Diane Renee Thomas (January 7, 1946 – October 21, 1985) was an American screenwriter. She was working as a waitress while writing scripts and then had the opportunity to pitch the script for Romancing the Stone to customer Michael Douglas who then bought, produced, and starred in the film with Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.
She was born January 7, 1946 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Her family moved to Long Beach, California when she was 12 years old. She attended the University of Southern California and majored in business. Then, according to her obituary, "She worked as an advertising copywriter, wrote travel brochures, took acting classes and worked toward a degree in psychology."
Romancing the Stone
It took less than a week for her agent, Norman Kurland, to sell the script. Kurland had sent it to several major studios. Actor/producer Michael Douglas and Columbia Pictures bought the script, though the film would later be made by 20th Century Fox.
According to other accounts, the sale of the screenplay was a Cinderella story in itself: Thomas pitched the story directly to Douglas herself, when the actor happened to come into her cafe as a customer. This account, however, is disputed.
"It just had a spontaneity about the writing," Douglas said of the screenplay that would launch Thomas' career. "She was not cautious. The script had a wonderful spirit about it. . . . There was a total lack of fear to the writing. It worked."
Diane Thomas died in a car accident in October 1985, only six weeks before the sequel to Romancing the Stone, The Jewel of the Nile, was released. At the time, Thomas was busy writing for the movie Always for Steven Spielberg and was not available to write The Jewel of the Nile.
In an interview in the Special Edition DVD of Romancing the Stone, Michael Douglas stated that he had purchased a Porsche for Thomas as a present for her work with him on Romancing and help with scenes on Jewel of the Nile. On October 21, 1985, she, her boyfriend and another friend had attended classes at Pepperdine University and had stopped for drinks on the way home. Because her boyfriend had the least to drink, he told police, he was driving late that night when the car, traveling about 80 miles per hour, spun around on the rain-slick Pacific Coast Highway and struck a telephone pole just south of Coastline Drive. Thomas was a back seat passenger in the Porsche Carrera, and was killed instantly. The other friend died at the hospital later. Thomas' boyfriend was hospitalized with internal injuries and "was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence of alcohol," though no further legal action about the matter was reported in the local newspaper.
Thomas was also working on a sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark before she died. Details of what would have been the third Indiana Jones film are sketchy, other than that it was set in a haunted mansion. Steven Spielberg, however, was reportedly resistant to the haunted mansion approach, feeling it too closely resembled his earlier film Poltergeist. At the time of her death, Thomas had completed the first draft.
Diane Thomas Screenwriting Awards
Following her death, the UCLA Extension Writers' Program created the Diane Thomas Screenwriting Awards in her honor. Original judges included Steven Spielberg, Michael Douglas, James Brooks and Kathleen Kennedy.