Cry Havoc: Anne Hathaway and Bijou Phillips

Question: I just saw a direct-to-video movie called Havoc that was dedicated to Jessica Kaplan (1979-2003). Who was she and why is the movie dedicated to her?


Answer: When Los Angeles-born Jessica Kaplan was a 17-year-old high-school student at Santa Monica's famous Crossroads School, she sold a screenplay called The Powers that Be — about privileged white California kids who were into gangbanging ghetto culture until they run into the real thing — to New Line Cinema for a cool $150,000. This happened a full three years before 13-year-old Nikki Reed wrote a screenplay called Thirteen about her experiences as a wayward child of privilege, but Reed got far more publicity because her script was quickly produced and she costarred in the movie. Kaplan's screenplay wound up mired for years in development hell as successive waves of hot young things were talked about for the lead roles, but Kaplan herself embarked on what looked to be a genuinely promising career, penning original scripts for The Dancer (2000), produced by prolific French filmmaker Luc Besson, and the unproduced The Way Out, and adapting The Basic Eight, a novel about delinquent teenagers at a tony San Francisco public school, for New Regency Cinema. Basic Eight remains unproduced to date, but it was Daniel Handler's first novel, Handler being the real name behind best-selling children's book author "Lemony Snicket." As you may have guessed by now, The Powers that Be eventually became Havoc, after getting a total rewrite from then-unknown screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, who went on to win an Oscar for scripting Steven Soderbergh's Traffic and just wrote and directed the geopolitical thriller Syriana (2005). If you read Havoc's opening credits, you'll see that while the screenplay is credited solely to Gaghan, there's a story credit for Gaghan and Kaplan.

Kaplan died in a widely reported accident in 2003: She was aboard a single-engine plane that spiraled out of the sky over Los Angeles' Fairfax district, crashing into an apartment complex on the way down and setting the building on fire. All five passengers died and several people on the ground were injured. The plane's pilot was Kaplan's uncle, and she was on her way to her family's second home in Idaho. Havoc went into production a few months after Kaplan's death, directed by internationally acclaimed documentarian Barbara Kopple. In addition to being memorialized at the end of the film, Kaplan's name was given to a segment of the American Film Institute's ongoing directing workshop for women.