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Jonathan Frederick Lawton (also known as J. F. Lawton), born on August 11, 1960 in Riverside, Californiamarker, is an American screenwriter, film producer and film director. Screen credits include Pretty Woman, Mistress, Blankman, Under Siege, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, The Hunted, Chain Reaction, DOA: Dead or Alive, Jackson, V.I.P. and under the assumed name JD Athens Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death and Pizza Man.

Early Life

J.F. Lawton was born on August 11, 1960, in Riverside, Californiamarker. He is the son of author and novelist Harry Lawton and Georgeann Leona Lawton (née Honegger), a pianist. The couple met in Berkeleymarker while attending the University of California. Later they moved to Riversidemarker, where Harry was hired as a reporter for The Press-Enterprise.

As a child, he suffered from severe dyslexia making school life very difficult. It took him many years of practice, hard work and patience to control his learning disabilities. Despite the challenge, he decided to become a writer like his father anyway. Harry Lawton, independently of his son's disability, always made sure to give him as much incentive as possible. To this day he credits his father for always being supportive of him and his mother for going the extra mile to help him overcome his obstacles.

When J. F. Lawton was still in elementary school, his father’s novel, Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt, was made into a film starring Robert Redford. During the making of Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Harry Lawton would take J.F. to the set, exposing him to the process of filmmaking. From that moment on, fascinated, he determined that he would become a screenwriter. Always curious, Lawton would observe his surroundings and write about them, although due to his dyslexia, it would take him double the time to put his stories down on paper.

In high school, he continued to write short stories, plays and scripts. After graduating from John W. North High School in Riversidemarker, he enrolled at California State University in Long Beachmarker to study Filmmaking. There he wrote, directed and edited two short films, The Artist and Renaissance. The first was a sci-fi thriller placed in the future in which the main character kills his victims, takes their pictures and exposes them in his art exhibitions. The second, Renaissance, was a short horror film where the protagonist, a sadistic sexual predator, dominates and kills his victim every night, but revives her the next morning to only start the vicious cycle all over again. Both short films won several awards in the college circuit.


After college, the Californiamarker native moved to Los Angelesmarker settling himself in Hollywoodmarker, more precisely near Hollywood Boulevardmarker and Western Avenue, one of the toughest corners in Los Angelesmarker at the time. Living among prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, junkies and the homeless, the setting gave J. F Lawton a wide range of inspiration for his stories. He wrote a number of screenplays while working at several post-productions companies.

During that time he met the famous producer Charles Band who got interested in one of his screenplays. The result,Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death was a take-off of both Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola's feature Apocalypse Now. Shot in less than two weeks in his hometown of Riverside, Californiamarker, the film, starring his longtime friend Bill Maher, Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed and sex symbol Adrienne Barbeau became a cult favorite and late-night cable staple.

After Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Lawton also wrote and directed Pizza Man, a political satire about a delivery man investigating a comical government conspiracy. Talk show host Bill Maher also stars in Pizza Man along with comedian Annabelle Gurwitch. In both movies, he used the pseudonym JD Athens.


J. F. Lawton moved to the A-list when his script titled Three Thousand, was accepted by the Sundance Institute in the early 90’s. Executives at Touchstone Pictures, a division of The Walt Disney Studios, got interested in getting the movie made. He changed the title to Pretty Woman, and with over $400 million dollars in worldwide boxoffice, the movie became the largest grossing live-action film in Disney history. Directed by Garry Marshall, with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, the film is a story about Vivian Ward, a prostitute who is hired by a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, to be at his beck and call for one week while he is in town on business. Although they come from different backgrounds and lifestyles, both end up developing a relationship based more on genuine love than money and convenience. Pretty Woman was a huge success and got Lawton nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award and a British Academy Award for his screenplay. Julia Roberts won a Golden Globe Award for her role and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, giving her worldwide acclaim. The movie also gave stardom to mega producer Arnon Milchan who later went on to produce hits like Under Siege, Natural Born Killers, LA Confidential, The Devil's Advocate, Fight Club, Unfaithful, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, etc.

