Skaaren, Warren Edward (1946–1990)

By: Linda Vance

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Warren Edward Skaaren, Austin screenwriter and film executive, was born on March 9, 1946, in Rochester, Minnesota, where he attended public school. An excellent student, he earned the badge of Eagle Scout and in 1964 won the state "Radio Speaking Championship" while still in high school. From 1965 to 1967 he attended Rochester Community College, where he served as student body president and received the "Champion Citizen Award." In 1967 Skaaren transferred to Rice University in Houston. There he edited the Hanszen College newsletter, was elected president of the student body, and received the Hugh Cameron Award. He graduated from Rice in 1969 with a bachelor of arts degree. His primary talents included metal sculpting, poetry, and dramatics. After college he married Helen Griffin. From 1969 to 1971 he worked for Governor Preston Smith, first as chief Human Resources Analyst and then as Urban Development Coordinator. It was in the latter job that he conceived of the idea of establishing a Texas Film Commission. He served as the commission's first director from 1971 to 1974. During his tenure he set up the commission's daily operations and its long-range goals and published its first annual production manual. In 1974 Skaaren left the Film Commission and became chairman of FPS, Incorporated, of Dallas, a film and television studio and production service. For more that a decade FPS provided equipment, personnel, and production services for the CBS-TV series "Dallas," as well as for sixty other features, including the Oscar-winning film "Tender Mercies." During the 1970s Skaaren wrote and directed two PBS documentaries: "Fireworks," starring George Plimpton, and "A Special Place," a history of the efforts to preserve the San Antonio River and build its famous riverwalk. He also played a key role in a group of friends' endeavor, by suggesting they rename their film Leatherface and call it The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. During the 1970s he also traveled to India and Tibet doing research for his screenplay Of East and West.

In the early 1980s Skaaren wrote and directed the featurelength documentary film Breakaway, about a modern-day Thoreau living in the Brook Mountains in Alaska. In 1984 he cowrote Fire With Fire (1985), a feature film for Paramount Pictures. In 1985 he was associate producer and uncredited screenwriter on the blockbuster film Topgun (1986) starring Tom Cruise, for Paramount Pictures. This was followed in rapid succession by Beetlejuice (1987) for Warner Brothers, Beverly Hills Cop II (1988) for Paramount Pictures, and Batman (1989) for Warner Brothers. In addition to these films he wrote numerous unproduced screenplays, including Flawless (1986) for Jane Fonda, and The Crimson Eagle (1988) for Michael Douglas. In addition to his film interests Skaaren was a popular speaker and lecturer and avid environmentalist. He also supported various civic and cultural organizations, including the Travis County Foster Parents Association, the Deborah Hay Dance Company, and the East-West Center of Austin. Warren Skaaren died in Austin, on December 28, 1990.

Austin American-Statesman, December 30, 1990. Austin Chronicle, August 11, 1989. Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1990. Texas Monthly, September, 1989.
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Screenwriters

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Linda Vance, “Skaaren, Warren Edward,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995