Right now, screenwriter Damon Lindelof is getting a lot of attention, and it’s good to see writers front and center in the media, because many times they’re toiling away anonymously.
Even though we know the importance of a good script, and “show runners” are also getting a lot of notice because of the high quality of programs like Game of Thrones, many people who create our favorite shows aren’t recognizable on the street. In fact, Lindelof probably still wouldn’t be recognizable because he looks like any other thirty-something every day guy.
Yet he’s now getting a lot of press for co-writing Star Trek Into Darkness, and for doing an emergency last minute re-write on World War Z, which is trying desperately to overcome bad buzz that’s been plaguing the production since day one. (Lindelof also co-wrote the screenplay for Prometheus). In fact, the Hollywood Reporter wrote a story on his “$400 Million Mind,” and Lindelof has indeed been at the helm of a number of big properties, including Lost, which spring-boarded him into the big time.
Lindelof started off working as a development executive for Alan Ladd Jr., the former head of Fox who greenlit Star Wars. He was then a writer’s assistant for Kevin Williamson (Scream) on a show called Wasteland, which got canceled after two episodes.
So when he finally made his way to Lost, the head of ABC didn’t quite get the show, and as Lindelof recalled, “The drama elements and heavy serialization, the immense cast, the tremendous budget were all reasons not to pick it up.” Lindelof was preparing himself for whatever was going to come down, and the commitment for a series was so big, he actually would have been relived if it didn’t get picked up.
There was also talk of doing it as a six-episode miniseries as a midseason replacement, and Lindelof’s agents were trying to get him other jobs because it didn’t look good that the show would be picked up. Then he got a call: “We just got the testing in from Lost, and it tested higher than all the other shows, sans Desperate Housewives.” The next day he got a call from the head of ABC: “Pack your bags, you’re going to New York, you’re on air, we’re ordering 13 [episodes].”
It was also a tough time for Lindelof because he was thrown in the deep end of the pool, and was desperately trying to stay afloat. “I wasn’t sleeping; I was commuting back and forth to Hawaii; everything that could go wrong was going wrong. JJ Abrams would materialize in crisis points, but he was already off working on Mission Impossible. He never abandoned me.”
Lindelof hoped the show would make it to 13 episodes and one day become a cult hit, like The Prisoner: “It would be this epic, expensive disaster that was actually good.” It obviously did much better than that. “We premiered on the Wednesday before Desperate Housewives. It was the biggest drama number that ABC had. Literally, I had to go into my office, close the door and cry.”
Now that Lost has come and gone, Lindeolf confirmed he won’t be returning to that island again. “There shouldn’t be more Lost because it was successful, and it’ll make more money. There should be more Lost because somebody has a f**king awesome idea. Someone comes forward and says, ‘I just figured out a really killer way to do some more Lost.’ I haven’t had that idea, so it shouldn’t be me.”