Robert Darden has died nine times. His former students, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, kill a character named Darden in every screenplay they write.
Darden, journalism, new media and public relations professor, said he knew immediately that his students Brandt and Haas had a gift for writing. He did not know they would go on to write several movies and TV shows or make this little incident a reoccuring theme in their work.
Before Brandt got his master’s degree from Baylor, he had a final project; he needed to make a movie. For this movie, he asked Darden to play a character that dies. Brandt received an A on the film and decided having Darden die was his good luck charm. From there, Darden’s repeated deaths were born.
Darden’s favorite death of his is in the movie “3:10 to Yuma.” Russell Crowe’s character kills a gang member and turns around and says, “Darden was stupid. Darden had to die.”
Brandt and Haas have this Darden character die in everything they’ve written, including “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Catch That Kid,” “Wanted,” “The Double,” and “Grand Theft Auto IV.”
“Brandt and Haas turned it into a competition of who could kill me first,” Darden said.
Darden’s quickest death was in the first scene of the first episode of the TV show “Chicago Fire.” It is his death that incites the entire series.
Brandt and Haas also pay tribute to Michael Korpi, a Baylor film and digital media professor, by having a character named after him die in “2 Fast 2 Furious.”
Haas and Brandt met at Baylor in Darden’s screenwriting class and believe Baylor, that class and Darden played a big role in their success.
“You talk about someone who changed your life – that’s Bob Darden,” Haas told Baylor Magazine. “He was so charismatic and enthusiastic and cynical, yet he talked to us as adults.”
Darden knew from the first scripts they turned in that they would both be great writers.
“They’re storytellers. They write strong narratives with believable characters,” Darden said. “But most importantly, they are great critics and supporters of each other.”
Darden said he believes their partnership and mutual respect is what makes their writing so unique and successful. He believes because they have worked so hard together they have created two great writers instead of one.
Darden kept in touch with Brandt and Haas after they graduated moved to Los Angeles. He is extremely impressed with their writing but is even more impressed with their character.
“They do not take their success lightly. They know it is a blessing and a gift and do everything they can to give back,” Darden said. “Despite the Hollywood stereotype, these are great people.”
Grateful for the education they received at Baylor, Brandt and Haas are always looking to help other Baylor students and graduates.
Brandt and Haas have worked with several Baylor students are willing and eager to share their knowledge. They are both always been more than happy with the outcome when they give Baylor students a chance. Although they may have a bias they, believe Baylor graduates have qualities the film industry needs.
“Baylor was such an instrumental part of my career. Giving back it was never a question,” Haas told Baylor Magazine.
Plano junior Reed Nelson, a film and digital media major, said he finds confidence in Brandt and Haas’ story.
“Their success shows that the education and experiences we get at Baylor can help us to go on and do great things,” Nelson said. “I know with a Baylor film and digital media degree I can be successful and get to the top of my field.”