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Hugh Wilson

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Also Known As: Hugh Hamilton Wilson Jr. Died:
Born: August 21, 1943 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Coral Gables, Florida, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, producer, actor, copywriter, advertising executive, shipping clerk

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

His journalism degree from the University of Florida firmly in hand, future writer-director Hugh Wilson journeyed to NYC to crack the advertising business but met a brick wall instead, eventually settling for a position as shipping clerk with the Armstrong Cork Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There he met Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett, two aspiring stand-up comedians who would later give him his first break in show business. Soon after they left to follow their dream, Wilson returned to the South and began as a copywriter at the Atlanta-based advertising agency Burton-Campbell. Over the next ten years, he worked his way up to creative director and finally president of the company, producing and directing TV commercials. While he was visiting Los Angeles in 1975, Patchett and Tarses offered him a job writing for the hugely successful "Bob Newhart Show", and the three collaborated again on "The Tony Randall Show" (ABC and CBS, 1976-78), with Wilson acting as writer, director and producer. The pilot "The Chopped Liver Brothers" (ABC, 1977) marked the threesome's last collaboration.Wilson garnered his first major success when he created "WKRP in Cincinnati" (CBS, 1978-82), a highly enjoyable assemblage...

His journalism degree from the University of Florida firmly in hand, future writer-director Hugh Wilson journeyed to NYC to crack the advertising business but met a brick wall instead, eventually settling for a position as shipping clerk with the Armstrong Cork Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There he met Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett, two aspiring stand-up comedians who would later give him his first break in show business. Soon after they left to follow their dream, Wilson returned to the South and began as a copywriter at the Atlanta-based advertising agency Burton-Campbell. Over the next ten years, he worked his way up to creative director and finally president of the company, producing and directing TV commercials. While he was visiting Los Angeles in 1975, Patchett and Tarses offered him a job writing for the hugely successful "Bob Newhart Show", and the three collaborated again on "The Tony Randall Show" (ABC and CBS, 1976-78), with Wilson acting as writer, director and producer. The pilot "The Chopped Liver Brothers" (ABC, 1977) marked the threesome's last collaboration.

Wilson garnered his first major success when he created "WKRP in Cincinnati" (CBS, 1978-82), a highly enjoyable assemblage of endearingly eccentric types who work at a radio station. Although never a ratings smash, it carved out a niche with critics and audiences alike and proved popular in syndication, inspiring Wilson to revive the show in syndication in the early 1990s with some of the original cast as "The New WKRP in Cincinnati". Wilson's "Easy Street" (NBC, 1986-87, reteaming him with Loni Anderson from "WKRP") and "The Famous Teddy Z" (CBS, 1989-90) were formulaic sitcoms dealing with the repercussions brought on by sudden money or success and both petered out in a season. His most ambitious series "Frank's Place" (CBS, 1987-88, starring "WKRP" regular Tim Reid) attempted to eschew, at least in part, the easy laughs generated by routine sitcom antics in favor of comic-dramatic episodes emphasizing the complexity of black and Southern cultures. Although the program had enough showmanship in its fish-out-of-water premise--a black professor from New England inheriting and running a New Orleans restaurant--and featured an engaging gallery of oddballs, the acclaimed show was just unconventional enough to puzzle network schedulers and did not get renewed.

Feature films have largely given Wilson a vent to express a zanier and raunchier style of humor than is possible on network TV. After he and fellow adman Hal Needham penned a routine vehicle for Burt Reynolds' good ol' boy antics, "Stroker Ace" (1983), Wilson directed and co-wrote his first feature, "Police Academy" (1984), a deliberately inane but fast-paced succession of sight gags which cost little to make and grossed a bundle. Wilson was smart enough not to get involved with the film's half-dozen sequels, but he found neither critical nor popular approval for his silly Western spoof, "Rustler's Rhapsody" (1985) and his unappealing Whoopi Goldberg vehicle "Burglar" (1987). The extremely satisfying (but underappreciated) comedy-drama "Guarding Tess" (1994), about a former First Lady (Shirley MacLaine) and her bodyguard (Nicolas Cage), more closely approximated the tone of his generally better TV work and generated the best box office for the writer-director since "Police Academy", but he was back in low-brow "misfits-make-good" territory for "Down Periscope" (1996), starring Kelsey Grammer.

