Pen Densham

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Pen Densham
CFC in L.A. 17(Pen Densham).jpg
Pen Densham attends The Canadian Film Centre cocktail reception celebrating the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab held at Avalon Hotel on 9 March 2011 in Beverly Hills, California
Born (1947-10-14) 14 October 1947 (age 69)[1]
Ruislip, Middlesex, United Kingdom
Occupation film and television writer, producer, and author

Pen Densham (born 14 October 1947, Ruislip, Middlesex, United Kingdom) is a British-Canadian-American film and television writer, producer, director and author, known for writing and producing films such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves[2] and television revivals of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, as well as writing, producing and directing MGM's Moll Flanders.

Early life[edit]

Born in England in 1947, to parents Raymond Densham who both worked in the British film industry,[2] Densham left school at age 15 and was hired by British TV to photograph The Rolling Stones, selling pictures to national magazines. At 19 he moved to Canada where he directed commercials and documentaries, working with Marshall McLuhan.

Densham went on to found Insight Productions in Toronto with John Watson. The company gained recognition for documentaries such as Life Times Nine, one of two Insight films that earned Academy Award nominations. In total, Densham and Watson received over 70 international awards for their works as well as medals from the Queen of England for their contribution to the Arts of Canada. The first drama Densham wrote and directed, If Wishes Were Horses, won 14 awards, was reviewed by TV guide as "The best film of any length shown on Canadian TV", and brought Densham's work to the attention of Norman Jewison. Jewison, with Telefilm Canada, sponsored Densham to move to Hollywood.

Trilogy Entertainment Group[edit]

In Hollywood Densham and Watson founded Trilogy Entertainment Group.[3] They were employed as creative consultants on films such as Rocky II and Footloose. In 1988 Densham directed Trilogy's first studio feature, The Kiss,[4] for Tri-Star. In 1990 Densham re-envisioned the Robin Hood story, creating a new characterization and adding new concepts. Densham and Watson sold their spec script for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and produced the film for Morgan Creek Productions and Warner Brothers. The film became one of Warner Brothers' largest grossing movies ever, spinning off games, toy lines and the No. 1 music single from Bryan Adams, "Everything I Do, I Do It For You". In the same year they were producers on Backdraft with Ron Howard directing for Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures. Backdraft generated one of the longest-lasting attractions at the Universal Studios Tour.

Inspired by the loss of his mother, Densham wrote and directed a personal version of Moll Flanders for MGM and Spelling Entertainment, based loosely on the novel by Daniel Defoe, starring Morgan Freeman and Robin Wright. Densham also wrote and directed Houdini, an $8 million TNT feature for television starring Johnathon Schaech, Mark Ruffalo and Emile Hirsch.

In television Densham wrote and supervised the re-franchising of The Outer Limits science fiction anthology series, which he executive produced with his partners for its award winning seven-year-run on American television. In the process Densham earned the unique distinction of being named number eight in the 50 Most Powerful People in Science Fiction list compiled by Cinefantastique magazine. In 2003 he re-introduced The Twilight Zone fantasy anthology series to American audiences on UPN.

Emergence as an author[edit]

Densham became a published author with his book about screenplay writing and selling creativity in Hollywood, Riding The Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing (And Not Getting Eaten), published by Michael Wiese Books in January 2011.[5] The title comes from the cover photo of Densham at the age of four astride a live seven-foot alligator in one of his parents' theatrical short films. Written with the goal of supporting emerging creative people finding their own voice and path through the Hollywood industry as well as artistic endeavors in general, the book includes supportive essays by professional screenwriters Shane Black, Nia Vardalos, Danny McBride, Andrea Berloff, Eric Roth, John Watson, Robin Swicord, Todd Robinson, Alan McElroy, Anthony Peckham, Ron Shelton and Laeta Kalogridis. The book received positive reviews from Academy Award-winning writer-director-producers like Paul Haggis and Ron Howard, as well as actors like Jeff Bridges, Morgan Freeman, Robin Wright and Emile Hirsch.


