One of the only screenwriters ever to be honored with both an Oscar (for L.A. Confidential) and a Razzie (for The Postman) in the same year, writer/director Brian Helgeland showed remarkably good sportsmanship when he became only the fourth person in the history of the Razzies to voluntarily accept the award in person. Placing both statues on his mantle as a constant reminder of Hollywood's quixotic nature, Helgeland has come a long way from penning the likes of 976-Evil and Highway to Hell. With his critically acclaimed adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel Mystic River and an undeniable directorial hit with A Knight's Tale, Helgeland left no doubt as to his remarkable versatility. A native of Providence, RI, he began work as a commercial fisherman in New England after graduating from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. It wasn't long before he realized that his true calling lay elsewhere, and the aspiring screenwriter was soon heading for Hollywood to test his skills in show business. Helgeland cut his teeth by collaborating on screenplays for such features as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and 976-Evil (both 1988), and then flew solo with his script for Highway to Hell. A chance meeting with filmmaker Richard Donner proved just the break that Helgeland needed, and the resulting collaboration was the disappointing 1995 action film Assassins. Fortunately, Donner was undaunted by the failure of the film, and though a second collaboration with Conspiracy Theory didn't fare much better, Helgeland's Oscar-winning script for L.A. Confidential helped to prove his worth in Hollywood.
After testing the waters as a director with a 1989 episode of Tales from the Crypt, Helgeland made his feature directorial debut with the 1999 Mel Gibson crime thriller Payback. Taking the full reigns for the medieval popcorn flick A Knight's Tale, the remarkably fun flick not only proved that he could shift gears with the best of them, but also that he could successfully follow through on his vision no matter how outlandish it might seem at conception. The film helped to launch the career of Heath Ledger, and right around the time of A Knight's Tale's release, filmmaker Clint Eastwood was busy shooting Helgeland's adaptation of Michael Connelly's novel Blood Work. Released the following year, Blood Work drew fair reviews, and a creative spark between Eastwood and Helgeland would soon catch fire when the former asked the latter to adapt Lehane's Mystic River for the screen. A profound meditation on the cycle of violence which results from an unspeakable crime, Mystic River drew rave reviews when released in 2003 and was heralded by critics as one of the best films of the year. Hoping to get back to his roots, Helgeland penned and directed the religious-themed frightener The Order (also 2003); unfortunately, the film was both critically maligned and a box-office bomb. Helgeland's next screenplay, the revenge-themed thriller Man on Fire, would go before the cameras under the direction of Tony Scott for a 2004 release.