Shane Salerno

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Shane Salerno
Shane Salerno.jpg
Born (1972-11-27) November 27, 1972 (age 43)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Occupation Screenwriter, producer, author

Shane Salerno (born November 27, 1972) is an American screenwriter, film and television producer, author, and documentary director.[1][2] At the age of 24 he co-wrote the worldwide blockbuster Armageddon directed by Michael Bay, which became the highest-grossing film of 1998. He most recently co-wrote and executive produced Savages directed by Oliver Stone.[3] On August 1, 2013 he was announced as co-screenwriter with James Cameron[4] of Avatar 4, a sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time.[5]

He is the producer and director of the documentary Salinger about reclusive author J. D. Salinger[6] which was released theatrically by The Weinstein Company on September 6, 2013[7] and was one of the top ten highest-grossing documentaries of the year.[8] A special director's cut of the film premiered as the 200th episode of the Emmy winning PBS series American Masters on January 21, 2014 and was seen by more than 2 million people.[9][10][11] Within hours, the airing resulted in The Catcher in the Rye soaring to #1 on the bestseller list.[12]

His first book, Salinger, (with David Shields), was released by Simon & Schuster on September 3, 2013 and was #1 on The Los Angeles Times bestseller list[13] and #6 on The New York Times bestseller list.[14][15] The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly[16] and Kirkus Reviews[17] and was named the Amazon Best Book of the Month.[18]

In television, he served as a writer-producer of the Golden Globe-nominated Hawaii Five-0 for CBS, (2010–present), co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of UC: Undercover for NBC (2000–2002) and writer for Fox's New York Undercover (1995–1998), the first police drama on American television to feature two people of color in the starring roles.[19] He began his career straight out of high school as a writer-director apprentice to nine-time Emmy winning director-producer Gregory Hoblit, on NYPD Blue.[20]

Salerno has sold pitches, spec screenplays, fiction and non-fiction books, feature film documentaries, television pilots, television documentaries and foreign book deals of between $2 and $5 million on multiple occasions.[21][22][23][24][25][26][27]

Salerno is known for high-level security and secrecy when it comes to his projects and often only acknowledges their existence when a formal announcement is made.[28][29]

Detour Magazine voted him one of "Hollywood's true shapers of popular culture", and Fade In Magazine selected Salerno as one of the "100 people you need to know in Hollywood".[30] The New York Times has stated that he has a “Hollywood reputation as a writer of noisy action-oriented fare and of more sophisticated scripts that were never produced.”[31]


Early life and education[edit]

Shane Salerno was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972. He attended 10 schools in 12 years on both coasts of the United States including St. John's College High School, a military Academy in Washington, D.C. where Salerno was co-captain of the football team and the only write-in class President since the school was founded in 1851. At San Dieguito High School in Encinitas, California, Salerno was editor of the school newspaper, played varsity football and was voted "most likely to succeed" by his classmates.[32][33]

Salerno was deeply influenced by filmmaker Michael Mann and his first formative cinematic memory from childhood was watching Thief when he was eight years old. Salerno went on to write two films for Mann in 2000 and 2012 and also dedicated his documentary film Salinger to Mann in 2013. Salerno has also cited The Empire Strikes Back as a film that had a significant impact on him as a child.[34]

Teenage filmmaker[edit]

Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs[edit]

Salerno first made national headlines as a high school senior when he wrote, produced and directed the award winning documentary film Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs. The film had its world premiere on Larry King Live in September 1991. Larry King ended the interview by saying "And Shane Salerno, one has a feeling we are going to be hearing about you. I have this feeling." [35] Sundown won several "best documentary of the year" honors and Salerno was honored in separate ceremonies in both houses of the United States Congress.[36][37]

NYPD Blue[edit]

At the age of 19, Salerno was invited by Gregory Hoblit, a nine-time Emmy winning producer/director, to apprentice as a writer/director on NYPD Blue. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Salerno credited the backstage pass as his film school.

