblit. During this year, Salerno soaked up all he could about the workings of the entertainment industry. He started commuting from San Diego, but soon moved to Los Angeles where the hungry young scribe read everything he could get his hands on while attending industry lectures and events whenever he could. He wrote his own television pilot, a drama about two minority cops, and gave the teleplay to anyone in the industry who would read it. Through this writing sample he landed a three-year deal with Universal Television and "Law and Order" (NBC 1990-2010) producer Dick Wolf on his new show, "New York Undercover" (Fox 1994-98). Though unrelated to Salerno's pilot, Wolf's new show also featured two minority cops and Salerno seemed to be a perfect fit to write for the show. At 22, Salerno found himself a staff writer on one of the most popular cop dramas on the air. But he was unhappy at his new job and though he wrote several well-received episodes of the series, Salerno found the television world to be less than satisfying. He clashed with the other producers and writers and later said his time on "New York Undercover" was "the worst experience of my life." Against the advice of everyone around him, Salerno got out of his contract and turned to writing features. Amazingly, he was met with equally astounding opportunities in the film world. Within a matter of weeks after breaking his NYU contract and leaving the show, Salerno began developing "A Season in Hell" for producer Arne Schmidt, an action flick about an arsonist. Schmidt was also pitching a submarine story, "Thunder Below," which Salerno convinced Schmidt to let him write. Both projects were ultimately stalled, but not before "A Season in Hell" was bought for mid-six figures and "Thunder Below" was greenlighted by Steven Spielberg for DreamWorks. These breaks led Salerno to the job of helping with the re-write of Michael Bay's action blockbuster "Armageddon" (1998). From there, he scored the screenplay and story credits for the 2000 remake of "Shaft" helmed by John Singleton. In the middle of working on a host of other high-profile projects, including starting his own production company and landing a slew of impressive studio deals, Salerno got his own television series when NBC greenlighted a drama he had co-created about a group of undercover investigators, "UC: Undercover" (NBC 2001-02). The series, which co-starred Vera Farmiga and Ving Rhames, developed a cult fan base, including an internet fan site on which Salerno himself frequently posted. Returning to the big screen, Salerno did a production rewrite on the script of "Alien Vs. Predator" (2004), shaping it into a major box office success. He also wrote the sequel, "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" (2007), another international hit. In 2009, Salerno began working with producer James Cameron on a 3D remake of the seminal 1966 science fiction classic "Fantastic Voyage." As Cameron's focus shifted to following up his groundbreaking "Avatar" (2009), the project moved to the back burner, despite the interest of directors such as Paul Greengrass. In a return to television, Salerno joined the production and writing staff of "Hawaii Five-0" (CBS 2010-), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman's critically and commercially successful reboot of the vintage 1970s cop drama. During his time on the series, Salerno wrote three episodes. He next teamed with maverick director Oliver Stone, writing the crime thriller "Savages" (2012) and serving as the film's executive producer. The film, starring Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, John Travolta and Benicio del Toro, was based on the bestselling novel by Don Winslow, co-creator of Salerno's TV series "UC: Undercover." Returning to his documentary roots, Salerno directed "Salinger" (2013), an exhaustively-researched feature about the reclusive novelist and short story writer J.D. Salinger, who had died in 2010 after nearly fifty years of reclusive retirement in rural New Hampshire. Along with the critically-acclaimed feature, Salerno published, with writer David Shields, the oral biography Salinger. Based on a decade's worth of interviews and original research by Salerno and Shields, it was the first comprehensive biography of one of the 20th century's most gifted and mysterious authors. The book spent three weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and received extensive positive reviews. While keeping their proposed remake of "Fantastic Voyage" alive, James Cameron announced in 2013 that he had chosen Shane Salerno to co-write the third in a planned trilogy of "Avatar" sequels. Cameron gave 2019 as the proposed release date of "Avatar 4," with preproduction beginning in late 2014.