Roger Avary was on top of the world in March 1995, having just won an Oscar for his work on Pulp Fiction, which he co-wrote alongside Quentin Tarantino. Thirteen years later, his life was in disarray. In 2008, Avary was arrested after drunkenly crashing his car in Ojai, California. The crash killed his friend Andreas Zini, and nearly killed his wife, whom the screenwriter thanked profusely during his memorable Oscar acceptance speech (above). Avary was ultimately charged with involuntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to a year term at a work furlough, followed by eight months in prison.
The accident left an indelible imprint on both his psyche and career, as he explained this week during an interview with Indiewire — his first since being released from prison.
”I spend nearly every waking moment thinking about how I can live my life in such a way as to honor this absolutely terrible loss that occurred,” he said.
The last two years have been especially busy: He recently finished overseeing the scripting process for the second season of the French-Canadian spy show “XIII: The Series.” He’s working on a screenplay for Paul Verhoeven based on the director’s scholarly tome about the life of Jesus. With production company Wild Bunch, he’s planning to reteam with “Rules of Attraction” scribe Bret Easton Ellis to direct an adaptation of Ellis’ “Lunar Park.” For “Moon” director Duncan Jones, he reworked the screenplay for a biopic about James Bond creator Ian Fleming. He also plans to adapt the early William Faulkner novel “Sanctuary.”
Avary said his immense activity is part of his plan to find a creative outlet in everything he does. “I’m looking for work that enriches me and touches me somehow. I’m certainly not taking work just to pay bills.”
In addition to this full plate of projects, Avary is currently serving on the international competition jury at this year’s Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. He’s been documenting his experiences with remarkable literary flair, as well, turning the entire jury into a gang of Ocean’s Eleven - like heist artists. You can find Avary’s daily blog posts here.
For more background on Avary’s relationship with Tarantino, be sure to check out this heartfelt essay from Peter McAlevey, who wrote a tribute to his friend in the wake of his jail sentence. McAlevey devotes much of the essay to his memories of working with Avary on Reservoir Dogs, which got its name, apparently, from an inside joke:
[W]alking back to Roger’s apartment one night, Quentin was all worked up about a Francois Truffaut film they’d just watched called “Au Revoir, Les Enfants” (Goodbye, Children.)
The problem was that Quentin, a dropout, couldn’t speak French and kept mangling the title in guttural English into “Reservoir Dogs” until Roger, cracking up, finally told him that should be the title of his new movie.