Al Reinert co-wrote the script for the 1995 film Apollo 13 at his house on Alabama Street, near downtown Houston. Starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard, the movie earned $355 million worldwide, as well as Oscar nominations for Reinert and his co-writer, William Broyles. Following that, Reinert wasted little time hightailing it to Hollywood.
“That was the first big paycheck of my life,” says Reinert, who made a name for himself in the 1970s writing high-profile stories for Texas Monthly. “I thought: I want more of this.”
He had more of it, though not in the way he’d hoped. His only other big credit came for co-writing Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, a 2001 sci-fi movie based on a video game. Throughout his years in Hollywood, Reinert remained at heart a reporter. He loves digging up facts, finding fascinating characters, and weaving them into engrossing stories.
"I was hitting my head against the wall trying to get true stories made. They don’t like true stories in Hollywood. They’re the movies that win awards, but they don’t make the studios much money.”
“That’s what I’m good at,” he says. “But I was hitting my head against the wall trying to get true stories made. They don’t like true stories in Hollywood. They’re the movies that win awards, but they don’t make the studios much money.”
Reinert returned to Texas last month, moving into a house he bought in Wimberley; he’s also returned to journalism, though in a different form. He wrote, directed, and produced the documentary An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story, which screens at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival on November 10, the final night of the five-day festival.
Using interviews and television news footage, the film tells the story of a suburban Austin man who spent 25 years in prison for murdering his wife, only to be set free in 2011 after DNA evidence revealed that he was innocent. Houston attorney John Raley, working with the New York–based Innocence Project, spent seven years battling district attorney Ken Anderson, who earlier this year was found by a court of inquiry to have illegally withheld evidence from the defense, and resigned from office in September. Reinert, whose previous documentary, For All Mankind, about the Apollo space missions, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1990, will attend the festival to present the movie.
“I’m so glad to come home,” he says, speaking not just of the festival screening but his move back to Texas. “I’m returning to my roots.”
An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story will screen on Nov 10 at 7 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Cinema Arts Festival runs Nov 6–10 and includes dozens of screenings, performances, mixed media events, and actor appearances. Check website for rest of festival schedule. 713-429-0420. cinemartsociety.org