New York Undercover[edit]

At 22, Salerno signed a three-year contract with Universal Television to work on various series beginning with the successful Fox police series New York Undercover.[38]

Steven Spielberg hires to write first screenplay[edit]

Salerno made the transition to features at 23 when Steven Spielberg hired him to adapt the World War II submarine thriller 'Thunder Below' based on the book by Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Eugene B. Fluckey. Salerno's first feature film script was also one of the earliest projects put into development by the newly formed DreamWorks Pictures. In an April 29, 1999 article in Variety, Salerno stated that he went to "writing school" under Spielberg.[39]


In 1997, director Michael Bay recruited a 24-year-old Salerno to rewrite Jonathan Hensleigh's screenplay Armageddon. In the book Visions of Armageddon, Michael Bay calls Salerno's work "brilliant".[40] The blockbuster film debuted at #1 on July 1, 1998 and was the highest grossing film of 1998, earning more than half a billion dollars worldwide. Following his work on Armageddon Variety selected Salerno as one of the "hottest new creatives on the film scene".[41]


In 1998, director John Singleton asked Salerno to serve as his writing partner on Shaft. The Singleton-Salerno collaboration (aided by Richard Price) was well reviewed by major critics and resulted in Salerno's second #1 film when "Shaft" debuted on June 16, 2000.[citation needed]

Salerno then pushed into more dramatic material with screenplays for Academy Award winning directors Ron Howard (The Bay of Pigs), William Friedkin (Night Train/Sonny Liston Story), Academy Award nominee Michael Mann (The Border) and a post 9/11 spy thriller for Oscar winning producers Michael Douglas and Irwin Winkler for Douglas to star in.[42]

In 1999, Salerno sold the rights to the bestseller Zodiac to Disney's Touchstone Pictures in a seven figure deal announced in Variety on August 4, 1997. When Disney let the rights lapse, David Fincher directed Zodiac based on the same book for another studio.[43]

UC: Undercover[edit]

In 2001–2002, Salerno returned to television by co-creating (with crime novelist Don Winslow) the NBC series UC: Undercover which TV Guide described as "Donnie Brasco meets Mission Impossible." The series starred Vera Farmiga, Oded Fehr, Jon Seda and Ving Rhames. According to an October, 2001 profile in Reel West Magazine, Salerno served as executive producer, showrunner, head writer, and music supervisor.[44] The series won and was nominated for awards in acting, cinematography and sound.[45]

In October 2003, Salerno re-teamed with blockbuster director Michael Bay on a television crime series for ABC that Salerno created and Bay was set to direct.[46] In 2004, Salerno rewrote the screenplay for Alien vs. Predator which debuted #1 at the box office on August 13 and went onto become the most successful film in the history of either franchise.[47] His work led 20th Century Fox to hire him to write the sequel Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem which was a worldwide box office hit in December, 2007.

In 2004 Salerno became the youngest "Guest of Honor" speaker in the history of the Los Angeles Screenwriting Expo. He made follow up appearances in 2005 and 2006. When interviewed for Expo 5, Creative Screenwriting Magazine publisher Erik Bauer remarked that "Shane Salerno has been really supportive over the years, and is a great mentor for a number of writers that I know."[48]

On September 12, 2008, the Hollywood Reporter announced that 20th Century Fox had pre-emptively purchased Salerno's spec script "Doomsday Protocol" in a "seven figure deal."[49]

In May 2009, Salerno signed on to write a project for James Cameron and 20th Century Fox.[citation needed]

License to Steal[edit]

On Monday, June 29, 2009, Variety carried a front page story about Salerno selling "License to Steal," a pitch for "seven figures upfront" to Paramount Pictures and Kurtzman-Orci Productions (Star Trek, Transformers). Variety described the project as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid set in the world of hi-line repo." Several studios and A-list directors pursued Salerno. According to Variety, Salerno made the pitch four times. He accompanied Bryan Singer (X-Men, Usual Suspects) to Sony, McG (Terminator Salvation) to Warner Brothers and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) to Universal before deciding on Paramount Pictures and Kurtzman-Orci in a deal Variety said was "...the priciest project deal of the summer." Kurtzman and Orci issued a joint statement: "We're thrilled to be working with Shane, a wildly inventive and talented creator."[50]

Fantastic Voyage[edit]

On December 10, 2009, MTV reported that Salerno and James Cameron would remake the 1966 Academy Award winning film Fantastic Voyage in 3-D.[51] Variety subsequently announced that Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum) would direct the film from Salerno's screenplay for 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment.[52] The film has yet to be produced or released.

