John Fusco

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John Fusco is an American screenwriter, producer, and television series creator born in Prospect, Connecticut. His screenplays include Crossroads, Young Guns, Young Guns II, Thunderheart, Hidalgo, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and The Highwaymen. He is also the creator of the Netflix series Marco Polo. Fusco is also a blues musician and a prose fiction author.


John Fusco was raised in the small town of Prospect, Connecticut, leaving home and high school early to travel the American south as a blues musician and blue collar laborer. He later attended and graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts[1] where his writing mentors were Waldo Salt, Ring Lardner, Jr., and Lorenzo Semple.[2] He won back-to-back honors in national screenwriting competitions his junior and senior year, twice winning the top prize of a Nissan Sentra and a contract with the William Morris Agency. His bachelor's thesis became the Columbia Pictures Delta blues movie Crossroads (1986), directed by Walter Hill, and went into production while he was still a student at NYU.[3]

Fusco has gone on to write numerous motion-pictures, an ABC mini-series, a long-form TV series, and two novels. He created the Netflix original series Marco Polo,[4] which ran for two seasons from 2014 to 2016.[5] Fusco also wrote the screenplay for the Lionsgate film The Shack which premiered on March 3, 2017. The film was a modest hit, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide against a $20 million budget.[6] It was panned by critics but it earned favorable audience reviews.[7][8]

In 2011 it was announced that Fusco was adapting the acclaimed Peter Guralnick biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis, for Fox 2000.[9][10]

Fusco wrote a draft for the feature adaptation of the novel The Alchemist which as of 2016 was being developed by TriStar Pictures.[11]

In 2016 Fusco started working on adapting the book series "Spirit Animals" for Universal Pictures.[12]


After traveling in the southeast United States in search of obscure blues artists in the late 1970s, Fusco returned home to New England to co-found the Travis McComb Band, a southern rock ensemble that was popular in the New Haven, Connecticut music scene. Fusco played Hammond B3 organ, blues harmonica, was the lead vocalist, and wrote or co-wrote the band's originals. For a short time in 1979, he joined and toured with the Dixie Road Ducks from Northern Virginia, but soon left both bands to return to school and his pursuit of a screenwriting career.

His first movie, Crossroads, was inspired by his love for the Delta blues and his travels in the south. The movie would have him collaborating with Ry Cooder, Steve Vai, Frank Frost, and blues harp legend Sonny Terry. He also collaborated with Jackson Browne on the music video "Rockin' the Rez" which was a companion to Fusco's 1992 movie Thunderheart.

Fusco returned to music and released his debut LP The X-Road Riders on February 11, 2019.[13] Recorded near Memphis with members of the North Mississippi All-Stars, the album has been critically acclaimed. Blues Rock Review has called the collection of original songs "an incredibly impressive and fun debut," while other music critics have praised Fusco's "smoky, soulful voice" and Hammond B3 organ skills. Fusco also plays Hammond B3 on Hill Country Revue's third LP 'HCR III' which was released on July 6, 2018, landing at #2 on the iTunes blues chart.

Martial arts[edit]

While known for Western and Native American themed films, Fusco drew on his lifelong background in martial arts to write The Forbidden Kingdom, starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan.[14] The movie opened #1 at the box office on April 18, 2008, and broke opening day box office records (at that time) in China.

Fusco first studied Martial Arts at age 12 at the Association Of Korean Martial Arts (A.K.M.A) in Oakville, Connecticut under Romaine Staples and currently holds a black sash rank in Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. He is also a practitioner of Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do, and has received an honorary black belt from the World Tang Soo Do Association for his work in promoting traditional martial arts values in film, television, and literature. He has been profiled in Black Belt Magazine, Inside Kung Fu, and Kung Fu/Tai Chi Magazine.

Fusco has also studied traditional martial arts in Zhejiang Province, China under Sifu Yi ShenGuo.

