January 21, 1956
Anne Bryant Stuart
For every brawny movie star who made his bones in the action boom of the 1980s and '90s, there were several fairly obscure screenwriters who were just as instrumental in crafting the era's top genre titles. Jeb Stuart is one such unsung hero. As the neophyte scribe of the rollicking skyscraper-under-siege tale "Die Hard" ('88), he not only helped launch megastar Bruce Willis's career into the stratosphere, but set the mold for a particularly popular type of action film. Few of his own subsequent scripts have adhered to this unofficial sub-genre (which includes tautly kinetic thrillers confined to limited, adversity-plagued locations), but he nonetheless remained one of Hollywood's more prolific action-movie word slingers for the bulk of the following decade. In addition to co-penning the crowd-pleasing chase epic "The Fugitive," he settled into such macho fare as Sylvester Stallone's white-knuckle prison drama "Lock Up" and the explosive Steven Seagal vehicle "Fire Down Below" ('97), a Kentucky-set environmentalist saga that combines Zen-like philosophies with bone-breaking action. That same year, he retained a middle-American setting for his directorial debut in the serial-killer thriller "Switchback," a film that cast the usually genial Danny Glover in a rare villain role. Over the course of a long hiatus from produced film work, Stuart scripted two rejected screenplays for the venerable "Indiana Jones" franchise. In 2010, however, he returned as a functioning writer/director and helmed the true-crime drama of civil unrest "Blood Done Sign My Name."