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May 16, 2018

‘The Shape of Water’ Screenwriter Vanessa Taylor is About to Be a Household Name

She is writing ‘Aladdin,’ Ron Howard’s ‘Hillbilly Blues,’ and Adam McKay’s ‘Bad Blood.’ It’s time you know who she is.

She’s the Oscar-nominated screenwriter you’ve probably never heard of: Vanessa Taylor, who co-wrote Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, has been collecting impressive film and television writing credits for the past two decades. Now, fresh off her Academy Award recognition for Best Original Screenplay (not to mention her Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and Writers’ Guild nods), she has already racked up three new, high-profile projects.

Taylor, who also worked as a writer and producer on Game of Thrones (which she has compared to The Shape of Water), is signed on to re-write the new live-action adaptation of Disney’s Aladdin, due out in May 2019. Guy Ritchie is set to direct, and Will Smith will play the iconic Genie.

She will also write Hillbilly Elegya movie based on J.D. Vance’s New York Times bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” Ron Howard is set to direct that one. His Imagine Entertainment secured the rights to Vance’s popular memoir after a heated bidding war.

The book documents the daily struggles of growing up in a white working class community within the Rust Belt. Against the backdrop of drug addiction and economic hardship, Vance examines the intersections of race, class, and privilege in America.

Imagine Entertainment’s president Erica Huggins speaks highly of Taylor — and explains why we all should pay close attention to her ascending career:

“I’ve been a huge fan of Vanessa for years, and followed her as she explored a wide range of worlds — from ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘The Shape of Water.’ Her background brings a fresh perspective and unique sensibility to the material, and I couldn’t be happier to finally team up on a project so timely and special.”

Taylor also recently signed on to pen Bad Blood, the highly-anticipated film adaptation of John Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in Silicon Valley.” Adam McKay is set to direct, and Jennifer Lawrence will star.

Bad Blood will tell the story of a scandal that rocked Silicon Valley in 2016. Lawrence will play Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, the controversial blood testing company that was found guilty of inaccurate testing and fraud. Deadline describes the film as casting “a skeptical eye on how innovative companies gain astronomical valuations and sometimes prove too good to be true.”

With an Oscar nomination, a collaboration with Guillermo del Toro, credits on Game of Thrones, Divergent, and Hope Springs (the one with Meryl Streep!), and three major projects lined up, Taylor is clearly a force to be reckoned with. So, even though we offered a brief profile on her ahead of this year’s Academy Awards, why haven’t you heard of her?

It’s clear that Taylor is majorly talented. She’s worked with some of the biggest directors in Hollywood, and has racked up dozens of writing credits across film and television. Even Guillermo del Toro raves about her as a writing partner:

“Vanessa identified the biggest missing piece [in ‘The Shape of Water’]. She said, ‘I think the subplot with the Russians should have its own momentum, its own story.’ That was completely against my instincts, and then I thought A, she’s completely right, and B, I would never have seen it, so that’s a perfect collaboration.”

But for women screenwriters, being a great writer sometimes isn’t enough. Of the top 100 grossing films of 2017, which includes The Shape of Water, women represented only 10% of writers. Taylor is one of many talented women screenwriters fighting to break into the mainstream but is one of only a few to actually make it.

Taylor’s path to success has been marred by sexism — the kind that minimizes her achievements and obscures her name. “Ultimately there is no such thing as being unaffected by sexism in Hollywood,” she wrote in an insightful op-ed for Variety. “We are all affected by the paucity of women in our ranks.” Tremendous talent doesn’t guarantee immunity from sexism, especially in an industry where most writers’ rooms are dominated by men.

With three highly-anticipated movies in the works with high-profile directors attached to them, Taylor will certainly earn some well-deserved attention in Hollywood. Now it’s time for the rest of us to put her on our radar — there’s no question she’ll only go up from here.

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