Stuart Beattie: Tomorrow When Success Began

Stuart Beattie is the wordsmith behind some of Hollywood’s greatest hits of the decade, and now he’s back in Australia to start a new phase as a director. He shared his journey with Georgina Pearson during post-production of Tomorrow When The War Began.
It’s easy to imagine that there must be an element of conceit that comes with being a part of the Hollywood elite. However despite this presumption Stuart Beattie is anything but.
With a string of high profile screenplays attached to his name – including Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Collateral and Australia – Beattie is set to add another one this year. Adapted from the novel Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden, the film also marks Beattie’s directorial debut and his first Australian project in over a decade.
Born in and bred in Sydney, Beattie graduated from Charles Sturt University with a degree in communications and then promptly moved to LA to study a year-long course in screen writing.
From a young age Beattie always wanted to be a filmmaker. “I loved films ever since I was a kid, and when I figured out you could actually make films for a living, I was about 14 so I just set about doing that and started coming up with ideas for movies”.
When he arrived in Los Angeles in the late 90s he was unknown in the industry, but perseverance is not something Beattie lacks “I was nobody at al, but I knew that if you wrote a script that people liked, that could get you into doors.
“I was just writing and writing and writing. I wrote tons of scripts. I read every book there was and I did everything I could to further my craft and get going.”
It comes as no surprise that two of his biggest screenplays started off with dubious prospects. It was at the tender age of 17 that Beattie came up with the idea that eventually materialised as Collateral – a mere 15 years later that is. The inspiration for Pirates… came from the Disneyland ride, and was only picked up by Disney years after Beattie first pitched it.
Despite the huge phenomenon that particular franchise has become, Beattie values each of the screenplays he has produced, big or small. “I am very grateful for all of those films, extremely grateful,
to have those films made and to be able to be a participant in them”. However, 1997’s local children’s adventure Joey – his first fully-produced project – will always have a special place. He describes the feeling of seeing it in the cinema for the first time as “wild, absolutely wild. For me the greatest joy was going to the cinemas with other people and hearing them laugh and react and just going on that ride. It was mind-blowing and wonderful and fantastic”.
Nevertheless the road to the Hollywood big league hasn’t always been paved with gold. In 2009 G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, although raking in a cool U$302m worldwide, was a critical bomb. Due to the US writers strike in 2007-2008 Beattie could not work on the script until just before filming began. Slammed internationally, he describes the toy/cartoon adaptation as “a fantastic learning experience” that taught him that “you can’t make a $180m movie on a script written in two weeks”.
As with every industry, Beattie has had to cope with a fair amount of criticism. While filmmakers tend to develop a thicker skin, the sting will never completely go away, but Beattie is quite upbeat about it. “A lot of good can come from criticism. Take it with a grain of salt…filter out the noise and look for something good… because there is always something good. You’re an idiot if you don’t”.
Beattie describes the 15 years he spent writing screenplays as the “best film school anyone could have” and now takes his career down a different path –directing. “I felt like I could do that… I just felt ready, like it was time for me.”
Beattie chose the hit novel Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden “because it just had it all: a well-known title, great characters and a great story. I’m a firm believer that not every book, play, theme park ride (laughs) should be a movie…but this book, when I read it, oh, it was a movie. This is the one.”
And while Beattie found it daunting turning up that first day on set, he explains the buzz from directing was so much bigger. “It’s control, it’s getting your vision up on screen…its translating what’s in your head, not someone else translating what you wrote and what’s in their head.
“It’s the best job in the world. There really is nothing better”
What’s next for Stuart Beattie? If Tomorrow… finds success a sequel seems very likely, but continuing as a director is definitely on the cards.

“If they let me! I absolutely loved it and that’s where I want to be.”

Tomorrow When The War Began
will be released by Paramount Pictures in September.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.