Robert Rodat was born in Keene, New Hampshire and received his bachelor’s degree in history from Colgate University and a MBA from Harvard. That’s pretty solid credentials to start with, but just for good measure he added an MFA in Film from USC. (Seriously, how many screenwriters have an MBA? From Harvard nonetheless. Just one more writer with a Harvard background.)
He had a couple TV movie credits and wrote the feature Fly Away Home before earning an Oscar nomination for his Saving Private Ryan script. The film won a total of five Academy Awards including Steven Spielberg’s second best director Oscar.
In a New York Daily News article Denis Hamil writes that Rodat’s research for historical projects includes reading in the range of 30 books as well as journals and letters on the subject at hand.
In 2000, The Patriot staring Mel Gibson from a script by Rodat was released. Rodat at the time was quoted by Hamil saying;
“What interests me right now is big-canvas stories told from an intimate perspective. I like to find one small story within the larger picture and use that – not as a microcosm, but as an illustration. I don’t claim that Benjamin Martin, my main character in ‘The Patriot,’ says everything there is to say about the American Revolution. But the goal is to have one small, emotional and dramatic story about a complex character – with a matrix of people around him [who can transport] the audience to a different world and time.”
Didn’t Victor Hugo “find one small story within the larger picture”" when he wrote Les Miserables? Didn’t Tolstoy do the same in War & Peace ? Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind? Michael Blake with Dances with Wolves? Keep that in mind if you are tackling a story of epic proportions. Think big and think small.
Though some of my info is dated, I believe Rodat lives in Massachusetts and is the screenwriter attached to the World of Warcraft movie that will be directed by Sam Raimi.
PS. Where was Private Ryan (Matt Damon’s character) from? Iowa. (Though an early version of the script has the Ryan farm in Mansfield, Ohio.) Here’s an example from Rodat’s script where you can see how he unpacks a sense of place. Quite a contrast from the chaotic Omaha Beach battle scenes toward the start of the film.
Related Post: Screenwriting from Hell (War movies and the five Sullivan Brother’s who were all killed on the same ship during World War II.)