Some kids celebrate their 10th birthday by watching a Disney movie. British screenwriter Jane Goldman spent hers watching David Lynch’s deranged 1977 cult classic Eraserhead. ”I always was passionate about science fiction and horror, and my parents enjoyed that as well,” says Goldman, 41. ”There’s video footage of my 10th birthday where I’m wearing, like, a little pink T-shirt. Then my dad comes in brandishing a copy of Eraserhead going, ‘Look what we’ve got for tonight!”’
Those childhood tastes have served Goldman well. Over the past few years, the fire-engine-red-haired London-based writer has become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after scribes — and the queen of geek-friendly movies. With director Matthew Vaughn, she penned 2010’s Kick-Ass and last year’s X-Men: First Class. Now she’s written the screenplay for The Woman in Black, a supernatural horror movie starring Daniel Radcliffe that opens Feb. 3 (see sidebar).
Goldman first achieved geek nirvana in 1998, when she and her husband, British TV presenter Jonathan Ross, were featured as characters in a short story penned by comics legend — and family friend — Neil Gaiman. It was Gaiman who suggested Vaughn hire her to help him adapt Gaiman’s own novel Stardust, even though she had no experience writing for the big screen. (Goldman worked as a tabloid journalist in her youth and published a novel, Dreamworld, in 2000.) Stardust fizzled at the box office, but the Vaughn-Goldman partnership was sealed. Now, thanks to the $146 million-grossing X-Men: First Class, Goldman is a rare female member of the almost entirely male club of superhero-film makers. ”The only moment I become aware of being the only woman in a meeting is when actresses are being discussed,” she says. ”If someone’s critical of how a woman looks, they turn to me and apologize.”
Vaughn and Goldman may reteam on another X-Men movie, but at the moment Goldman’s busy adapting the YA horror novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a project Tim Burton is circling. Despite being increasingly in demand in Hollywood, she has no plans to give up London for L.A. — even if the eight-hour time difference wreaks havoc on her cocktail-hour schedule. ”I can’t have my evening Bloody Mary if I’ve got a conference call,” she says. ”But it’s good for the liver.”