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Roos, Don (b. 1955)  
 
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Screenwriter and director Don Roos has won plaudits for films that feature gay and lesbian characters and that also give strong roles to women.

One of five children in a Catholic family, Don Roos was born in New York City on April 14, 1955 and grew up in the upper part of the state. His ethnic heritage is half German and half Irish. "I only really identify with the Irish part," he stated in a 1997 interview. "If you have any Irish blood, especially if you're a writer, that's what you want to claim." His connection to the old sod is close since his maternal grandfather was born in Ireland and he still has many relatives there.

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Roos went to Dublin in 1975 to enroll at the School for Irish Studies. The following year one of his great-aunts, a postmistress at Grangebellow, near Drogheda, died, and he took over her duties. "I ran the little post office for a year," he told a reporter for the Irish Times, and "gave out the pensions and the children's allowances."

Roos subsequently returned to the United States and followed an older brother in enrolling at the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in screenwriting and graduated with honors.

He moved to southern California and immediately found work writing for television. His first job was as an assistant to playwright Mart Crowley, who was then executive producer of the series Hart to Hart. Roos went on to write for several television series, including Casebusters and The Colbys, but he aspired to make pictures for the big screen.

Roos achieved that goal with Love Field (1992, directed by Jonathan Kaplan), his story of two airplane passengers, a white woman on her way to the funeral of slain president John Kennedy in November 1963 and a black man taking his daughter with him as he runs from the law.

The film had only limited release since the studio went bankrupt, but the female lead, Michelle Pfeiffer, won an Oscar nomination for her performance, and Roos attracted considerable favorable attention for his work.

Roos wrote the screenplay for another 1992 release, Single White Female, based on John Lutz's novel SWF Seeks Same (1990) and directed by Barbette Schroeder. The film explores the relationship between Allison Jones (played by Bridget Fonda) and Hedra Carlson (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), who responds to an ad for a roommate placed by Jones after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Carlson becomes obsessed with Jones, "beginning to emulate her with scary adoration" in the words of reviewer Vincent Canby.

Canby praised the writing of the film, calling it "smooth, entertaining, and believably sophisticated" and adding that "it has far more sound psychological underpinnings than other movies of its type."

Roos next wrote Boys on the Side (1995, directed by Herbert Ross), which tells the story of three very different women sharing a car trip out of practical necessity as they all move from the eastern United States to Arizona. Whoopi Goldberg played Jane, an out lesbian, whom reviewer Janet Maslin described as "the quintessential outsider as the film begins" but who nevertheless finds a sense of fellowship with her unlikely traveling companions, the demure Robin (played by Mary-Louise Parker) and glamorous, gleeful airhead Holly (played by Drew Barrymore). "By the time it gets to Tucson," wrote Maslin, "Boys on the Side has warmly bonded its main characters and blurred lines of race and gender with surprising ease."

Although advertised as "a giddy romp," wrote Maslin, "Boys on the Side actually proves to be a wistful romance, a sardonic comedy, a 'Thelma, Edna, and Louise' tale of sisterly solidarity, and finally a sad, wrenching story . . . . It's no small irony that this, one of the strongest Hollywood movies to deal with AIDS thus far, depicts the illness in terms of a straight white woman" when Robin is diagnosed as HIV-positive and must come to terms with the terrifying reality of her situation.

Her suitor (played by James Remar) longs for the time before AIDS had to be a consideration--"I just want things to be the way they used to be!"--a wish, stated Maslin, that "Boys on the Side understands . . . while also recognizing that the world will never be the same."

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