Hawaii Five-0[edit]

In 2010, Salerno joined the writing-producing team of Hawaii Five-0. In its first season, Hawaii Five-0 also won the "Favorite New TV Drama" at the 37th People's Choice Awards on January 5, 2011.

In addition to his producing duties, Salerno was credited for writing the episode "Po'ipu" (Episode 9) on November 15, 2010, co-writing "El Malama" (Episode 16) on February 7, 2011 and "Ho'op'i" (Episode 20) on April 18, 2011 which featured a special guest appearance by Sean Combs.[citation needed]


On March 4, 2010, Deadline New York announced that Oliver Stone would next direct an adaptation of Don Winslow's crime novel Savages, co-written and executive produced by Shane Salerno.[53] The all-star cast included John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Emile Hirsch, and Blake Lively.[54] Universal Pictures distributed the film.[55][56]

Filming began on July 6, 2011. The film was released on July 6, 2012.[57][58]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars (out of four) and praised Oliver Stone's direction, saying, "Much of the fascination of Savages comes through Stone's treatment of the negotiations, which involve percentages, sliding scales over three years, an ultimate payout, and other financial details that drugs have in common with big business. It's spellbinding to watch the two sides trying to out think each other."


Salerno has also adapted (with crime novelist Don Winslow) the forthcoming 2014 spy thriller Satori set to star Leonardo DiCaprio for Warner Bros..[59]

Salinger documentary film[edit]

On January 29, 2010, the website Deadline Hollywood broke an exclusive story and review of Salinger, a feature-length documentary about reclusive author J. D. Salinger that Salerno directed, produced and financed himself. The documentary was kept secret for five years. The film features interviews with 150 subjects including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, John Guare, Martin Sheen, David Milch, Robert Towne, Tom Wolfe, E. L. Doctorow, and Pulitzer Prize winners A. Scott Berg, Elizabeth Frank and Gore Vidal. Michael Fleming, the first journalist in the world to view the film, said Salerno's picture was "arrestingly powerful and exhaustively researched". Additionally, Fleming announced that Salerno had co-written a 700-page biography Salinger (book) with New York Times bestselling author David Shields.[60]

On February 4, 2010, Entertainment Weekly released an article about the Salinger documentary that detailed the elaborate security protocol that was put into place to keep the film secret for five years.[61]

In August 2010, Newsweek ran a lengthy profile of Salerno's documentary titled "Salinger Like You've Never Seen Him". Salerno allowed the magazine to publish a never-before-seen photo of Salinger from Salerno's film.

On January 26, 2011, Salerno spoke with Associated Press about his Salinger documentary and its expected fall 2012 release. "In the final analysis, what distinguishes our film and book project is access — access to Salinger's friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle that have never spoken on the record before as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen," Salerno said. "We take the viewer and reader inside J. D. Salinger's private world and shine light on a man named Jerry who lived in the shadow of the myth of J. D. Salinger".

On February 27, 2013, it was announced that Harvey Weinstein had acquired the documentary for theatrical distribution by his studio, The Weinstein Company, after being the only studio head to see the finished film after the 85th Academy Awards. The purchase is a seven-figure deal of $2 million. It does not include the television rights, which were sold to PBS' American Masters. The release date of September 6, 2013 was chosen for the film to be a candidate for the 86th Academy Awards.[62]

The film received mixed reviews. USA Today called it "compelling, captivating and engrossing"[63] and gave it 3 out of 4 stars. The film will premiere on American Masters as the program's 200th episode in January 2014.[64]

Salinger book[edit]

Salinger, an oral biography by New York Times bestselling authors David Shields and Shane Salerno published by Simon & Schuster on September 3, 2013.[65] The book is an oral biographical portrait of reclusive, American author J. D. Salinger. The book explores Salinger's entire life including his military service in World War II, his writing career, and his retreat from fame. Salinger narrows in on the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on his life and work as well as his religious affiliations, and his relationships with teenage girls.

