The real superheroes of the industry right now? These writers — ranked in order of influence — whose books are source material for more than 300 movie and TV projects, have helped rake in billions in box office and revenue, and prove every day that originality, above all else, still matters
« 10/ 25 Laura Hillenbrand
Known For: 2001's Seabiscuit, 2014's Unbroken
Big Number: Seabiscuit earned $148 million in worldwide box office.
What Hillenbrand lacks in quantity -- just two nonfiction books to her credit, due to intensive research slowed by severe chronic fatigue syndrome -- she makes up for in quality. Seabiscuit, about a racehorse who became a Depression-era household name, was a huge best-seller (more than 6 million), with Gary Ross directing the 2003 Universal adaptation and scoring seven Oscar noms in the process. While poring over newspaper clippings on Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand flipped one over and found a story on World War II hero Louis Zamperini, who died in July at age 97. "I jotted his name down," recalls Hillenbrand, 47, who lives in Washington with her husband. "After Seabiscuit came out, I looked him up and wrote him a letter, and he wrote me back. We then had a phone call, and I knew after one phone call, this is my next book." Unbroken -- which tackles the tale of the onetime Olympian who survived a plane crash in the Pacific, spent 47 days adrift on a raft and then two years as a POW in Japan -- became another monster best-seller (4 million). "He was a dream subject because he has saved everything," Hillenbrand tells THR. "He had a 63-pound scrapbook that goes back to 1918." Angelina Jolie directed the Universal film, which bows Christmas Day and is poised for an awards-season run. "She captures both the grand sweep of history and the intimate details of character with equal authority," Jolie tells THR. "That talent makes her the deftest, most vivid kind of storyteller." Hillenbrand returns the compliment: "[Jolie] is a real stickler for historical accuracy. She's very astute and aware of everything."
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