Susannah Grant

Active - 1995 - 2016  |   Born - Jan 4, 1963   |   Genres - Comedy Drama, Film, TV & Radio, Drama

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

One needn't look too closely at the credits of Susannah Grant to notice a glimmer of fairy-tale sensibility shining through. Claiming to have spent a sizeable portion of her youth convinced that she might someday become the princess that she read about in so many stories, Grant fittingly received her earliest screenplay credit for the romantic international sleeper hit Ever After (1998).

A New York City native, born January 4, 1963, Grant was raised in Englewood, NJ. One of four siblings, including three sisters and a brother, with a doctor father and a schoolteacher mother, Grant had an unusual childhood (by showbiz standards, anyway), given its overwhelming stability. Following her primary schooling at Miss Porter's School, a well-to-do independent boarding and day school for girls in Farmington, CT, Grant entered Amherst and was later admitted to the American Film Institute, where she found a mentor in the form of screenwriting teacher Jerry Cass. After learning the tricks of the trade and developing her skills, Grant was honored with the Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting. Soon after finding work on Party of Five, Grant was approached to pen a script for the Disney retelling of the Pocahontas legend. Though a big break in that it enabled her to land a major writing credit, Grant found much frustration in the fact that the screenplay played a secondary role to storyboards in the production of an animated feature.

Following this somewhat unpleasant experience, Grant played a far more important role in the script development of the next feature she became involved with, Ever After (1998). Pitched to her as a retelling of the Cinderella tale with a Merchant-Ivory twist, Ever After proved fairly rewarding and led her to further acclaim with her screenplay for Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich (2000). That effort, of course, became a massive hit (with the presence of Julia Roberts elevating otherwise mediocre material to the blockbuster level). It also ensured a continued spate of Hollywood assignments for Grant and netted her an Oscar nomination. She followed it up the same year with the picture 28 Days. This bittersweet drama -- a kind of Clean and Sober for the female set -- stars Sandra Bullock as Gwen Cummings, a thirtysomething alcoholic struggling through four weeks of rehab, and on the fast track to a ruined life. The picture divided critics upon release in April 2000; journalists such as Roger Ebert, Jami Bernard, Peter Travers, and Owen Gleiberman responded favorably, even as others bemoaned the effort's shallowness and insubstantiality; The Chicago Tribune's Marc Caro summarized it as "A cutesy, heavy-handed morality tale that contains nary a believable moment."

For some unspecified reason, five years in Grant's life passed sans cinematic activity, but she resurfaced (and how) in 2005, scripting the Curtis Hanson-directed dramedy In Her Shoes. This tale of two sisters -- one a flighty ne'er-do-well (Cameron Diaz) and one a straight-arrow attorney (Toni Collette), who become slightly estranged but reconcile after unearthing a long-dormant familial secret and reconnecting with their grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) -- surprised those expecting a shallow rom-com, given its multilayered characterizations, intelligent dialogue, and sensitive lead portrayals. That effort also brought Grant back to the top of her game. Concurrent with the release of Shoes, Grant signed on to script the big-budget, live-action adaptation of E.B. White's seminal 1952 children's novel Charlotte's Web. Helmed by Gary Winick, with an all-star lineup of voices including Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Oprah Winfrey, and Robert Redford, the picture promised to strike gold upon its release during the Christmas 2006 season, affecting multiple generations of viewers familiar with the novel from childhood.

Meanwhile, Grant had long since completed her directorial debut. The comedy drama Catch and Release stars Jennifer Garner as a newly widowed young woman who struggles to come to terms with secrets that her husband hid from her, after he dies. Though the film was completed in early 2006, and scheduled to be released that summer, Sony pushed its release back until January 2007, giving preference to the Robin Williams-starring family comedy RV.

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