Anna Hamilton Phelan

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Anna Hamilton Phelan
OccupationScriptwriter, actress

Anna Hamilton Phelan is an American actress and scriptwriter. She has been nominated for an Oscar for her work on Gorillas in the Mist, as well as a nomination for a Writers Guild of America Award for her work on Mask and again for Gorillas in the Mist.


Phelan studied theater arts at Emerson College in Boston.[1] At Emerson, she studied under Syd Field[2] where she wrote the screenplay for Mask. She was approached by the head of Universal Pictures at the time, Frank Price, who asked her to write the screenplay for Gorillas in the Mist.[3]


She then left Boston after her studies and moved to New York City to pursue a career as an actress.[3] She took a serious turn to scriptwriting when she "was in a television film as a dance hall girl and the producer recast her as the madam." [4]

After that, she specialized her work as a scriptwriter on "women's parts, experience, and preference." [4]

She has been known to go through extensive research prior to writing her films and roles. Before writing Into the Homeland, a film about a group of Neo-Nazi's who kidnap the daughter of an ex-cop, Phalan spent time at the headquarters of a far right organization in order to gain more knowledge of the roles she was writing.[5]


She is known for writing strong women's roles, such as Cher's role in Mask (1985), as a caring and supportive mother towards her son who has a skull deformity, and Sigourney Weaver's part in Gorillas in the Mist (1988), who devotes her life to the study of primates and a strong fighter against illegal poaching in the African jungle. After Gorillas in the Mist, Sigourney Weaver told her "if you and other writers stop writing about female characters, then our daughters and granddaughters will have no female images on the screen to identify with at all" and Phelan took that as a responsibility of hers to keep creating positive roles for women on screen.[4]

Phelan often writes strong female character roles and stories, as she feels it to be a responsibility of hers.[4] The National Organization for Women has publicly supported the roles that she has written, calling the roles and the films "very pro female."[6]





  1. ^ Field, Syd (2009-12-30). Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide to Hollywood. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307570642.
  2. ^ Pappademas, Alex. "Death of a Screenwriting Guru". Grantland. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  3. ^ a b Syd, Field (1989-11-01). Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide to Hollywood. New York: Bantam Dell. p. 226. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d McCreadie, Marsha McCreadie (2005-01-01). Women Screenwriters Today: Their Lives and Words. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 21. ISBN 0-275-98542-3.
  5. ^ Beale, Lewis. "'Into The Homeland' Writer Finds The Far Right Is Frightfully Normal". orlandosentinel. Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  6. ^ Tanenbaum, Leora. "Reel Feminism vs. Real Feminism, Feminist Film in the '90s". ontheissuesmagazine. Retrieved 29 March 2016.

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