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Karen Lutz is young at heart, and her scripts tend to exemplify a similar youthful quality. With screenwriting partner Kirsten Smith, the two penned both the successful Taming of the Shrew-cum-teen film-adaptation 10 Things I Hate About You and the Reese Witherspoon comedy Legally Blonde.

Lutz got her start in public relations and marketing and realized she was missing something—a passion for her work.

“I didn’t know that screenwriting was a job you could go out and get,” said screenwriter Karen Lutz. “It never even occurred to me because I went to college in the late ‘80s, and it was all corporate America.

“I started trying to write a Jackie Collins-type of book because that was what I was reading,” Lutz said. “I just got bored. I tried to write one sex scene to top the next. I mean, how many ways can people fuck?”

After her failed novel attempts, Lutz switched to screenplays, and she began sending out a gaggle of query letters to agents and managers.

“My first script sucked,” Lutz said. “I was trying to do a 20-something Big Chill called ‘Tequila And Sympathy.’ It was just really whiny and talky and nothing happened. It was bad, but I loved that script.”

Kirsten Smith, who was working at a small production company that made films like Poison Ivy 2, received one of Lutz’s query letters. Smith, whose writing interests were similar to Lutz’s, was eager to meet her, and Lutz flew out to Los Angeles from her home in Denver.

“So we just started the script that night on cocktail napkins,” Lutz said.

Those cocktail napkin scribbles turned out to be the enormously popular ensemble comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, starring soon-to-be megastars Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

Lutz has a penchant for ’80s movies, as her favorites include About Last Night, Raising Arizona, and St. Elmo’s Fire. But surprisingly, Lutz’s favorite screenplay is not a comedy, but the ’80s drama The Big Chill, starring Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, and Glenn Close.

“I just think that movie is brilliant; I’ve seen it a million times,” Lutz said. “We always try to have a dead guy that everyone talks about in all of our projects, but it never works.

“The Big Chill is the only movie—I mean, the whole movie was about a dead guy that everyone talks about. Our first movie, we had a dead brother who died of a surfing accident—that totally didn’t work.”

Luckily for Lutz, everything else has worked out for the relatively green writer. She and her partner will embark on the film adaptation of the adventures of detective Honey West as well as continuing to rewrite some of Hollywood’s hottest scripts.

—Jennifer Prestigiacomo

A version of this article previously appeared in The Daily Texan.


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