Salinger debuted at #6 on the New York Times bestsellers list[66] and stayed on the list for three weeks. It was #1 on the Los Angeles Times bestsellers list.[67] Additionally, Salinger was named to the bestsellers lists for NPR,[68] Independent Booksellers,[69] and Barnes & Noble. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly[70] and Kirkus Reviews[71] and was named the Amazon Best Book of the Month.[72]

Avatar sequel[edit]

On August 1, 2013, Deadline Hollywood, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and many other publications reported that 20th Century Fox and James Cameron would be making three sequels to Avatar and that Shane Salerno had been hired to co-write one of those sequels with Cameron: "Building upon the world we created with Avatar has been a rare and incredibly rewarding experience. In writing the new films, I've come to realize that Avatar's world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated, and it became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen", Cameron was quoted saying via a press statement.

"And to help me continue to expand this universe, I'm pleased to bring aboard Amanda, Rick, Shane and Josh – all writers I've long admired – to join me in completing the films' screenplays", he added.[73]

Film and television credits[edit]

Year Film / Television Show Notes
1991 Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs Writer/Producer/Director/Narrator/Music Supervisor
1993–1994 NYPD Blue Writer/Director Apprentice
1995–1996 New York Undercover Writer
1997 Breakdown Production Rewrite
1998 Armageddon Adaptation (Shared with Tony Gilroy)
2000 Shaft Screenplay/Story By
2001–2002 UC: Undercover Executive Producer/Head Writer/Showrunner/Music Supervisor
2004 Alien vs. Predator Production Rewrite
2007 Ghost Rider Contributing Writer
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem Written By
2010–present Hawaii Five-0 Writer/Consulting Producer
2012 Savages Screenplay/Executive Producer
2013 Salinger Writer/Producer/Director
2014 Salinger, Director's Cut (PBS American Masters)[74] Writer/Producer/Director
2018 Avatar 4[75] Screenplay
TBA Untitled Shane Salerno/Kurtzman-Orci Project[76] Written By/Executive Producer
Fantastic Voyage Screenplay
Frankie Machine[77] Screenplay/Producer
Untitled Chuck Hogan/Don Winslow Crime Drama Producer[78]
Satori[79] Screenplay/Executive Producer
The Power of the Dog[80] Screenplay/Producer


