Personal Info - Awards - Film Credits - Biography
Born: 14 May 1952, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birth Name: Robert Lee Zemeckis
• Rogers & Cowan PR (agent)
• Rogers & Cowan PR
Academy Awards, USA
• Won, Oscar
Best Director for Forrest Gump (1994)
• Nominated, Oscar
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Back to the Future (1985)
Shared With: Bob Gale
Another 13 wins & 19 nominations
According to both the official site for What Lies Beneath as well as Hollywood.com, Robert Zemeckis began making home movies as a child in Chicago. He eventually attended the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television where he befriended budding filmmakers like George Lucas and John Milius. Zemeckis directed a pair of well received student films while at USC (The Lift and A Field of Honor). He soon met a man who would change his life, a burgeoning young star director named Steven Spielberg who was then based at Universal Pictures. Spielberg was impressed enough with Zemeckis' student films to agree to executive produce his feature film debut, I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Zemeckis and his writing partner Bob Gale penned this nostalgia romp about a group of teens in 1964 who trek to the Big Apple to see the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Monster House - Executive Producer 2006
Last Holiday - Executive Producer 2006
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio - Producer 2005
House of Wax - Producer 2005
The Polar Express - Producer, Director, Writer (screenplay) 2004
Gothika - Producer 2003
Idle (short) - Project Mentor 2003
Matchstick Men - Executive Producer 2003
Ghost Ship - Producer 2002
S1m0ne - Special Thanks 2002
Thir13en Ghosts - Producer 2001
Tales from the Crypt Presents: Revelation - Producer 2001
Cast Away - Producer, Director 2000
What Lies Beneath - Producer, Director 2000
House on Haunted Hill - Producer 1999
Contact - Producer, Director 1997
Bordello of Blood - Executive Producer, Writer (story) 1996
The Frighteners - Executive Producer 1996
Demon Knight - Executive Producer 1995
Forrest Gump - Director 1994
Trespass - Executive Producer, Writer (written by) 1992
The Public Eye - Executive Producer 1992
Death Becomes Her - Producer, Director 1992
Back to the Future Part III - Director, Writer (characters) (story) 1990
Back to the Future Part II - Director, Writer (characters) (story) 1989
Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Director 1988
Back to the Future - Director, Writer (written by) 1985
Romancing the Stone - Director 1984
Used Cars - Director, Writer (written by) 1980
1941 - Writer (story) 1979
I Wanna Hold Your Hand - Director, Writer 1978
A Field of Honor (short) - Director, Writer 1973
The Lift (short) - Director, Writer 1972
Zemeckis and Gale then penned the screenplay for Spielberg's first big flop, the war comedy 1941, before moving on to Zemeckis' sophomore effort, the 1980 comedy Used Cars, starring Kurt Russell. It was Zemeckis' third film, the 1984 blockbuster adventure Romancing the Stone that put him on the map as an A-list director. Starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito, Stone was a lively mixture of action, comedy, and romance that spawned a lesser sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, which Zemeckis did not helm.
The success of Romancing the Stone led to even great box office success with the time-travel flick, Back to the Future. Produced by Steven Spielberg and co-written by Zemeckis and Gale, BTTF may have endured an arduous shoot (lead Eric Stoltz was replaced by Michael J. Fox part way through filming) but it became a smash hit at the box office and is one of the few genuine classics made during the 1980s. Zemeckis' "golden boy" status was cemented with 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, an inventive hybrid of live-action and animation that recalled the Film Noir genre as well as the classic cartoons of Disney and Warner Brothers.
Roger Rabbit proved to be a huge box office success as well as a winner for its (then) groundbreaking special effects. Zemeckis also dabbled in television during this time, producing, directing, and scripting episodes of the horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt. He then helmed two lesser Back to the Future sequels (1989 and 1990, respectively). Although there was an audience for them, the BTTF sequels were not on par with Zemeckis' other directing efforts to that point. Another critical and commercial disappointment came in the form of Death Becomes Her, an inventive 1992 black comedy starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis (cast against type)
Zemeckis licked his wounds and rallied back with a huge success, the Oscar-winning box office smash, Forrest Gump. Based on Winston Groom's novel, Gump was yet another Zemeckis concoction of pop culture references, period nostalgia, comedy, and romance that captured the hearts (and wallets) of the filmgoing public. Although not a critical success when first released, Gump nevertheless won a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actor (Tom Hanks' second win in a row), and Adapted Screenplay (Eric Roth). Zemeckis also won a Golden Globe and a Directors Guild of America Award for the film.
The underrated 1997 science-fiction drama Contact was Zemeckis' first post-Gump directing effort. Zemeckis would not have another film in cinemas until 2000 with the back-to-back releases of the Tom Hanks survival drama Cast Away and the Hitchcockian wanna-be What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford (cast against type) and Michelle Pfeiffer. Although both films opened to mixed reviews, they did well at the box office.
In addition to directing feature films, Zemeckis also produces many films (often times with Joel Silver) and scripts some (such as Trespass) for other directors. He's Zemeckis' longtime professional relationship with Steven Spielberg nearly came to an end last year when the director almost parted company with Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks. Rather than joining Warner Brothers, however, Zemeckis stuck with his old pal's studio.
