UCI Alumnus: Screenwriter Grant Nieporte Knows Will Smith

Ever wonder what it’s like to work with Will Smith? Or maybe if he believes in “getting jiggy with it, na na na na na na na nana” in between shots?

How about Rosario Dawson? Ever wonder if in her downtime she asks strangers if they can “light her candle” before she heads over to the Cat Scratch Club?

While he might not give away the song and dance of Smith and Dawson, UC Irvine Alumnus Grant Nieporte knows them on a deeper level.

“Will is funny, smart, surprisingly down to earth and gracious,” Nieporte said, while Dawson “is beauty, talent and grace personified. Her performance is the emotional glue in the story, and the love story doesn’t work without it.”

The story is last year’s huge blockbuster hit, “Seven Pounds,” a powerful tale of a man who helps seven people amid a personal tragedy, and as the only writer on the project, the man behind the story is none other than UCI’s very own Nieporte.

As a member of the UCI graduating class of 1995, Nieporte majored in social sciences with an economic emphasis and minored in film studies. He came to UCI, like many first years wandering the campus, clueless and undeclared. Echoing the sentiment of a number of students, his first choice was UCLA Film School, but he is “glad [he] ended up at UCI.” Zot zot, take that, Bruins.

Taking advantage of his time as an Anteater, Nieporte’s favorite memories here involve playing lacrosse and being a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. His favorite classes were the screen writing series classes, his least favorite class was calculus (numbers are a foreign idea for writers), his favorite professor was Marie Cartier, and ladies and gentlemen, one of you could presently be sleeping in his old bed, as he dormed his first year in Cumbre in Mesa Court.

He did the usual from there, taking his dorm-life experience and translating it to the beach scene 15 minutes away. While he says living in Newport on the sand with four guys was a blast, Nieporte gives a word of caution to those who have it just as good now and maybe take it for granted— it was “better than where I’m living now.”

Those too-long nights in Cumbre and too-short sunny days in Newport shaped his frame of mind.

“Since college I knew I wanted to write. My first break was an episode of ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ that I wrote that featured Sabrina hosting a luau, making poi with her cat and getting rid of a ghost named Marv. Not exactly high brow,” Nieporte said.

As unlucky as the black cat proved to be, Nieporte found as much luck while brainstorming the concept for “Seven Pounds.” He found inspiration for the script when he encountered a man at a party.

“[He was] deeply grieved by a national tragedy that he felt responsible for,” Nieporte said.

His interactions with this man helped to solidify Ben Thomas (Smith) in the movie. In six months, Nieporte banged out a first draft, though after 18 months of on-and-off rewrites with the movie’s filmmakers, he admits seeing a project through is difficult.

“It is so incredibly hard to get a movie made. I felt blessed beyond belief to see it come to fruition,” Nieporte said.

The actual movie is a touching sentiment with an ending guaranteed to move you to tears. Smith and Dawson are brilliant together, and they effectively break your heart.

“I’ve received some feedback from people around the world,” Nieporte said and continued, “who have reached out to say they were moved by it.”

Although he’s already 11 years deep into the industry and just starting to hit his stride, Nieporte expects himself to be working just as hard five years from now trying to make his name more concrete.

“[It’s] very hard to stay working in Hollywood,” Nieporte said. “Lots of ups and downs and long hours.”

So after all the time and effort he put into “Seven Pounds,” how is he spending his free time now? All you “Home Improvement” fans, check out what Nieporte’s hammering down.

“[My favorite current project is] a dramedy for Tim Allen to star [in]. It’s a great character to play that is more grounded and real than the things we’ve seen him in lately,” Nieporte said.

Yet in the midst of all the nuts and bolts of the industry, Nieporte’s excitement isn’t most piqued by having written a hit movie or taking Allen away from his sitcoms. He stated that he is most excited about his family life.

“The birth of my first daughter on or around June 8, God willing [is exciting],” Nieporte said.

Having successfully managed both a family life and a career in the Hollywood industry, he has a token of advice for those looking to follow in his direction: “Soak it in.”