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  2. ^ Dave Itzkoff (January 29, 2013). "Biography of J.D. Salinger Coming in September". New York Times. 
  3. ^ NYT Staff. "Savages Production Credits". The New York Times. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Mike Fleming. "Secret J.D. Salinger Documentary & Book, Now Revealed (Mike Has Seen The Film)". 
  7. ^ Mike Fleming. "TOLDJA! Weinstein Company Confirms Worldwide Rights Deal For Shane Salerno Docu ‘Salinger;’ Sets September 6 Release". 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Mike Fleming Jr. "EXCLUSIVE: Film Distributors Circle J.D. Salinger Documentary Following Licensing Deal To ‘American Masters’". Deadline. 
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  11. ^ Mike Fleming Jr. "How Did That 'Salinger' Docu Do On PBS? 2 Million Views". Deadline. 
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  19. ^ "Hip-Hop Cops", TV Guide, Oct. 15, 1994, at p. 29.
  20. ^ Kevin Brass (April 7, 2002). "Up Against His Own Deadline". Los Angeles Times. 
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  25. ^ Variety  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ Kit, Borys (September 11, 2008). "Fox picks up 'Doomsday Protocol'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  27. ^ Variety  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ Adam Rosenberg. "Fantastic Voyage Is The Secret James Cameron/Shane Salerno Collaboration You've Been Hearing About". 
  29. ^ Mike Fleming. "Secret J.D. Salinger Film And Book Now Revealed". Deadline Hollywood. 
  30. ^ Detour Magazine, November, 1999. Fade in Magazine, September, 1999
  31. ^
  32. ^ Kevin Brass (April 7, 2002). "Up Against His Own Deadline". Los Angeles Times. 
  33. ^ Creative Screenwriting, Volume 11, Number 4, Page 32-33, David Konow, July/August, 2004.
  34. ^
  35. ^ Larry King Live, CNN, September 26, 1991
  36. ^ 102d Congress, First Session and April 19, 1991 Congressional Record, No. 57
  37. ^ Congressional Record, Thursday, April 18th, 1991, Volume 137, Number 57, Author: Congressman Bill Lowery
  38. ^ "Shane Salerno and UC: Undercover", Den Shewman, Creative Screenwriting, September/October 2001
  39. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 28, 1999). "Snipes in talks with HBO; scripter Salerno hot". Variety. 
  40. ^ Visions of Armageddon, Mark Cotta Vaz, Hyperion Books, 1998, page 44.
  41. ^ Variety, Chris Petrikin, August 25, 1997.
  42. ^ Fleming, Michael (October 9, 2000). "Salerno tries on Jersey deal". Variety. 
  43. ^ Petrikin, Chris (August 3, 1997). "Salerno signs 'Zodiac' deal". Variety. 
  44. ^ Reel West Magazine, October/November, 2001, pages 18, 19 and 37.
  45. ^ Adalian, Josef (July 2, 2001). "Thesp goes 'Undercover'". Variety. 
  46. ^ Adalian, Josef (October 9, 2003). "'Armageddon' guys reteam". Variety. 
  47. ^ Box Office Mojo
  48. ^ A conversation with Erik Bauer - Screenwriting Expo 5 Preview. Los Angeles. October 19–22, 2006.
  49. ^ Kit, Borys (September 11, 2008). "Fox picks up 'Doomsday Protocol'". The Hollywood Reporter. [dead link]
  50. ^ McClintock, Pamela (June 28, 2009). "Paramount nabs 'Steal'". Variety. 
  51. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: 'Fantastic Voyage' Is The Secret James Cameron/Shane Salerno Collaboration You've Been Hearing About". MTV. 
  52. ^ McClintock, Pamela (March 31, 2010). "Paul Greengrass circles 'Fantastic Voyage'". Variety. 
  53. ^ Mike Fleming. "Oliver Stone Plots Drug Cartel Drama". Deadline. 
  54. ^ James White. "Travolta and Thurman Signed For Savages With Blake Lively confirmed as O". Empire Magazine. 
  55. ^ Justin Kroll (April 22, 2011). "Emile Hirsch goes native with 'Savages'". Variety. 
  56. ^ Mike Fleming. "John Travolta, Uma Thurman And Blake Lively Join 'Savages' Cast". Deadline. 
  57. ^
  58. ^ McClintock, Pamela. "Oliver Stone's 'Savages' Hot Enough For Summer". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  59. ^ Kevin Jagernauth. "Author Don Winslow Talks Latest Thriller 'Satori' & The Brewing Film Adaptation With Leonardo DiCaprio". The Playlist. 
  60. ^ Mike Fleming. "Secret J.D. Salinger Documentary & Book, Now Revealed (Mike Has Seen The Film)". Deadline. 
  61. ^ Nicole Sperling. "J.D. Salinger documentary: the top-secret film five years in the making". Entertainment Weekly. 
  62. ^
  63. ^ Puig, Claudia (September 5, 2013). "'Salinger' documentary is far from phony". USA Today. 
  64. ^
  65. ^ Dave Itzkoff (January 29, 2013). "Biography of J.D. Salinger Coming in September". New York Times. 
  66. ^ [4]. "New York Times"
  67. ^ [5]. "Los Angeles Times"
  68. ^ [6]. "NPR"
  69. ^ [7].
  70. ^ [8]. Publishers Weekly.
  71. ^ [9]. "Kirkus Reviews".
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
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  79. ^
  80. ^

External links[edit]