A screenwriter who never stops writing

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 1:55 PM

Screenwriter Pat Proft, who lives in Medina, has a long list of screen credits — and no plans to slow down.

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At his home in Medina, screenwriter Pat Proft, a Columbia Heights native, cited classics as influences on his writing, including Laurel and Hardy movies.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii , Associated Press

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Pat Proft, a Hollywood screenwriter and director who makes his home in Medina, has been known to interrupt a movie’s filming to deliver a compelling new line to an actor.

It goes to show that “you never stop writing. Even the day of filming, you keep slugging away,” he said.

At 66, and with more than four decades in the business, Proft still gets revved up about his job. He has no plans to retire.

Maybe that enthusiasm is an ingredient in his success. Proft is a creator behind numerous Hollywood blockbusters, including such comedies as “Police Academy” and several of the “Naked Gun” and “Scary Movie” series, and “Wrongfully Accused,” which is full of local references.

Each project brings a fresh set of jokes, dialogue and physical humor. Volleying ideas back and forth with writing partners, “you laugh every day. It’s a joy to go to work,” he said.

The same can be said during filming. And, well after the production has wrapped up, it’s rewarding to know that a movie will be seen around the world, he said.

Proft usually attends the premiere events for his films. Often, he drops by some of the regular screenings, too, embedding himself in the audience.

For him, those moments are a bit surreal. Having thought through every character in the screenplay, it’s like, “I’m everyone on the screen. I get that performing feeling. It’s like I’m back onstage,” he said.

Proft used to do a one-man comedy show. “A lot of things I did in my act ended up in the films,” he said, adding that he wants to return to the stage.

Right now, he has several screenplays in the works. The next movie that will go into production is “Counter Intelligence,” which he’s cowriting with David Zucker, a frequent collaborator. Proft describes the film as a “‘Naked Gun’ take on ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Bourne’ film genres.”

Proft puts in long hours at work every day. “I work all the time. I sleep on Sundays,” he said.

An early calling

Proft always sought the spotlight. As a child, his heroes were Laurel and Hardy, Red Skelton and Sid Caesar.

At Columbia Heights High School, Stuart J. Anderson, an English and speech teacher, encouraged Proft to develop his talent. Notably, Anderson’s son, Richard Dean Anderson, went on to star in the hit TV series, “MacGyver.”

Early in his career, Proft performed at the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis. That’s where he got a sense for what makes something funny, along with comic timing and “how far to push it.”

Dudley Riggs, artistic director emeritus of the Brave New Workshop, said Proft had an “easy, carefree approach to the material,” adding that writing came naturally to him. “It’s kind of as if he was viewing the world through a different lens than the rest of us.”

Although it may not always be immediately obvious in his comedy, Proft is a “profound humanist in his thoughts,” Riggs said.

Proft also performed on the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s stage, acting in musicals even though “I can’t sing or dance,” he said.

In 1972, Proft relocated to Los Angeles. He made his mark at The Comedy Store, a West Hollywood club. “Anyone who became something [in comedy] was there,” he said.

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