Robert Zemeckis' films are distinguished by their whimsy, nostalgia, and wit, as well as the director's passion for groundbreaking special effects and genre-mixing storytelling. Like his idol Spielberg, Zemeckis' films have grown more ponderous of late. Both filmmakers have gone from being essentially great popcorn flick directors to artists pondering The Bigger Meaning about life and such. At least this Zemeckis fan would like to see him try his hand again at the sort of genre romps that made him a success to begin with.
Back to the Future, 1985. "Hello, McFly!" This film is quintessential Zemeckis. I love this hilarious blockbuster for many reasons not the least of which is that it reminds me of happier times. You should all be familiar with its plot: 1980s teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, who replaced Eric Stoltz) travels through time via Doc Brown's (Christopher Lloyd) revamped DeLorean sportscar. Arriving in 1955, Marty manages to ruin the meeting of his future parents (Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson) and must then set things straight if he's to even exist.
During the course of his stay in the Fifties, Marty also helps to change his family's future for the better, introduces rock n' roll before its time, and runs afoul of high school bully Biff Tannen (Thomas J Wilson) and his gang. This audience favorite spawned two lesser sequels.
TURNING POINT FILM:
Forrest Gump, 1994. I'm well aware that I'm in the minority here but I'm not all that crazy about Gump. While I can see what some find charming about it, I found it to be a simplistic, meandering, and overrated venture. Tom Hanks gives an endearing performance in the title role ... but it always felt like a "performance" to me. Still, there's no way of denying Forrest Gump's success so rather than bestow upon the "must-see film" status that I don't feel it deserves, I'm designating it Zemeckis' "turning point film." That is the film that, for good or bad, marked a new direction in the filmmaker's career.
In Zemeckis' case, this was his first stab at "serious" fare (it's the film that his obituary will someday mention in its headline). Zemeckis' post-Gump/post-Oscar films have all been "serious" films (as opposed to movies, which is what he used to make).
I Wanna Hold Your Hand, 1978. This little comedy was Zemeckis' big screen directing debut and his earliest effort at exploring American pop culture. The story is set in 1964 and follows a group of New Jersey teens who are obsessed with trying to infiltrate the Ed Sullivan show on the night that the Beatles make their American TV debut. I saw this on cable many times as a kid since I was a big Beatles fan back then (I converted to Elvis in my teens). Its cast includes Nancy Allen (Robocop), Bobby DiCicco, Theresa Saldana, Marc McClure (Jimmy Olsen in the Superman films), and Eddie Deezen.
Romancing the Stone, 1984. Novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) goes from being a "hopeless romantic" to a "hopeful romantic" in this hit action-comedy. Arriving in Columbia to save her kidnapped sister, Joan is way out of her element until she hooks up with sardonic adventurer Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas), her fantasy hero come to life. Joan and Jack fall in love while eluding a pair of bumbling thieves and a contingent of vicious military that are all after a buried treasure. Through her relationship with Jack, Joan is able to live out adventures she had previously only been able to dream about.
Romancing the Stone is one of those films from my youth that I can always count on to cheer me up. There was an inferior sequel produced later, The Jewel of the Nile, which I only enjoy for that Billy Ocean song (hey, it reminds me of junior high).
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 1988. This blockbuster mix of live-action, animation, and Film Noir introduced the concept of "The Wrong Rabbit." Maroon Cartoon star Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer) is falsely accused of killing human nightclub owner Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) who was photographed playing "hanky-panky" with Roger's voluptuous cartoon wife Jessica (voiced by Kathleen Turner). Roger seeks help from gruff human private-eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) in order to find out who set him up.
Their quest forces Eddie to return to "Toon Town" for the first time in years (after his brother was killed when a Toon dropped a safe on his head!). This is not only a wonderful fantasy fit for both kids and adults but it is also a nice homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood and a subtle indictment of racial prejudice. The cast includes Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, and with cameos by cartoon icons Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and Daffy Duck.
Cast Away, 2000. Zemeckis reteamed with Tom Hanks for this survival drama. Chuck (Hanks), a workaholic troubleshooter for FedEx, survives a plane crash that strands him on an idyllic bur uninhabited isle somewhere in the Pacific. Chuck, the epitome of the modern working man, is forced to degenerate to a nearly primitive nature in order to survive. Thanks to the studio's boneheaded marketing campaign, everyone knew going in that Chuck eventually escapes from the isle and returns home. Thought dead for the last four years, Chuck discovers that his fiancee (Helen Hunt) has moved on with her life and now he must, too.
Cast Away features a superior tour-de-force performance by Hanks to his (now punchline-inducing) performance in Forrest Gump. There are many gripping and poignant sequences throughout this memorable film yet it leaves you with many lingering questions. Four years on an island and you only try to build a raft and escape from it once?! And why the hell didn't he open that one package? Why was that one so special as opposed to the others? So the ending wouldn't get mucked up, that's why.
What Lies Beneath, 2000. It's been said that Brian De Palma's early thrillers are just bad Hitchcock. Well, if that's the case then this "Fatal Attraction meets The Sixth Sense" thriller is bad De Palma! While the offbeat casting of Harrison Ford at first seems inspired, by the end it's clear it was just stunt casting. Michelle Pfeiffer does what she can with the material but, ultimately, What Lies Beneath this film is a shoddy, formulaic script ridden with genre cliches and stock shocks. The film is not unentertaining; it's just a stupid movie, which is something I don't expect from a filmmaker of Mr. Zemeckis' caliber.