Mary Agnes Donoghue is having a very big year. Not only did she pen the script for Paradise but the film also marks her debut as a director. As if that were not enough, Donoghue is the coproducer and cowriter of another feature opening this month: Deceived, a thriller starring Goldie Hawn. ”I might have to go to a rest home from the anxiety,” the Queens, N.Y.-born Donoghue joked after a recent 16-hour workday. How does a woman in male-dominated Hollywood come to wear the same triple-threat hats as Woody and Spike?
Donoghue, a 48-year-old screenwriter whose stock soared with Beaches (1988), apparently inspires confidence. ”I turned in the script to Paradise and Disney said they wanted to make it,” she recalls. ”Jeffrey Katzenberg (Disney’s studio chief) and I were talking about directors when he said he thought I could do it, and I immediately said, ‘Yes, I can, I can do this!”’ With no previous experience behind the camera, Donoghue halted her work on Deceived and plunged into the top job on Paradise — a challenge she found rewarding. ”It was a chance to see things come out the way I wanted,” she says, ”the characters, the details, the way people dress — all the things that drive you nuts when you’re a writer because you have such a strong vision.”
Donoghue is looking forward to directing more of her own scripts — but first she wants to spend time with her husband of 15 years. ”When this is over, I really want to have a personal life,” she says. ”It’s at the top of my list.”