Fusco has stated in DVD special features that he is interested in the spiritual aspects of warrior cultures and acknowledges a "red thread" that runs through his interests in both Native American and Eastern philosophy. In 2007 he crossed Central Mongolia on horseback with his son, and Mongol nomads to conduct research on what would eventually develop into Marco Polo.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Fusco is married to Richela Renkun, a graduate of NYU's Steinhardt School and an educator in the theater arts. They have one son, Giovanni. The family lives on a farm in Vermont.


  • 1983 — FOCUS Award, First place: Blues Water
  • 1984 — FOCUS Award, First Place: Crossroads
  • 1988 — WRANGLER Award—Western Heritage Center: Young Guns
  • 2000 — WRANGLER Award—Western Heritage Center: Spirit
  • 2003 — THE HUMANITARIAN AWARD—First Americans in the Arts: Dreamkeeper mini-series
  • 2004 — Spur AwardWestern Writers of America: Hidalgo


Title Year Role
Crossroads 1986 Writer
Young Guns 1988 Writer, executive producer
Young Guns II 1990 Writer, executive producer, actor: Branded Man
Thunderheart 1992 Writer, executive producer
The Babe
Where the Rivers Flow North 1993 Associate producer
Loch Ness 1996 Writer
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron 2002
Dreamkeeper 2003 Writer, associate producer
Hidalgo 2004 Writer
America's First Horse: Hidalgo and the Spanish Mustang Executive producer
Silent Thunder 2006 Associate producer
The Forbidden Kingdom 2008 Writer
Marco Polo 2014–2016 Creator, executive producer, writer
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny 2016 Writer
The Shack 2017
The Highwaymen 2019
The Wind & the Reckoning 2022 Writer

Prose fiction[edit]

Fusco is an author of two novels and an award-winning children's book:

  • Paradise Salvage (Overlook Press, 2002), mystery and literary novel, LCCN 2001-51356
  • Dog Beach: a novel (Simon & Schuster, 2014) – featuring a "struggling screenwriter" and a "stuntman turned mafia enforcer", LCCN 2013-49875
  • Little Monk and the Mantis: a bug, a boy, and the birth of a kung fu legend, illus. Patrick Lugo (Tuttle Publ., 2012), young readers book – "based on the seventeenth-century legend of Wong Long and the founding of praying mantis kung fu", LCCN 2011-43962


  1. ^ "NYU Bookstore to Feature John Fusco, Ben Marcus, Jonathan Moreno, Ruth Zaporah, and More This Fall". Retrieved Aug 28, 2014.
  2. ^ "Hollywood writer, longtime Aspenite Semple dies at 91". The Aspen Times. The Aspen Times. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  3. ^ "10 Things You Didn't Know About the Film 'Crossroads'". 12 March 2020. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  4. ^ "It's Official: Netflix Orders Series 'Marco Polo' From Weinstein Co". Deadline Hollywood. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  5. ^ "'Marco Polo' Canceled at Netflix After Two Seasons". 12 December 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  6. ^ "The Shack (2017)". The Numbers.
  7. ^ "The Shack (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  8. ^ "'Logan' Looks To Log Best R-Rated Opening In March With $81M+ Opening; Audiences Love 'Shack'". Deadline Hollywood. 6 March 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2021. In addition to Shack's A CinemaScore, The Shack earned a healthy 85% positive on Screen Engine/ComScore's PostTrak with older females at 66% women, 84% over 25 attending. A solid 70% plan on passing around the good word about the movie to their friends.
  9. ^ John Fusco Takes His Shot At Early Elvis at Deadline Hollywood
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (September 3, 2013). "Director Kevin MacDonald Eyes Elvis Biopic For Fox, Mick Jagger". Variety. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  11. ^ Fleming, Jr., Michael (September 30, 2016). "Paulo Coelho's 'The Alchemist' Movie To Be Made By TriStar & PalmStar". Deadline. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  12. ^ "'Spirit Animals' YA Film Franchise In Works At Universal; John Fusco To Write Script". 13 May 2016. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  14. ^ Up Close With Jet Li "He is a superb screenwriter and has been learning Chinese martial arts for more than 10 years."
  15. ^ "For Marco Polo creator John Fusco, Netflix offered a chance to trash the rules". December 14, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014.

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