Director of Rain Man
“We're talking about a very strange time (in Hollywood), to be honest. Writing by committee becomes much less about a vision. It is really about a piece of merchandise. We excuse movies like 'Independence Day' (1996) that really lack logic and say, ‘It doesn't make any sense, but it's a ride.’ I thought a movie was a movie and a ride was a ride.” Barry Levinson
Starting out as comic writer and performer, Barry Levinson has become one of the more versatile American filmmakers of his generation. He was handed an Oscar for his direction of the hit drama “Rain Man” (1988), from which he also won a DGA Award, two Berlin International Film Festival Awards, a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, a David di Donatello Award and the Golden Globe and César Award nominations. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Levinson is also known for using his hometown as the set of his movies “Diner” (1982), his directorial debut, “Tin Men” (1987), “Avalon” (1990) and “Liberty Heights” (1999). He earned a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for “Diner” and “Avalon,” from which he also picked up a Writers Guild of America Award and a Golden Globe nomination. Other films he has directed include “The Natural” (1984), “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987), “Bugsy” (1991, nabbed LAFCA Award and Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Pictures), “Disclosure" (1994), “Wag the Dog" (1997, earned a Silver Berlin Award), “An Everlasting Piece” (2000), “Bandits” (2001), “Envy” (2004), “Man of the Year” (2006) and “What Just Happened” (2008). His future directorial effort, “Boone's Lick,” will be released in 2010. Levinson has also scripted such movies as Mel Brooks' “High Anxiety” (1977), Norman Jewison's “...And Justice for All.” (1979, won an Oscar nomination) and “Best Friends” (1982) and Richard Donner's “Inside Moves” (1980) and produced such hit films as “Donnie Brasco” (1997), “The Perfect Storm” (2000) and “Analyze That” (2002).
On the small screen, Levinson acquired back-to-back Emmy Awards in the early 1970s as a staff writer on “The Carol Burnett Show.” He picked up his next two awards for “Displaced Person” (1985, as producer) and “Homicide: Life on the Street” (1993, as director). The co-owner of The Levinson/Fontana Company, a television production company he established with Tom Fontana, has executive produced a number of TV series, most notably “Homicide: Life on the Street” (NBC, 1993-1999) and “Oz” (HBO, 1997-2003).
Levinson released his first novel, “Sixty-Six,” in 2003. The semi-autobiographical book is set in Baltimore in the 1960s.
Levinson and his wife of 26 years, Diana Rhodes, live in Redding, Connecticut. They have two sons together and 2 from Rhodes’ previous relationship. Previously, Levinson had a short-lived marriage with screenwriter/actress Valerie Curtin, with whom he co-scripted five movies.
Childhood and Family:
Born on June 2, 1942, in Baltimore, Maryland, Barry Levinson was the son of Irvin Levinson, the founding member of the furniture and appliances company Consumers Buying Association, and Vi Krichinsky. He attended Forest Park Senior High School and after graduating, majored in broadcast journalism at the American University in Washington, DC. However, Barry soon left college and later moved to Los Angeles to become an actor and writer.
Barry has been married twice. He was married to actress/screenwriter Valerie Curtin form December 13, 1977, to 1982. After the break up, he married a painter named Diana Rhodes in 1983, whom he met while he was filming 1982's “Diner” in Baltimore. Barry and his lovely wife welcomed their first child, son Sam Levinson, in 1985. Their second son, Jack Levinson, was born three years later in 1988. Barry also has two more children, Patrick and Michelle, from Diana's previous relationship.
Barry Levinson quit college to pursue a career in comedy. Along with actor Craig T. Nelson, he formed a stand-up duo and the group later was signed by Michael Ovitz. Levinson also worked with Rudy De Luca writing for several TV shows like CBS' “The Tim Conway Show” (1970) and ABC's “The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine” (1971), where the two also performed various characters. It was the CBS 1960s comedy series “The Carol Burnett Show” that brought Levinson his first taste of success. As a staff writer (also with De Luca), he jointly received two Emmy Awards in the categories of Best Writing in Variety or Music (1974) and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series (1975).
