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Overview for Nicholas Meyer
Nicholas Meyer

Nicholas Meyer


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Also Known As: Died:
Born: December 24, 1945 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession: Writer ... director screenwriter novelist publicist


As a screenwriter and director, Nicholas Meyer found success as a gifted filmmaker with a track record of producing crowd-pleasing entertainment for both film and television. After his start as a publicist for Paramount Pictures, he launched himself into a successful career as a novelist in 1971, and soon made his mark with the teleplay for "The Night That Panicked America" (ABC, 1975). His first major motion picture script came with "The Seven Percent Solution" (1976), an adaptation of his own novel, followed by his directorial debut on the sci-fi thriller "Time After Time" (1979). However, it was for his shepherding of the franchise-saving sequel "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) that Meyer would be most fondly remembered by genre film fans. He would be called back to contribute two more times on the successful iterations "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986) and "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991). Later in his career, Meyer transitioned into more literary fare with such projects as the Richard Gere/Jodi Foster period romance "Sommersby" and a pair of adaptations based on novels by the revered American author Philip Roth - "The Human Stain" (2003) and "Elegy" (2008). Although his impressive career encompassed the alternating, often overlapping, titles of novelist, screenwriter and director, Meyer was viewed more as an artisan than an auteur - an apt descriptor for such a talented craftsman of well-made mainstream movies.

Born on Dec. 24, 1945 in New York City, Nicholas Meyer was the son of Ely, a concert pianist, and Bernard C. Meyer, a successful psychoanalyst. Enamored with story and film from an early age, with the help of his father, Meyer filmed a 70-minute 8mm production of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days at the age of 13. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in theater and film in 1964, he began a career as a publicist for Paramount Pictures. In 1969, Meyer became unit publicist on the classic romantic tearjerker "Love Story" (1970), and the experience spawned his first published book The Love Story Story. The book's advance allowed Meyer to move to Los Angeles in 1971 and pursue a career writing screenplays and novels. His first produced screenplay was for the soft porn sci-fi thriller "Invasion of the Bee Girls" (1973), starring pinup girl Victoria Vetri and B-movie veteran tough guy William Smith. Although the movie may have been best forgotten, many - including film critic Roger Ebert - came to cherish it as a campy cult classic. The following year saw him add an adapted screenplay of the made-for-TV movie "Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders" (ABC, 1974) to his nascent résumé. He garnered an Emmy nomination for his script work on his next project, "The Night That Panicked America" (ABC, 1975), a recreation of Orson Welles' famed Mercury Theater radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" on Halloween in 1938.

Segueing into features, Meyer wrote the screen adaptation of his best-selling Sherlock Holmes novel "The Seven Percent Solution" (1976), starring Nicol Williamson as the intrepid sleuth, Robert Duvall as Dr. Watson, Laurence Olivier as Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty, and Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud. For his work on the film, Meyer received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. In addition to writing the script, he made his directorial debut with the charming and clever "Time After Time" (1979), which pitted a time-traveling H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) against an equally displaced Jack the Ripper (David Warner) in contemporary San Francisco. Meyer next directed and co-scripted the superior sequel "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982), improving the film fortunes of Gene Roddenberry's venerable sci-fi series by eschewing the ponderous, FX-obsessed trappings of the first "Trek" film and embracing the original series' pulp adventure-morality tale inspirations. In the film, the once indestructible Kirk (William Shatner) is forced to face both his own mortality and a son he never knew existed, all the while combating a vengeful adversary from the past in the form of the superhuman Khan (Ricardo Montalban). With a refocusing on the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew, combined with an emphasis on rousing space action, the sophomore director delivered what was largely considered the best entry in the history of the beloved Roddenberry franchise.

Returning to television, Meyer directed the highly touted TV movie "The Day After" (ABC, 1983). A striking, if somewhat overwrought drama depicting life in a post-nuclear holocaust America, it sparked months of controversy both before and after the initial broadcast. His next directorial effort, the peace corp. comedy "Volunteers" (1985), achieved little beyond reuniting star-on-the-rise Tom Hanks with his "Splash" (1984) co-star John Candy, and introducing Hanks to his future wife, co-star Rita Wilson. Although he chose not to participate in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" (1984), Meyer provided the very witty screenplay for the franchise's more comedic-minded and crowd-pleasing "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (1986), a major box office hit, which found the crew of the Enterprise returning to 20th-century earth on a mission to save the whales. Other efforts of that period included the little-seen "The Deceivers" (1988), with Pierce Brosnan, and the CIA thriller "Company Business" (1991) starring Gene Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov, which he also wrote. Returning to Starfleet, Meyer co-wrote and directed "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" (1991), the loose and lively swansong of the original TV cast which, in typical Meyer fashion, was littered with pithy literary allusions, as indicated by the subtitle's nod to Shakespeare.

Meyer also tackled writing duties on "Sommersby" (1993). A remake of the 1982 French film "The Return of Martin Guerre," it starred Jodie Foster and Richard Gere in a tale of uncertain love and identity. Later, Meyer adapted Gerold Seymour's book Field of Blood into "The Informant" (Showtime, 1998), a mildly entertaining, IRA-themed legal thriller directed by Jim McBride, and contributed to the script of DreamWorks's entrée into animated film "The Prince of Egypt" (1998). After helming the telepic "Vendetta" (HBO, 1999) - the true-life tale of the largest lynching in American history in 1890s New Orleans - and taking an executive producer credit on the Arnold Schwarzenegger dud "Collateral Damage" (2002), Meyer tackled the screenplay for director Robert Benton's film adaptation of Phillip Roth's bestseller, "The Human Stain" (2003), starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman. Although the film did a passable job of capturing Roth's ambitious and complex story, it lacked some of the passion and palpable anger of the source material. He revisited Roth's work with "Elegy" (2008), an adaptation of the novella The Dying Animal, in which an emotionally closed professor (Ben Kingsley) is undone by his obsessive relationship with a beautiful young student (Penélope Cruz). Other late-decade work included the sub-par WWII jewel heist thriller "The Hessen Conspiracy" (2009), starring Billy Zane.

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