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Rafael Yglesias left school at 16 and the Dark Water screenwriter says he's never done an honest day's work

Rafael Yglesias dropped out of high school in New York in 1970. But the 16-year-old knew exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

"I wanted to be a writer," Yglesias, 51, told the Current during a phone interview. "I had started to write a novel and I was convinced that staying in school wouldn't help me. As soon as I got a publisher and got some money to live on, I just got out of school."

One year later, Yglesias' first novel, Hide Fox, and All After, was published by Doubleday. It was followed by seven other books through 1998, including 1978's The Game Player, 1990's The Murderer Next Door, and 1993's Fearless, a novel which he adapted into the film of the same name starring Jeff Bridges and Isabella Rossellini, directed by Peter Weir.

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Academy Award-winner Jennifer Connelly stars as a newly estranged mother struggling to start a new life with her daughter in Dark Water, adapted from the original Japanese horror film Honogurai mizu no soko kara.

Yglesias, who also contributed to the scripts for the 1994 Roman Polanski film Death and the Maiden starring Ben Kingsley, 1998's Les Misérables starring Liam Neeson, and 2001's From Hell starring Johnny Depp, is credited as the sole writer of Dark Water, the remake of the Japanese horror film Honogurai mizu no soko kara that opened July 8.

Adapting the original film, which was directed by Hideo Nakata (Ringu, The Ring Two), and the novel by Kôji Suzuki, Yglesias said his main objectives were to translate the Japanese ghost story into a more Westernized tale and to "pay homage to Rosemary's Baby," a film he greatly admires.

"I had to make a lot of changes because the reactions to some of the situations would be so different," Yglesias said. "For example, in Hideo's film, his heroine is so neurotic and passive that even though her ceiling is practically caving in from a leak, she doesn't go upstairs for weeks to find out what is going on. Whereas, I've lived in New York all my life, if somebody leaks on you for five minutes anyone would go upstairs and knock on the door. Right away I knew there were going to be big changes in how (characters) would react and behave."

Yglesias said he was taken aback when he first learned that award-winning director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) wanted to direct the film. "I was a little surprised that he was interested in doing a ghost story until I spoke with him," Yglesias said. "Then I discovered that he had always wanted to do one. The more we continued with the film, the happier I was because a number of things I cared about deeply he did as well. He was very much in tune with what I liked about the story."

Yglesias is currently finishing a script for a thriller with screenwriter and friend Tom Schullman (Dead Poet's Society) and working on a long historical novel that spans the years 1860-1922.

"I've never really done an honest day's work in my life," Yglesias said. "I've only been a writer."

By Kiko Martinez


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