He then executive produced his next original screenplay, Under Siege, based on his million-dollar spec script Dreadnought. The idea came when Lawton, who had served time in the Coast Guard Reserve, read that the Navy was retiring the USS Missouri.Tommy Lee Jones plays William Strannix, a psychopathic ex-CIA agent who leads a group of mercenaries on a takeover of the American battleship on its final voyage to steal its arsenal of nuclear Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. The film also stars Steven Seagal and Gary Busey. Acclaimed by public and critics, the movie broke box office records and a successful sequel followed Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.

With Barry Primus, he co-wrote Mistress, a comedy starring Robert de Niro, Danny Aiello, Christopher Walken and Martin Landau. The movie is a tale about a Hollywood screenwriter, Marvin Landisman, whose career is going downhill until he meets a has been hustler-producer who tries to help him get his career back. Starring an all-star cast, Mistress was one of the first films produced by Tribeca Productions, Robert de Niro’s production company, and it was released in the summer of 1992.

Then came The Hunted in 1995, a thriller set in Japan starring Christopher Lambert, John Lone and Joan Chen. Written and directed by Lawton, the movie traces Paul Racine, a computer-chip executive from New York in one of his many business trips to Tokyo. Local authorities and a legendary ninja cult get involved in an electric chase after a crime occurs in a hotel room. The Hunted was released on February 25, 1995 and distributed by Universal Studios. The score, featuring music by the internationally acclaimed Japanese taiko troupe Kodo, was especially requested by J.F. Lawton.

For Columbia Pictures he co-wrote Blankman, a film starring and produced by Damon Wayans who plays Darryl, a nerdy, comical ghetto superhero with a pure heart ready to fight criminals in his own style. The film also stars Jason Alexander who previously had worked with Lawton in Pretty Woman and Greg Kinnear in the beginning of hiscareer.

The next film project was Chain Reaction, an action thriller starring Morgan Freeman, Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz. The movie, filmed in Chicago, Illinoismarker, was released on August 2, 1996 and grossed over $60 million dollars worldwide. In 2005, Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz teamed up again for Constantine.

In 2006, Lawton co-wrote for Paramount Pictures a film based on the huge video game series success DOA: Dead or Alive starring Eric Roberts, Jaime Pressly and supermodel Devon Aoki.


He created and executive produced the Sony Pictures Entertainment hit syndicated show V.I.P. (standing for, and also referred to as, Vallery Irons Protection) through a successful five year run.

The series starred Pamela Anderson as Vallery Irons, a small-town girl who comes to Southern California looking for a break when she stumbles into the glamorous role of heading up a Beverly Hillsmarker bodyguard agency.

Blending action and humor in a fast-paced adventure series, with Anderson often poking fun at her tabloid image, the show explored the world of the exciting and sometimes treacherous lives of the rich and famous. In November 2001, V.I.P. (the video game) was released on the PlayStation console.


Lawton worked with popular radio host and media personality Howard Stern on the script for The Adventures of Fartman, a fictional superhero character created by Stern for The Howard Stern Show. With two major studios willing to produce, the movie was put into hold due to a MPAA Film Rating System dispute. Lawton and Stern wanted the movie to be R-rated instead of PG-13. They both thought the content of the film was more suitable for a mature audience.

Although the film was put on hold, Howard Stern included part of the script written by Lawton in his 1995 bestselling book, Miss America. The book became number one on the New York Times Best Seller list within days of its release.

He has also been a guest on The Jason Ellis Show, broadcast by famous professional skate boarder and radio host Jason Ellis on Faction 28 by Sirius Satellite Radio.

Future Projects

J.F. Lawton's recent work includes both writing and directing Jackson, a comedy-drama-musical starring Barry Primus, Charles Robinson, Steve Guttenberg, Debra Jo Rupp and opera singers Ella Lee, Shawnette Sulker and Clamma Dale. The movie takes place on a single day involving two homeless men surviving on Los Angeles’s Skid Row. J.F Lawton wrote two songs for the movie, Downtown Birthday and Love Cannot Be. According to his publicist, Jackson was shot mainly in Downtown Los Angeles, except from one scene shot in Kentucky.

His latest script with South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, is in development at Paramount Studios.

Personal Life

Suffering from dyslexia and ADHD, J. F. Lawton is an avid advocate for both issues. He is also a supporter of PETA, along with his good friends Bill Maher and Pamela Anderson. Environmental issues, Human Rights, Cancer, Poverty and 9-11 are very close to his heart.

See also


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