Robin Gottlieb

Screenwriter Phillip Murphy 

“I always loved watching movies, it’s my number one hobby,” remarked Phillip Murphy ’01. That’s why it’s no surprise that Murphy is now a screenwriter. In 2021 he co-wrote his first produced feature film, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, and Antonio Banderas, which was a sequel to the 2017 action comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” 

Murphy attended Roanoke College, where he was a history major. An internship at Sony Pictures in Los Angeles inspired his interest in the entertainment industry. Eventually, Murphy partnered with his late brother, Brandon, and they sold their first screenplay in 2011. The brothers moved to Los Angeles full time, selling movie scripts and television pitches, as well as rewrite and adaptation work. Now with one blockbuster under his belt, Murphy is steadily working on a few other projects, including a horror rom-com and a thriller. In addition, he produces his weekly podcast, Camp Goodboy

What led you to become a screenwriter?
Working as an intern at Sony Pictures was a game changer. Even though I was the “lowest man on the rung,” it was such a fun experience and planted a seed that this could be an area of work I wanted to pursue. After college, I first explored a career as an actor, but soon discovered I was not very good. I then tried improvisation, but I tended to write what I wanted to say, which is not what improv is about. This led me to stand-up comedy which, allowed me to both write and perform. I did stand-up for four years, then one day I remember watching a movie, and something about that moment inspired me to write my first screenplay. The screenplay was terrible, like all first screenplays are, but the seed that was planted in 2002
began to sprout, and I knew I was on the right path. 

From where do you find your inspiration?
When you do something on a regular basis, you end up thinking that way all the time. So whether it’s watching a movie and reimagining that premise in another way or going on a bunch of bad dates and finding a premise, which I recently did, you can always find something. Also, I’m a very observational person, so once I have an idea and I’m writing it, I go to the filing cabinet in my head and there’s no shortage of details, memories, and conversations that I’ve had or heard to pull from when creating a world, character, or situation. 

How has the loss of your brother, screenwriter Brandon Murphy, affected you both personally and professionally? 
Brandon and I wrote together for ten years, but we had started writing separately and enjoyed it, so professionally it has been an easier transition. Personally, it has been devastating. He was not only my brother, but my best friend. However, I’ve been filled with so much gratitude that I not only had an incredibly personal, but also a very prolific, artistic relationship with him that not a lot of siblings ever get.

How has the film industry changed since COVID? 
It’s harder than ever to get an original idea off the ground. That was the case even before COVID, and the pandemic enhanced it even more. Whether it’s a book, a comic, a remake, a reboot, or a sequel, there must be that built-in audience already in place. Also, gone are the days of selling a pitch or a premise and the endless development that came with that. People want scripts that are ready or as close to ready as possible, and even then, it’s still a crapshoot. It’s really forced everyone, especially writers, to up their game. 

What’s your advice for pursuing a career in the film industry?
Don’t have a back-up plan, otherwise you will always have one foot out the door. You have to be all in. 

What are some of your fondest memories of your time under the Mountain?
Just the entire experience. Being on my own for the first time, the more challenging curriculum, interacting with kids from all over the world, the mandatory study hall, having to do three sports. The time management that I learned at Berkshire has carried with me ever since I graduated, but the cherry on top was doing it all at this beautiful, picturesque setting. The experience as a whole was so surreal, and I will never forget it.