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How Lion screenwriter Luke Davies overcame addiction to become Hollywood hot property


The announcement that Luke Davies is writing the next Tom Hanks movie has topped off a whirlwind few months for the Oscar-nominated Australian screenwriter.


The achievement is all the more impressive given how close he came to squandering his talents.


By his own account, Davies is lucky to be alive. During a near-decade of heroin addiction in the 1980s, he overdosed several times, contracted hepatitis C and left a trail of destruction in his wake.


"Any number of things could have happened that might have led to me being dead or in prison or just a sort of a zombie," he told Australian Story.


The story of Davies' heroin addiction and his mutually destructive relationship with his first wife, Megan Bannister, has been documented in unflinching detail by Davies himself.


In his early years of recovery in the 1990s, he wrote Candy, "a typical thinly veiled semi-autobiographical first novel" that in turn became a movie starring Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish.


But such achievements seemed a long way off on January 2, 1990, the day Davies staggered into a detox unit, shattered from those years of addiction.


"That was a terrible, terrible day," he said.


"But it was also the beginning of me actually getting my life back and becoming the real me."


Over the next few years, Davies pieced his life together. He did a Diploma of Education and got a job as a teacher, but any idea of realising his childhood dream of being a writer seemed too much to hope for.



"I kind of guessed the creative stuff was tied in with the addiction and I would never write again," he said.



"And that was something I was completely willing to accept as my destiny in life."



But, tentatively, Davies did begin to write. Poems at first, then fragments of prose that would eventually become the chapters of Candy.



The following decade established Davies as a significant literary voice in Australia.



He published several volumes of poetry, Candy became a best-seller and he won an AFI award in 2006 for his script for the movie adaptation.



He was a big fish in a small pond but that was about to change dramatically. Licking his wounds from a relationship breakup, Davies relocated to Los Angeles in 2007.



"It was an incredibly bold move," Academy award-winning movie producer Emile Sherman said.



"He wasn't an established screenwriter. He'd done Candy but hadn't done a huge amount else."



The early signs were not auspicious.



"The initial year or two was just abject failure at every turn," Davies said.



Australian actor and Hawaii Five-0 star Alex O'Loughlin, with whom Davies has shared a house for the past eight years, saw that first-hand.



"I watched him struggle financially, I watched him struggle emotionally," O'Loughlin said.



"It's rare to hear Luke say, 'I don't know what to do — this is really hard'. And I heard that a couple of times."



But Davies' luck began to change. In 2012 he won the Prime Minister's Literary Prize for Poetry. The $80,000 prize money allowed him to clear his debts.



Slowly, small jobs led to better jobs. He wrote the script for the movie Life, which did not set the world on fire but got him noticed.



Then came Lion.



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