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This week I brought on the show, playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor, John Pollono. I wanted to go down the road a little bit about his remarkable journey in the business which expands across theatre and short films.
John is one of the founders of the Jabberwocky Theatre Company in 2004 which became the Rogue Machine Theatre in 2008 where he produced his earlier plays. His big break came with his screenplay for the acclaimed biographical drama film, Stronger which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.
The screenplay, based on Bauman’s memoir Stronger, was number two on the Black List (most-liked “motion picture screenplays not yet produced) in 2016.
Stronger, starring multiple award-winning actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, is the inspiring real-life story of Jeff Bauman — an ordinary man who captured the hearts of his city and the world to become a symbol of hope after surviving but losing his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and must adjust to his new life.
This project came along for John right after signing with Los Angelos – based Creative Artists Agency. Producers, Alex Young and Todd Lieberman were already familiar with Pollono’s work. And they were on the hunt for something. That was when adapting Stronger became a prospect. At the time, the book was not yet published so he had a chance to review the unpublished book.
Producer Scott Silver was looking to mentor a more junior writer for the Stronger film and fortuitously, John was a good fit having grown up 20 minutes from where the characters take place, he was the best candidate for the job. So, with a follow-up pitch, the book’s film adaptation screenplay was sold to Lionsgate.
Writing Stronger (the film) was a double success for Pollono. Not only was he mentored directly by the incredible Scott Silver and receiving writing directions about theme, structure, etc, but the project brought him some notoriety as well by topping number two on the blacklist a year before production. That script made a big enough splash for his career.
Besides Stronger, Pollono is known for writing Small Engine Repair (the play and its film adaptation), Lost Girls (2013 and 2015) Off-Broadway release, Second Of Rules (the play), Lost and Found (2006), Razorback (play, staged in 2008) and his one-act Illuminati play which won Best Play at the 2010 Network One-Act Festival in New York City.
Pollono’s love for stories and movies dates back to being a kid who was also a voracious reader — reading every Stephen King book there is. He picked up short story writing at a pretty young age. Obviously, he had a sort of knack for storytelling and started pursuing that path and passion to become a filmmaker and has been fortunate to shadow so many directors who I really admire in the business.
He’s guest-starred in the television series, How I Met Your Mother and has had smaller acting credits on film and stage.
In 2021 he wrote and directed the black comedy-drama, Small Engine Repair which will premiere this September. The film is based on Pollono’s play of the same name. I can not recommend this film enough. It is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in 2021.
Events spin wildly out of control when three lifelong friends agree to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore. It follows lifelong friends Frank (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frank’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Bravo). But when Frank invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control in this exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.
This interview was a pretty cool conversation and I did not hold back getting John to share all the gems of the business he’s learned and fun questions like what it’s like working with Frank Darabont and working on the new Hulk Hogan movie currently in production.
Enjoy my conversation with John Pollono.
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