It’s a girl. It’s a woman. It’s a gay man. No, it’s Allison Burnett, a brilliant straight male writer who has four novels and countless films to his credit, as well as myriad plays, essays, and poetry.
Allison Burnett wrote the new thriller, Gone, which opens Friday. It stars Amanda Seyfried as a kick-ass heroine who defies all odds to get the bad guy. There’s only one hitch: she may or may not be crazy, and the bad guy might not even exist.
On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Seyfried told Jay (who said he really liked the movie, by the way), “This was my chance to be like Ashley Judd.”
Burnett would argue with Seyfried on this point though. “Judd’s characters always got some help from men. Seyfried’s gets none. She is entirely on her own. This is more the kind of role Liam Neeson plays.”
Burnett feels strongly that films should offer role models for girls. In 1991, he was bewildered that many feminists lauded Thelma & Louise while condemning The Silence of the Lambs. Burnett saw it the other way around. “Thelma & Louise taught young girls that if a man attacks you, shoot him dead, run from the law, and then, when you’re captured, kill yourself,” he said.
“In Silence of the Lambs, a brave young woman risks her life to save the life of another woman. Clarice is a feminist hero in my book,” Burnett continues. “She defies her bosses and goes directly into the den of evil. I would much rather have my daughter see that movie than Thelma & Louise.”
All this empowering of women in Hollywood must be building up good karma points with the Tinseltown gods. Burnett’s original screenplay for Gone sold in two hours in October of 2010. They started shooting six months later, and the film is being released just eight months after that. This is warp speed for Hollywood.
Burnett says, “Something I’m really proud of is that there is almost no violence in the whole PG-13 film and yet it’s terrifying. I didn’t use the usual crutches of blood splattering and heads being severed, and yet the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat to the very end.”
Based on his work on Gone, Burnett was also the last writer brought in to work on the recent hit film Underworld: Awakening. He was tasked with exploring the mother-daughter relationship between Selene and Eve. He says, “In the history of film, there’s no woman fiercer and more deadly than Selene.”
The gods are also showering good luck over his directing career. Burnett’s directorial debut was in 1997 with his original screenplay Red Meat, starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Jon Slattery, and James Frain. This fall he will direct a film based on his own 2009 novel Undiscovered Gyrl, which is about a 17-year-old blogger trying to find her way in life.
Clearly, Burnett has a knack for capturing the voice and poetry of his narrators. When people first started reading Undiscovered Gyrl, they naturally assumed Allison was not only a woman, but a young one. Similarly, readers of Burnett’s other three novels assumed that Allison was gay, because all three books are narrated by a flamboyant, gay eccentric named B.K. Troop.
The latest of his B.K. Troop novels, Death By Sunshine, just came out. Burnett guarantees its hilarity. “If it isn’t one of the funniest books you’ve ever read about Los Angeles, I’ll give you your money back.” No worries for Burnett there. It’s funny.
Burnett is anything but “gone." He’s been writing professionally in Hollywood for the past two decades, but as is the case with many a great scribe, you may not have known his name. He is here to stay, thankfully, because he’s in the business of creating strong female characters, something we need to celebrate and honor by getting into the theatre for Gone now and Undiscovered Gyrl next year.