Robin Swicord

Robin Swicord
Born Robin Stender Swicord[1]
(1952-10-23) October 23, 1952
Columbia, South Carolina US
Alma mater Florida State University
Occupation Screenwriter
Years active 1979-present
Known for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Notable work Little Women
The Jane Austen Book Club
Spouse(s) Nicholas Kazan (m. 1984)
Children 2

Robin Stender Swicord (born October 23, 1952) is an American screenwriter and film director. She is known for literary adaptions.[2] In 2008, her screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was nominated for Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay. She wrote the screenplay for the film Memoirs of a Geisha, based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden,[3] for which she won a 2005 Satellite Award. Her other screenplay credits include Little Women, Practical Magic, Matilda, The Perez Family, and Shag.[4][5]

Early life

Swicord was born in Columbia, South Carolina,[3] the daughter of Jean Carroll Swicord (née Stender) and businessman Henry "Hank" Grady Swicord II.[1] Swicord's father was in the military, so the family moved often and she spent a large part of her childhood in Barcelona, Spain, until eventually settling in Florida.[6] She has a brother, Steven Swicord.

Swicord said she always wrote as a child, and that later as she continued writing in college, became interested in screenplays because they were visual in nature.[7]

She graduated from Florida State University,[8] where she double-majored in English and Theater, with an emphasis on stagecraft.[3] While at Florida State, Swicord worked as a photographer at the school newspaper, Florida Flambeau.[7]


After college, while still in northwest Florida, Swicord made short films, eventually getting work as an industrial filmmaker in Atlanta, Georgia for IBM. IBM liked her work so much that they recommended Swicord for a job at their advertising agency in New York City where she worked as a copywriter.[7]

With fellow alumni of Florida State University who were starting a theater company, Swicord wrote and helped produce two plays.[9] An agent named Merrily Kane who saw one of the plays asked Swicord if she had considered writing for film. Swicord gave her a script called Stock Cars for Christ which was sold to MGM, a job that required that she move to Los Angeles. Although the project was never produced,[8] at MGM she was mentored by Lynn Arost, an MGM development executive who Swicord said gave her the experience and time during which she taught herself the craft of rewriting scripts.[7] Another early mentor was Susan Froemke, an editor who often worked with Maysles Brothers.[10]

Her directorial debut was with the 1993 short film The Red Coat, for which she also wrote the screenplay. The film was about her grandmother and starred Theresa Wright and Bridget Fonda.[11]

For the 1994 film, Little Women, Swicord conducted intensive research into Louisa May Alcott's personal diaries and family letters in order to recreate the period accurately.[7] For over 12 years, Swicord worked with film executive Amy Pascal to develop the project. The studio wanted Winona Ryder to star in the project so producer Denise Di Novi, who had a long-standing working relationship with Ryder, joined as a producer on the film. Ryder wanted a woman director, which was an additional challenge, as the list of women directors from the studio was short. Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career) who was on that list, was hired to direct.[12]

During the process of writing the adaptation of the The Perez Family, Swicord got to know the world of author Christine Bell's Miami.[7]

Swicord worked with her husband, Nicholas Kazan on the screenplay to Matilda, adapted from the Roald Dahl book, which was a children's book the couple loved from reading it to their daughters. Dahl's daughter, Lucy Dahl, was given script approval.[13]

Swicord wrote the screenplay for Karen Joy Fowler's 2004 novel The Jane Austen Book Club and directed the film, which was released in the United States on September 21, 2007.[14] The film was her feature film debut.[15]

For 2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, Swicord worked collaboratively with director Rob Marshall to adapt Arthur Golden's novel.[16] Although the project had been with other writers and directors, and there were many previous drafts of the script, Swicord said that she and Marshall started from scratch.[12] Swicord was able to use Golden's original research and unedited manuscripts to construct the screenplay, which won a Golden Satellite Award for best-adapted screenplay.[3]

For over 10 years, Swicord worked on the screen adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald from the 1922 collection, Tales of the Jazz Age.[17][18] The project had been in development by producer Ray Stark for 20 years before she began working on the script. Swicord said that the adaptation of the short story was such a loose adaptation of very short piece that she felt that her work almost became an original screenplay.[12] The script had a very long development period in Hollywood and was attached to many directors, actors, and studios.[19] The eventual director of the film, David Fincher, hired Eric Roth, who re-wrote much of Swicord's original script.[6][17]

