With the writers’ strike currently raging in the US, we’re showing solidarity by focusing on screenwriters in the Unsung Auteurs column. In the world of theatre, the writer is king, recognised and celebrated as a work’s author, and receiving poster credit more prominent than just about anyone else, even high-profile actors taking an on-stage detour between movies. Though writers never receive the same kind of adulation in the world of cinema, there is an undeniable bridge between the mediums of theatre and film, and many playwrights have successfully moved across the two, including Lucinda Roxon.
Born in 1962 in Derby, England, Lucinda Coxon had long considered a career in theatre. “I loved hanging out in theatres,” Coxon told Script Mag in 2016. “I worked in my local rep throughout my teenage years, as a dresser and so on… anything they’d let me do, really. I wanted a future in that environment, but I didn’t think of writing. I didn’t know any writers, and I saw very little new work. I had to reject acting and directing before the penny finally dropped. I think having acted, even at a very junior level, is really important. You need to weigh a line in your mouth, not just in your mind.”
Once Coxon had truly set her mind on writing, she bundled out a collection of fine work, with plays like Improbabilities, Waiting At The Water’s Edge, Three Graces, Nostalgia and more staged in some of England’s most prestigious theatres. Coxon’s skills were soon noted by movie producers, and she was tapped to adapt Rosamond Lehmann’s novel The Heart Of Me, an unconventional period tale of two women who fall for the same man. Though Coxon skillfully elucidated the themes of the novel, and Paul Bettany, Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams all delivered typically strong performances, the 2002 film failed to make much of an impact.
Moving back and forth between theatre and film, Coxon was again tapped for an adaptation, this time of French-based filmmaker Pierre Salvadori’s 1993 hit, Wild Target, in which a beautiful thief gets in the way of a hitman’s retirement. Though entertaining and stylishly written by Coxon, Jonathan Lynn’s Wild Target didn’t measure up to the original, despite its strong cast (Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Grint) and fine line in quirky humour. Coxon expertly shifted gears for the 2011 TV mini-series The Crimson Petal And The White, on which she shared screenwriting duties with the source novel’s author, Michael Faber.
On a project that took eleven years, Coxon’s most well-known big screen credit is undoubtedly the Oscar winning 2015 drama The Danish Girl, which saw a flurry of different directors and stars attached, but very strangely, only one writer, in the form of Lucinda Coxon, who was grabbed by producers Gail Mutrux and Linda Reisman in 2004, not long after the release of her first scripted feature, The Heart Of Me. Coxon stayed with the project, adapting David Ebershoff’s novel based on the life of artist and trans pioneer Lili Elbe. Though it would end up garnering much acclaim and winning many awards, what would eventually become 2015’s The Danish Girl (in which Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander starred for director Tom Hooper) experienced a very long journey to the screen. “It seemed such an unusual story, because Lili was a pioneer,” Coxon told Variety. “It was also a remarkable love story, set in a fascinating period. I loved the idea and leapt at it, and assumed everyone else would as well. I thought ‘What could go wrong?’” Eleven years after being brought on to adapt the book, Coxon was still there to enjoy the film’s success, with her screenplay an essential element of this graceful, emotionally resonant work.
With her latest credit an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger (directed by Lenny Abrahamson and starring Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson and Will Poulter), Lucinda Coxon is shaping up as one of English cinema’s key adaptors. “The hardest part is being brutal about leaving things out,” Coxon told Script Mag in 2016. “I still sometimes struggle with that, but I’m more realistic. I can let elements sit in the script and inform it for a while, but there’s a moment where you accept that something will never actually be in the film. It’s always a sad relief once you’ve hit ‘delete.’”
If you liked this story, check out our features on other unsung auteurs Ernest Tidyman, Shauna Cross, Troy Kennedy Martin, Kelly Marcel, Alan Sharp, Leslie Dixon, Jeremy Podeswa, Ferd & Beverly Sebastian, Anthony Page, Julie Gavras, Ted Post, Sarah Jacobson, Anton Corbijn, Gillian Robespierre, Brandon Cronenberg, Laszlo Nemes, Ayelat Menahemi, Ivan Tors, Amanda King & Fabio Cavadini, Cathy Henkel, Colin Higgins, Paul McGuigan, Rose Bosch, Dan Gilroy, Tanya Wexler, Clio Barnard, Robert Aldrich, Maya Forbes, Steven Kastrissios, Talya Lavie, Michael Rowe, Rebecca Cremona, Stephen Hopkins, Tony Bill, Sarah Gavron, Martin Davidson, Fran Rubel Kuzui, Elliot Silverstein, Liz Garbus, Victor Fleming, Barbara Peeters, Robert Benton, Lynn Shelton, Tom Gries, Randa Haines, Leslie H. Martinson, Nancy Kelly, Paul Newman, Brett Haley, Lynne Ramsay, Vernon Zimmerman, Lisa Cholodenko, Robert Greenwald, Phyllida Lloyd, Milton Katselas, Karyn Kusama, Seijun Suzuki, Albert Pyun, Cherie Nowlan, Steve Binder, Jack Cardiff, Anne Fletcher ,Bobcat Goldthwait, Donna Deitch, Frank Pierson, Ann Turner, Jerry Schatzberg, Antonia Bird, Jack Smight, Marielle Heller, James Glickenhaus, Euzhan Palcy, Bill L. Norton, Larysa Kondracki, Mel Stuart, Nanette Burstein, George Armitage, Mary Lambert, James Foley, Lewis John Carlino, Debra Granik, Taylor Sheridan, Laurie Collyer, Jay Roach, Barbara Kopple, John D. Hancock, Sara Colangelo, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Joyce Chopra, Mike Newell, Gina Prince-Bythewood, John Lee Hancock, Allison Anders, Daniel Petrie Sr., Katt Shea, Frank Perry, Amy Holden Jones, Stuart Rosenberg, Penelope Spheeris, Charles B. Pierce, Tamra Davis, Norman Taurog, Jennifer Lee, Paul Wendkos, Marisa Silver, John Mackenzie, Ida Lupino, John V. Soto, Martha Coolidge, Peter Hyams, Tim Hunter, Stephanie Rothman, Betty Thomas, John Flynn, Lizzie Borden, Lionel Jeffries, Lexi Alexander, Alkinos Tsilimidos, Stewart Raffill, Lamont Johnson, Maggie Greenwald and Tamara Jenkins.