Wilson had his biggest hit yet at the helm of the screen version of Olivia Goldsmith's best-selling "The First Wives Club" (also 1996), scripted by Robert Harling. The rather mild comedy not only provided juicy roles for Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn but also struck a post-feminist nerve, with Wilson's light and airy direction helping the film become one of the year's top grossers. He next co-wrote, produced and directed "Blast from the Past" (1999), which cast Brendan Fraser in the all-too-familiar role of an innocent raised in isolation away from the world as we know it, enabling him to see it through uncorrupted fresh eyes. Emerging from the time-capsule of his parents' bomb shelter, Fraser's aptly named Adam finds his Eve (Alicia Silverstone), but despite some wonderful gags and superb comic turns by Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek as his parents, the pic did not fully capitalize on its promising premise. Wilson also put Fraser through his paces that year as Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman "Dudley Do-Right", based on the animated characters created by Jay Ward. His own occasional forays into acting have included bit parts in "Frank's Place" and "Burglar", as well as voicing the President's role in "Guarding Tess."

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Dudley Do-Right (1999) Director
2.
  Blast From the Past (1999) Director
3.
  First Wives Club, The (1996) Director
4.
  Guarding Tess (1994) Director
5.
  Burglar (1987) Director
6.
  Rustler's Rhapsody (1985) Director
7.
  Police Academy (1984) Director
8.
  Sunday in Paris (1991) Creator
9.
  Sunday in Paris (1991) Director
10.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Blast From the Past (1999) Levy
2.
 One More Kiss (1999) Frank'S False Teeth
3.
 Guarding Tess (1994) Voice Of President
4.
 Burglar (1987) Customer At Mayday
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1965:
Met future co-workers Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett while working as a shipping clerk at the Armstrong Cork Company, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
1966:
Worked his way up from copywriter to president of Burton-Campbell Advertising
:
Worked as a writer on the popular CBS sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show" in the mid-1970s
1976:
Apprentice director, MTM Enterprises
:
First directed and produced for TV with the ABC sitcom "The Tony Randall Show" (CBS for second season); also wrote for series
:
Created the CBS sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati", for which he also wrote, executive produced and directed
1983:
First feature film work, writing the screenplay for "Stroker Ace"
1984:
Made feature directing debut with "Police Academy", agreeing to write the film on condition he be allowed to direct it
1985:
Parodied the Western genre in lackluster "Rustler's Rhapsody", starring Tom Berenger
1987:
Played a small role ('Customer at Mayday') in the feature "Burglar", which he also wrote and directed
:
Created and executive produced the acclaimed CBS series "Frank's Place"; also wrote and directed the premiere episode
1988:
Acted the role of D. Wayne Thomas on the Jan. 18 episode of "Frank's Place"
1991:
Helmed the pilot for "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" (syndicated)
1994:
Co-scripted and helmed "Guarding Tess", starring Nicolas Cage and Shirley MacLaine; also provided Voice of President
1996:
Directed hit film "The First Wives' Club", adapted from Olivia Goldsmith's novel
1997:
Co-wrote (with its director John Milius) TNT miniseries "Rough Riders", starring Berenger as Teddy Roosevelt
1998:
Produced John Shea's "Southie"
1999:
Co-wrote, produced and directed "Blast from the Past", starring Brendan Fraser
1999:
Gave a polish to the script and helmed "Dudley Do-Right", starring Fraser as the simpleminded titular Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, Sarah Jessica Parker as Nell and Alfred Molina as his nemesis Snidely Whiplash; characters based on the animated characters created by Jay Ward from "The Bullwinkle Show"
2002:
Directed the family friendly "Mickey", scripted by John Grisham
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Education

University of Florida: Gainesville , Florida - 1964

Notes

Awarded the 14th Annual Humanitas Prize by the Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute, based in Los Angeles, for the episode "The Bridge" from the series "Frank's Place"; award included a prize of $10,000 (1988)

Received the Mentor Award from the National Association of Youth for the episode "Cool and the Gang" of the series "Frank's Place" (1988)

"I'd always thought I was a workaholic, but episodic television knocked that right out of me . . . I always love producing at the beginning and at the end. When I get in the middle of the season and I don't see the light at either end, I say, my God--television is like Sisyphus rolling the damn rock up the hill, and every Friday [when series taping is done] it rolls back down." --Hugh Wilson quoted in BROADCASTING, November 12, 1989

"I learned a lot from 'Police Academy', especially about physical comedy. The problem is if you start out with a lowbrow comedy like that, it becomes an albatross. And if people want to sneer . . . I met Oliver Stone once at a party and he said something like, 'Oh, Hugh Wilson, yes: "Police Academy" . . .' I didn't say anything back." --Hugh Wilson to NEW YORK POST, February 17, 1999

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Charters Wilson. Married in 1976.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Hugh Hamilton Wilson Sr.
child:
Cannon Wilson. Born c. 1973.
child:
Price Wilson. Born c. 1984.
daughter:
Maggie Wilson. Born c. 1986.
son:
Patrick Wilson. Born c. 1988.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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