WITHIN FIVE HOURS on the road, something wasn't right. The light-blue Oldsmobile Cutlass with the rusted holes through the wheel wells couldn't make it around a city block, let alone reach California, yet Brad Ingelsby and his cousin Bryan Paterson thought they could get one last ride out of the decrepit heap.
It didn't take long for the car to begin huffing, puffing and lurching. Ohio was the first of many breakdowns by the side of the road. Another came in Joplin, Mo., tornado country, where Bonnie and Clyde once robbed banks. After a six-hour stay, the car was the last one out of the body shop. An hour later, it broke down again, smoke billowing from under the hood. Another tow, a stay at a fleabag hotel in the middle of nowhere as the car was being assessed overnight and the not-so-startling conclusion to rent a U-Haul truck, because there was no way Baby Blue was going to make it to Los Angeles.
Determined to pursue a passion by venturing as far away from home as possible, Ingelsby had never really been part of an adventure. During the summer of 2003, that wasn't exactly the journey the Archbishop Carroll and Villanova graduate had envisioned.
But Ingelsby wouldn't change a thing.
The improbable, life-changing odyssey led to the 35-year-old emerging as one of the in-demand younger screenwriters in Hollywood. His credits include 2013's "Out of the Furnace," starring Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson, which launched Ingelsby; the 2015 release "Run All Night," which starred Liam Neeson and Ed Harris, and future projects like the drama "The Burning Woman," starring Anne Hathaway, set for a 2017 release.
Brad, the second-oldest of former Villanova basketball star Tom Ingelsby and wife Rose's five children, and the younger brother of former Carroll and Notre Dame star Martin, now an Irish assistant coach, has created a nice little niche for himself in a basketball-rich family. His movie posters adorn Tom's Berwyn office walls, and Martin is constantly approached about Brad's next project.
'Laid-back little brother'
"I joke around with Brad that he and I used to be 'Tom Ingelsby's sons,' and Brad became 'Martin Ingelsby's brother,' and now we're all kind of living in Brad Ingelsby's world," said Martin, who finished his sixth season as part of the Notre Dame staff. "But we've always been great supporters of each other. He texts me right after every game, and, talking to his wife, he's at the edge of his sofa watching Notre Dame, yelling at the TV. When he talks to me, he wants to know what's going on with the team, and I want to talk to him about what's going on in his world. Half the time I can't keep up with everything he's done and everything he's involved with. I just know he's doing very well. He's found his niche. I can't be prouder of him. The great thing about Brad is that he's still the same laid-back little brother I grew up with. His success hasn't changed him."
You'll often find Brad wearing flip-flops, a T-shirt and shorts, and a Notre Dame cap pulled tight over his eyebrows, carrying an omnipresent green-marble copybook. He refuses to live in Los Angeles. It's just not him. He owns one suit and doesn't carry around a portfolio of himself. He's still Berwyn Brad, who put his life on hold from the ages of 23 to 25 after receiving a business degree from Villanova. Apart from an occasional trip here and there to the Shore or Florida, he hardly has strayed too far from the modest Berwyn home he was raised in with the basketball court in the side driveway.
There was, however, something lying dormant for years. Brad loved movies growing up, saw them in a different manner than most kids did. He was always intrigued by the storyline. Movies like "Breaking Away," "Mean Streets" and "Stand by Me," visceral narratives that audiences invested in, stirred his interest. His passion didn't ignite until his junior year at Villanova, when he took a screenwriting course taught by Sloan Seale, who recognized a talent Brad didn't know he had. Upon graduating, he taught for a year at St. Patrick's in Malvern.
But he was haunted by a question he needed answered: Could he make it as a screenwriter? That's when he decided to embark on a crazy ride that still continues.
"I thought I really did have an interest in this writing thing and let me just see what happens," recalled Brad, who was accepted into numerous graduate programs, including the prestigious American Film Institute (AFI), in Los Angeles. "I wanted to apply to the best film schools in the country and take a chance, because if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. If I was rejected, I was able to live with that; I couldn't live with never trying it. I had to know if I had the chops or not. Besides, another part of me leaving was to see what the outside world was like. I had never really been part of an adventure, so my cousin Bryan and I decided to go to L.A. We had all of these stops planned for this enjoyable roadtrip.
Hot as a 'Furnace'
"After the second breakdown, we had to laugh about it; it was too absurd, because Bryan spent $900 to fix the car. It's funny now. Bryan became a success, got married and has three children and a great job in San Francisco. I had to find out if I was good enough. If I wasn't, I felt I could live with that. If I didn't do it, I would never know."
The summer after his first year at AFI, Brad took a cross-country trip to work with a friend at Cedar Point amusement park, in Sandusky, Ohio, running a bungee ride. On his way there, he stopped in an Indiana town and came up with a character that just got out of jail. He continued writing down a bunch of ideas from the towns he was passing through, and approached an AFI teacher to help him shape it. By his second year at AFI, he created "The Low Dweller," which eventually became "Out of the Furnace."
Before graduating with a master's degree in screenwriting, he passed along the "The Low Dweller" to a friend, Mike Pruss, who at the time was a junior executive at Focus Features. Brad came home, worked with his dad at Kistler Tiffany Benefits and a short time later received a call. He was 27 years old, still living with his parents, and was told that Leonardo DiCaprio wanted to star in a movie he wrote. Soon after, Brad's agent informed him that Ridley Scott wanted to direct it. What started as an initial $50,000 offer turned into a hot property that garnered $650,000.
"It's a day I'll always remember," Brad says. "It's hard to get things read. I was lucky enough to make a connection with a really great friend and suddenly everyone wanted it.
"It's still really hard for me to watch any movie I write, because you only see the flaws. It's like sports, where a coach always says they don't remember the wins, they remember the losses. It's a similar sense for me; all I focus on is the flaws, and I don't think it's a bad thing, because I've never been interested in the red carpets and premieres or anything like that. It forces you to always strive to do better. I'm doing what I love to do. I work with great people. What I'll never lose track of, the part I enjoy most, is the work, figuring out a story, getting from A to B. I love the process of the craft and finishing something that may inspire people."
Beginning with a wacky cross-country drive in a rusted Oldsmobile that may one day be part of a movie itself.