Swicord has said she was influenced by the work of Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment) as well as Ben Hecht (Scarface, Nothing Sacred) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve) because they wrote movies that she loved. Contemporary favorites are Eric Roth, Steve Zaillian, Callie Khouri.[13]

Unproduced projects

Leadership positions

Personal life

In 1984, Swicord married screenwriter Nicholas Kazan, who is the son of director Elia Kazan. Their daughters are actresses Zoe Kazan and Maya Kazan.[26][27]



Works and publications


  1. 1 2 "Florida Obituary and Death Notice Archive - Page 1042: Henry "Hank" Grady Swicord II". GenLookups. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  2. Wolf, Jaime (23 August 1998). "The Blockbuster Script Factory". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Kay, Jeremy (10 January 2006). "Memoirs of an adaptation". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  4. Morgan, Barbara; Perez, Maya (2013). "Structure and Format: A Conversation with Frank Pierson, Whit Stillman, Robin Swicord, and Nicholas Kazan". On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft (First ed.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. pp. 63–80. ISBN 978-0-292-75460-7. OCLC 879547941. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  5. "Literary Luncheon Series with author and screenwriter Robin Swicord". Research Channel, University of Southern California. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  6. 1 2 Grierson, Tim (2013). "Robin Swicord". Screenwriting. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. pp. 154–163. ISBN 978-1-136-07061-7. OCLC 867050208. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Fernandez, Jay (1 October 2007). "The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters, An Interview with Screenwriter Robin Swicord. Part 1 of 3". The Dialogue Series. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  8. 1 2 Nelmes, Jill; Selbo, Jule; Ansolabehere, Jean (2015). Women Screenwriters: An International Guide. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-137-31236-5. OCLC 906936737. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  9. Simon, John (4 June 1979). "Theater: Apocalypse? Naaah!". New York Magazine. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  10. 1 2 Swicord, Robin (14 November 2014). "2014 Nicholl Screenwriting Awards: Robin Swicord". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  11. 1 2 Thompson, Anne (30 August 2007). "Swicord making directing debut". Variety. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  12. 1 2 3 Fernandez, Jay (1 October 2007). "The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters, An Interview with Screenwriter Robin Swicord. Part 2 of 3". The Dialogue Series. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Fernandez, Jay (1 October 2007). "The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters, An Interview with Screenwriter Robin Swicord. Part 3 of 3". The Dialogue Series. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  14. 1 2 Grabicki, Michelle (14 September 2007). "Robin Swicord, screenwriter-director". The Hollywood Reporter. The Associated Press. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  15. Lyden, Jackie (22 September 2007). "Filming 'The Jane Austen Book Club'". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  16. Mermelstein, David (18 December 2005). "Robin Swicord: Memoirs of a Geisha". Variety. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  17. 1 2 Kehr, Dave (31 October 2008). "Holiday Movies: A Curious Life, From Old Age to Cradle". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  18. Movieline Staff (1 November 1992). "Top Ten Unproduced Screenplays". Movieline. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  19. Campbell, Virginia (1 April 1995). "Open Secret". Movieline. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  20. Smith, Lynn (5 December 2001). "A Small Boom in Visiting the Sins of the Fathers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  21. Dunkley, Cathy (2 November 2004). "Trio cast off for 'Mermaid' tale". Variety. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  22. Kay, Jeremy (3 February 2005). "Dougray Scott joins powerhouse female trio in Mermaids Singing". Screen Daily. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  23. Kilday, Gregg (19 September 2012). "Screenwriter Robin Swicord Joins Academy's Board of Governors". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  24. Fleming, Michael (18 March 2007). "Wells forms writer co-op at WB". Variety. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  25. "The Advisory Board". San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film Advisory Board. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  26. "Zoe Swicord Kazan - California Birth Index". FamilySearch. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  27. Turan, Kenneth (28 March 2010). "Film Critic's Notebook: When an actor is also a friend". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  28. Ford, Rebecca (15 June 2015). "Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac Join Indie 'The Promise'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  29. "In Development". Mockingbird Pictures. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  30. "Last Days at the Dixie Girl Cafe by Robin Swicord". Samuel French, Inc. 1983. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  31. "Criminal Minds by Robin Swicord". Samuel French, Inc. 1984. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  32. Rich, Frank (18 January 1984). "Stage: 'Criminal Minds'". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
  33. Arkatov, Janice (11 December 1992). "Theater: Love on the Lam : The Gnu Theatre in North Hollywood brings Robin Swicord's dark, oddball comedy 'Criminal Minds' back to the Valley.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 October 2015.

Further reading

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