Jonathan Tropper Never Gave Up on Dream

Family Ties Nurtured Author on Road to Literary Stardom

By Laurie Gwen Shapiro

Published August 23, 2012, issue of August 31, 2012.
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Currently, Tropper is consumed with “Banshee,” which will premiere this January. The premise: “A convicted felon gets out of jail after 15 years and fakes his identity to become sheriff,” Tropper said. Schickler, Tropper’s co-creator and writing partner on “Banshee,” is another 42-year-old. They met at a party thrown by mutual friend, James Frey, infamous author of “A Million Little Pieces.” Schickler, a practicing Catholic, quickly realized they were both novelists from strong religious backgrounds with a yen for action movies, and they decided to join forces. Schickler and Tropper had planned to pitch their ideas together, but as it happened, Tropper found himself in Los Angeles with a rare opportunity to pitch the idea for “Banshee” directly to Alan Ball.

“By the time Jonathan had walked to the parking lot, Alan had called Jonathan’s agent to say he wanted in,” Schickler said.

“I love that in his books and screenplays, Jonathan’s characters get 100% sucked into crisis,” said Greg Yaitanes, Banshee’s showrunner, who held that position on the TV show “House,” as well. Yaitanes, who was famously one of Twitter’s six original investors, doesn’t want for money but said he started “stalking” “Banshee” a day after hearing about it, hoping he could possibly direct.

Dassi Lewis recently visited her big brother on set in Charlotte: “There was an entire building just for the show,” she told me. “Everyone was coming up to him constantly. Wardrobe, casting, art department. ‘Jonathan! What do we do about this?’ Everyone wanted his opinion. Jonathan was the guy in charge. I was in awe.”

Once he’s finished with the first season of “Banshee,” Tropper has a slew of projects awaiting him. “The Book of Joe,” originally optioned in 2004 by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment is now being produced independently by Tropper with Ed Burns. The 2005 book “Everything Changes,” originally optioned to Maguire, just got independent financing; Tropper is writing and producing the screenplay, and Paul Rudd is attached to co-produce and star. Tropper’s script for “This Is Where I Leave You” is at Warner Bros., and he is working on it with “Rock of Ages” director Adam Shankman. He’s also working on a pile of scripts, including one based on Steve Martin’s novella, “The Pleasure of my Company.” And Dutton has just announced a new deal on an as-yet-unwritten novel.

While we spoke, Tropper moved one of his daughter’s toys away from the middle of the kitchen floor — tripping hazard. Given everything that’s happening in his career, these should be the gladdest days of his life. I resisted the temptation to give him a hug, for he doesn’t look like an entirely glad man. Above all the success looms the long shadow of divorce. Perhaps in the past, he had to fashion out of his imagination a Tropperesque man in emotional crisis, but now it seems as though he no longer has to make such a creative leap.

The current novel shows a darker side of him than his previous ones, he admits, even if it is a largely comic mediation on loneliness. “This book is different,” he said. “I’m playing with regret and redemption, and the simple truth that one can never control the end result of their lives. But in a way that goes down easy, I hope.”

Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Emmy-nominated director, is executive producing “The Manor,” an upcoming documentary about a Jewish family that owns a strip club, and directing “The Lowline,” about the world’s first proposed underground park on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.


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