In 1975, Levinson made the jump to movies when he contributed to the script of the drama “Street Girls,” starring Christine Souder. At the time, he shared writing credits with director Michael Miller. The following year, he co-wrote the script for the comedy “Silent Movie,” with director and star Mel Brooks and longtime partner De Luca, and also appeared in the movie. Levinson co-won a WGA nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen for his work in the movie. The three were reunited for the script of Brooks' 1977 comedy, “High Anxiety,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical/Comedy. The movie saw Levinson delivering an unforgettable performance as Dennis the bellboy.
At the end of the decade, Levinson teamed up with then-wife Valerie Curtin to write for the Al Pacino starring vehicle “...And Justice for All.” (1979). Helmed by Norman Jewison, the drama was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. The couple was reunited for the drama “Inside Moves” (1980), which was directed by Richard Donner and starred John Savage and David Morse, and the Burt Reynolds/Goldie Hawn comedy “Best Friends” (1982). Also in 1982, Levinson worked as a writer and director for the low-budget “Diner,” a touching semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama set in Baltimore. In addition to having a significant part in boosting the careers of its young stars like Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke and Ellen Barkin, the movie brought Levinson a Boston Society of Film Critics for Best Screenplay, an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, a WGA nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, and helped launch his status as a bankable director. Lured by the victory, Levinson adapted “Diner” for a television series pilot of the same name, which was broadcasted on August 8, 1983. The pilot, however, was never picked up by television studios.
In 1984, Levinson resurfaced with his next directorial effort, “The Natural,” a baseball movie which cast Robert Redford in the lead role of legendary player Roy Hobbs. Adapted form a novel by Bernard Malamud, the film received mixed reviews but stood out for its cinematography and music. Under his direction, Glenn Close and Kim Basinger earned a Best Supporting Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and Levinson took home a Hochi Film Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. Levinson also rejoined wife Curtin for the script of the remake “Unfaithfully Yours,” which was directed Howard Zieff and starred Dudley Moore, Nastassja Kinski and Armand Assante.
Levinson helmed Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward and Anthony Higgins in his third movie, “Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985), which was scripted by Chris Columbus and produced by Steven Spielberg. After receiving an Emmy award as the producer of the made-for-TV film “Displaced Person” (1985), he returned to the director's chair with “Tin Men” in 1987. The comedy starred Richard Dreyfuss and Danny De Vito and was a box office success, grossing more than $25 millions in the U.S. with a budget of only $11 million. Barry enjoyed his next blockbuster hit with “Good Morning, Vietnam” (also 1987), which brought Robin Williams a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
Levinson's directorial career gained important momentum the next year with “Rain Man,” which starred Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. The film, in which Levinson also had a minor role as a doctor, was a massive success at the box office and won the hearts of critics. It won four Oscars, including Best Director for Levinson, and brought him many other honors like a Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, the Golden Berlin Bear and the Reader Jury of the Berliner Morgenpost at the 1989 Berlin International Film Festival, a Kansas City Film Critics Circle for Best Director and a David di Donatello for Best Foreign Film. He also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture and a César nomination for Best Foreign Film.
In 1990, Levinson wrote, directed and produced “Avalon” (1990), his third film set in Baltimore. A drama following the history of his own family when they first came to the United States, “Avalon” won Levinson a Writers Guild of America for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations in the same category. He next directed and produced the praised biopic “Bugsy” (1991), starring Warren Beatty in the titular role of mobster Bugsy Siegel. The film collected 10 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Director and Best Picture and won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Director. The director went on to score box office failures with “Toys” (1992), which also marked his last partnership with former screenwriter wife Curtin, and “Jimmy Hollywood” (1994), which starred Joe Pesci. He was back on track with the successful thriller “Disclosure" (1994), which was scripted by Paul Attanasio and based on the Michael Crichton best selling novel of the same title. Still in 1994, Levinson played the role of the original “Today” show host Dave Garroway in the Attanasio-scripted, Robert Redford-directed drama “Quiz Show.”
In 1993, Levinson executive produced the Paul Attanasio-created “Homicide: Life on the Street,” which ran on NBC for the next six years. He also directed the pilot episode “Gone for Goode” (1993), from which he netted an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Drama Series, and the 1995 episode “The Gas Man.”
