J. F. Lawton
August 11, 1960
Riverside, California, United States
Director, Screenwriter, Editor
J.F. Lawton moved to the A-list with his script for Garry Marshall's blockbuster "Pretty Woman" (1990). While the original screenplay, entitled "3,000," was much darker, the final result, which played much like a fairy tale and was enhanced by Julia Roberts star-making turn, catapulted Lawton to the forefront. Yet, this was not his first screen credit. While studying film at CalState Long Beach, Lawton had won attention for his short films "The Artist" (1981) and "Renaissance" (1983). The California native, the son of novelist Harry Lawton, started his film career editing trailers for Cannon Films for $300 per week. Ever enterprising, he created a trailer for a feature he wanted to make which caught the attention of low-budget producer Charles Band. Band offered him the opportunity to write and direct. The result, "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle" (1989), which Lawton filmed using the pseudonym J D Athens, was a take-off of both Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and Francis Ford Coppola's feature "Apocalypse Now" (1979). Shot in less than two weeks and featuring Adrienne Barbeau and Shannon Tweed, the film became a cult favorite and late-night cable staple, although it did not really advance his career. Neither did his second effort, also credited to J D Athens, the political satire "Pizza Man" (1991).After "Pretty Woman," Lawton found some success as a screenwriter, collaborating with Barry Primus on the little-seen but much praised "Mistress" (1992), co-produced by co-star Robert De Niro. He fared better with "Under Siege" (also 1992) which confirmed the star status of Steven Seagal, cast as a Navy cook on a battleship who must save the world from terrorists and nuclear disaster. "Blankman" (1994) paired him with Damon Wayans who also starred in the title role of a crimefighter who uses his own homemade devices to capture crooks. Most critics found the film devoid of humor and audiences stayed away as well.Using his own name, Lawton helmed and scripted "The Hunted" (1995), a lame thriller about an American businessman (Christopher Lambert) chased by ninja assassins. He was also one of four writers credited with the illogical drama "Chain Reaction" (1996) which laughably cast Keanu Reeves as a scientist who must save the world. He fared much better as the creator and one of the guiding forces behind "V.I.P." (1998-2002), a syndicated adventure series that starred Pamela Anderson.