Directing Credits[edit]

  • If Wishes Were Horses. (half-hour drama)[2]
  • The Zoo Gang with John Watson – 1985
  • The Kiss – 1988
  • Moll Flanders – 1996
  • Houdini – 1998

Writing Credits[edit]

  • If Wishes Were Horses (half-hour drama)
  • The Zoo Gang – with John Watson 1985
  • A Gnome Named Gnorm – with John Watson – 1990
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – Story – Screenplay with John Watson 1991
  • Taking Liberty – with John Watson 1993
  • Lifepod (TV movie) with Jay Roach – 1993[6]
  • Space Rangers (TV Series) Created Series. Pilot with Jay Roach – 1993–1994
  • Moll Flanders – based on character created by Dafoe 1996
  • Larger Than Life (story) – 1996
  • The Magnificent Seven – with John Watson (TV series) – 1998[7]
  • Houdini (TV movie) – 1998
  • The Outer Limits (revived TV series) – 1995–2001
  • The Twilight Zone (revived TV series) – 2002–2003

Producing credits[edit]

  • Multiple films for John Watson and Pen Densham's Insight Productions.
  • Life Times Nine – (Oscar nominated short) with John Watson 1973
  • Don't Mess with Bill (Oscar nominated short) with John Watson – 1980[8]
  • The Zoo Gang – with John Watson 1985
  • The Kiss – with John Watson 1988
  • A Gnome Named Gnorm – with John Watson 1990
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – with John Watson 1991
  • Backdraft – with John Watson 1991
  • Taking Liberty – (executive producer) with John Watson 1993
  • Space Rangers (TV Series) (executive producer) – with John Watson 1993
  • Lifepod (TV movie) (executive producer) – with John Watson 1993
  • Blown Away – with John Watson 1994
  • Tank Girl – with John Watson 1995
  • Moll Flanders – with John Watson 1996
  • Larger Than Life – with John Watson 1996
  • Fame L.A. (TV Series) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1997
  • Buffalo Soldiers (TV movie) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1997
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (TV movie) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1998
  • Mr. Headmistress (TV movie) – (co-producer) with John Watson 1998
  • The Magnificent Seven (TV series) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1998
  • Creature (TV movie) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1998
  • Houdini (TV movie) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1998
  • Poltergeist: The Legacy (TV series) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1996–1999
  • The Outer Limits (TV series) – (executive producer) with John Watson 1995–2001
  • The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys – (executive producer) with John Watson 2002[9]
  • My Brother’s Keeper (TV movie) – (executive producer) with John Watson 2002
  • Breaking News (TV series) – (executive producer) with John Watson 2002
  • Carrie (TV movie) – (executive producer) with John Watson 2002
  • The Twilight Zone (TV series) – (executive producer) with John Watson 2003
  • Just Buried with John Watson – 2008
  • Phantom with John Watson and Julian Adams – 2012


  • Why We Write (contribution) – 1999
  • Riding The Alligator: Strategies For a Career in Screenplay Writing – 2011


  1. ^ "Profile: Pen Densham",
  2. ^ a b c Kasindorf, Jeanie. "Million Dollar Babies: How a Bunch of Hollywood Screenwriters Struck It Rich." New York Magazine. 23.24 (18 Jun 1990): 40–50.
  3. ^ Parke, Catherine N. "Adaptation of Defoe's Moll Flanders." In Eighteenth-Century Fiction on Screen. Edited by Robert Mayer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 58.
  4. ^ Puchalski, Steven. Slimetime: A Guide to Sleazy, Mindless Movies. Manchester, UK: Critical Vision, 2002. 174.
  5. ^ Michael Wise Books website
  6. ^ Scott, Tony. "Fox Night at the Movies." In Variety and Daily Variety Television Reviews, 1993–1994. Edited by Howard H. Prouty. New York: Garland, 1996. cxx–cxxi.
  7. ^ Mirisch, Walter. I Though We Were Making Movies, Not History. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008. 408.
  8. ^ Piazza, Jim & Gail Kinn. The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial History. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2008. 227.
  9. ^ Screen World 2003. New York: Applause Theater & Cinema Books, 2003. 72.

External links[edit]