After receiving mixed reviews for the thriller “Sleeper” (1996), which he directed, produced and scripted, Levinson produced the critically acclaimed hit “Donnie Brasco” (1997), which reunited him with screenwriter Attanasio and star Al Pacino, and produced and helmed “Wag the Dog" (1997), a satire written by David Mamet. The Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro vehicle earned Levinson a Special Jury Prize's Silver Berlin at the 1998 Berlin International Film Festival. He then ventured into science fiction territory with “Sphere” (1998), which he directed and produced, and revisited Baltimore with “Liberty Heights” (1999), which he produced, directed and wrote. Both movies were minor successes at the box office. 1999 also saw Levinson direct the documentaries “The 20th Century: Yesterday's Tomorrows” and “Original Diner Guys.”
Levinson next produced the Dean Parisot-directed comedy “Home Fries” (1998) and the HBO prison drama series “Oz” (1997-2003). He remained busy in the new millennium producing such TV programs as the TV series “The Beat” and “Falcon,” the miniseries “An American Tragedy” and the television movie “Homicide: The Movie” (all 2000). He also worked on motion pictures like Wolfgang Petersen's “The Perfect Storm” (2000), Neil LaBute's “Possession” (2002), Harold Ramis' “Analyze That” (2002) and Gary Hardwick's “Deliver Us from Eva.” (2003).
Levinson also worked as a director and directed the comedy “An Everlasting Piece” (2000), “Bandits” (2001), starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, and “Envy” (2004), starring Ben Stiller and Jack Black. He also made two short films in 2004 named “A Uniform Used to Mean Something...” and 'Hindsight Is 20/20....” The executive producer then continued his affiliation with Tom Fontana in “Strip Search” (2004), a well-accepted TV movie helmed by Sidney Lumet, and the courtroom series “The Jury,” which ran on Fox TV from 2004 to 2005. After their failed attempt with the series “The Jury,” Levinson and Fontana worked together on the college drama series “The Bedford Diaries” (2006), which was not a success.
Back to the cinematic industry, Levinson cast Robin Williams in the political satire “Man of the Year” (2006), directed Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci and John Turturro in the Hollywood satirical comedy “What Just Happened,” which was adapted by Art Linson from his book, “What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales From the Front Line.” Also in 2008, Levinson co-wrote (with Fontana) the TV series pilot “M.O.N.Y,” which was directed by Spike Lee. It was made under the Levinson/Fontana Company banner.
Levinson serves as producer of the new action series “The Philanthropist,” whose pilot is set to air in March 2009. He will direct the pilot of the action TV series “The Saint” (2009), a remake of the 1997 Phillip Noyce-directed movie of the same name. Levinson will also direct the documentary “PoliWood” (2009), an in-depth look at the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Levinson's upcoming feature film, ”Boone's Lick,” adapted by Larry McMurtry from his novel, is scheduled to be released in 2010. The western will star Julianne Moore and Tom Hanks (rumored).
American Cinema Edit: Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award, 2002
U.S. Comedy Arts Festival: AFI Filmmaker Award, 2000
American Comedy: Creative Achievement Award, 1999
National Board of Review: Special Citation, For Outstanding Cinematic Series: “The Baltimore Series,” 1999
ShoWest Convention: Director of the Year, 1998
Berlin International Film Festival: Silver Berlin Bear, Special Jury Prize, “Wag the Dog,” 1998
Emmy: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Drama Series, “Homicide: Life on the Street,” 1993 (for episode “Gone For Goode”)
Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Director, “Bugsy,” 1991
Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, “Avalon,” 1990
Mainichi Film Concours: Readers' Choice Award, Best Foreign Language Film, “Rain Man,” 1990
Kinema Junpo: Readers' Choice Award, Best Foreign Language Film, “Rain Man,” 1990
Academy Award: Best Director, “Rain Man,” 1989
Directors Guild of America (DGA): Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, “Rain Man,” 1989
Berlin International Film Festival: Golden Berlin Bear, “Rain Man,” 1989
Berlin International Film Festival: Reader Jury of the Berliner Morgenpost, “Rain Man,” 1989
David di Donatello: David, Best Foreign Film (Miglior Film Straniero), “Rain Man,” 1989
Kansas City Film Critics Circle (KCFCC): Best Director, “Rain Man,” 1989
Emmy: Outstanding Children's Program, “Displaced Person,” 1985
Hochi Film: Best Foreign Language Film, “The Natural,” 1984
Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC): Best Screenplay, “Diner,” 1983
Emmy: Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Series, “The Carol Burnett Show,” 1975
Emmy: Best Writing in Variety or Music, “The Carol Burnett Show,” 1974