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University of Texas at Austin

Warren Skaaren:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Skaaren, Warren, 1946-1990
Title: Warren Skaaren Papers 1946-1991 (bulk 1970-1990)
Dates: 1946-1991
Extent: 64 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 oversize box, 2 oversize film boxes (26.9 linear feet)
Abstract: The primary focus of this collection is the screenwriter's work in the late 1980s. Included are drafts and revisions, treatments, synopses, story analyses, charts, clippings, bibliographies, maps, shooting schedules, continuity notes, storyboards, memorabilia, photographs, posters, correspondence, and audio and video cassettes. Motions pictures documented included Batman, Beetlejuice, Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, and Top Gun.
RLIN record #: TXRC95-A94
Language English.
Access Open for research

Administrative Information

Acquisition Gift, 1993
Processed by Katherine Mosley, 1994-95

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Screenwriter Warren Edward Skaaren, son of Morris and Pearl Skaaren, was born in Rochester, Minnesota, on March 9, 1946. He graduated from Rochester Community College in 1966 and enrolled at Rice University in Houston, Texas. There he met Helen Griffin, whom he married on March 7, 1969 (separated, 1989). Upon his graduation from Rice in 1969 with a degree in art, Skaaren, who had served as student body president during his final year of college, moved to Austin to work for Texas governor Preston Smith first as a human resources program analyst and then as an urban development coordinator. Skaaren lived in Austin for the remainder of his life.
In 1971, while working for Smith, Skaaren wrote a formal proposal to establish the Texas Film Commission and was influential in its creation. He served as the Commission's first executive director and remained in that position until March 1974, when he resigned to form the Skaaren Corporation, a media consulting firm. At the same time, he was a founder of FPS, Inc., a Dallas-based television and film production company, and later served as chairman of its board of directors. Skaaren also worked on documentaries, commercials, and various other projects. Breakaway, a documentary about Walter Yates' life in the Alaskan wilderness which Skaaren wrote and directed, was released in 1978.
In 1983, under the sponsorship of Fred Fox, Skaaren completed the script Of East and West, about the Nepalese soldiers the Gurkhas. Although the script was never produced, it gained Skaaren an agent, Mike Simpson at the William Morris Agency, and attracted the attention of Dawn Steel at Paramount, who hired Skaaren to rewrite the screenplay of Fire with Fire. Following that, Skaaren was hired to rewrite the script of Top Gun; its box-office success established his reputation as a "script doctor." Skaaren went on to work on the scripts of Beverly Hills Cop II, Beetlejuice, and Batman.
Skaaren and his wife had seven foster children, and he was a founding director of the Travis County Foster Parents Association. In addition, he served on the board of directors of the Deborah Hay Dance Company. Skaaren established the Laurel Foundation, a private charitable trust, in 1986, and was also involved with the East West Center, a macrobiotic dietary provider.
Skaaren died of bone cancer in Austin, Texas, on December 28, 1990. His papers were donated to the HRC in 1993.

More information about Skaaren and his works may be found in "The Man Hollywood Trusts" by Emily Yoffe ( Texas Monthly, vol. 17, no. 9, Sept. 1989) and "Death of a Screenwriter" by Kevin Phinney ( Premiere, vol. 4, no. 7, March 1991).

Scope and Contents

The primary focus of the collection is on Skaaren's work as a screenwriter in the late 1980's. Included are drafts, revision pages, treatments, synopses, story analyses, outlines, charts, memos, notes, clippings, bibliographies, transcripts, maps, newsletters and other printed matter, shooting schedules, continuity notes, storyboards, memorabilia, photographs, negatives, slides, stills, posters, correspondence, business cards, brochures, audio and video cassettes, invoices, receipts, distribution statements, agreements, and certificates of authorship, all ranging in date from 1946-1991 (bulk, 1970-1990). Arrangement is in three series: Film and Theatre Projects; Research Files; and Technical Files. The Research Files series is arranged in three subseries: Story Ideas, Various Subjects, and Technical Files. While Skaaren's works have been arranged alphabetically, Research and Technical Files have been reordered by subject. Materials within folders remain in the order in which they arrived.
All of Skaaren's significant works are represented in the collection, including his first projects, Breakaway and Fire with Fire, and his most successful films, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beetlejuice, Days of Thunder, and Batman. Early script drafts by other authors, Skaaren's own multiple drafts, revision pages, notes, memos, final shooting scripts, and credit arbitration documents reveal the changes made to screenplays over time. Although Skaaren was known for his ability to rewrite scripts by other authors, he also wrote original screenplays, poetry, and songs that were never produced or published. Among scripts that were never produced are Flawless, The Crimson Eagle, and Lillie and Beck. Skaaren's final works, a play he wrote for Heloise Gold entitled Maggs: The 10,000-Year-Old Woman and the unproduced screenplay Beetlejuice in Love, are also present in the collection.
Because Skaaren kept letters and memos with the manuscripts of his works, correspondence is scattered throughout the collection. Among notable correspondents are producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Peters, Don Simpson, and Doug Wick; writer, producer, and director Ted Flicker; directors Tim Burton and Tony Scott; actors Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas; Grace Reiner of the Writer's Guild of America; personnel at Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers; and Mike Simpson at the William Morris Agency.

Series Descriptions

Separated Material

Books, primarily used by Skaaren in his research, that arrived with the collection have been cataloged separately with the Center's book holdings. Videos that Skaaren acquired for purposes of research, for personal interest, and as screen tests, dailies, and preview prints of films he worked on are also part of the collection.

Index Terms


Bruckheimer, Jerry.
Burton, Tim, 1960- .
Burton, W. Amon, Jr.
Canton, Mark.
Cash, Jim.
Corn, Harvey R.
Cruise, Tom, 1962- .
Douglas, Michael, 1944- .
Eisner, Eric.
Epps, Jack.
Eszterhas, Joe.
Ferguson, Larry.
Flicker, Ted (Theodore J.).
Fonda, Jane, 1937- .
Fox, Fred K.
Guber, Peter.
Hooper, Tobe, 1943- .
Kane, Bob.
McDowell, Michael.
McKeown, Charles.
Menil, John de.
Negri, Pola, 1897- .
Nelson, M. L.
Owens, William A., 1905- .
Parsley, William J.
Peters, Jon.
Reiner, Grace.
Scott, Tony, 1914- .
Simpson, Don.
Simpson, Mike.
Smith, Preston, 1912- .
Towne, Robert.
Wick, Douglas.
Wittliff, William D.
Yates, Walter.


Bryanston Distributors, Inc.
Columbia Pictures.
FPS, inc.
Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown.
Guadalupe Entertainment, Inc.
The Laurel Foundation.
O'Melveny & Myers.
Paramount Pictures Corporation.
Warner Bros.
Writers Guild of America, West.


Automobile racing drivers.
Automobile racing--United States.
Batman (Fictitious Character).
Comic strip characters in motion pictures.
Hong Kong Island (Hong Kong).
Motion picture authorship.
Motion picture locations.
Motion picture plays.
Motion picture producers and directors--United States.
Motion Pictures, American.
Motion Pictures--Distribution.

Document types

Audio tapes.
Business cards.
Cartoons (humorous images).
Film stills.
First drafts.
Legal documents.
Sheet music.
Sound recordings.
Tax records.
Video recordings.

Warren Skaaren Papers--Folder List 3 matching container list entries