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Also Known As: Warren D Leight Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: playwright, screenwriter, director, author, comic, joke writer, journalist, teacher, house painter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After a circuitous route that included stints as a teacher in China, a scriptwriter at a low-budget exploitation production company and a journalist, Warren Leight found critical acclaim and popular success with his autobiographical drama "Side Man", produced on the New York stage in 1998. The New York native crafted a memory play that explored the familial relationships among a jazz trumpeter, his alcoholic wife and their son caught in the middle. Originally produced in a small theater off-off-Broadway, the show transferred to off-Broadway and then finally to Broadway (with Christian Slater in the leading role) where it was one of the three finalists for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.Leight grew up in Manhattan as what he called "the hero child" of two neurotics always living on the edge of poverty. After winning a full scholarship to Stanford where he studied journalism, he returned to NYC and embarked on a variety of odd jobs with the primary intention of supporting his parents. An article written for the VILLAGE VOICE on where to find the best public bathrooms in NYC formed the basis for his "The I Hate New York Guidebook". In turn, that piece of comic writing coupled with the memoirs of Ed...

After a circuitous route that included stints as a teacher in China, a scriptwriter at a low-budget exploitation production company and a journalist, Warren Leight found critical acclaim and popular success with his autobiographical drama "Side Man", produced on the New York stage in 1998. The New York native crafted a memory play that explored the familial relationships among a jazz trumpeter, his alcoholic wife and their son caught in the middle. Originally produced in a small theater off-off-Broadway, the show transferred to off-Broadway and then finally to Broadway (with Christian Slater in the leading role) where it was one of the three finalists for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Leight grew up in Manhattan as what he called "the hero child" of two neurotics always living on the edge of poverty. After winning a full scholarship to Stanford where he studied journalism, he returned to NYC and embarked on a variety of odd jobs with the primary intention of supporting his parents. An article written for the VILLAGE VOICE on where to find the best public bathrooms in NYC formed the basis for his "The I Hate New York Guidebook". In turn, that piece of comic writing coupled with the memoirs of Ed Koch became the basis for the successful Off-Broadway revue "Mayor!" (1985).

By that time, Leight had also begun a stint as a screenwriter at Troma Studios, a low-budget exploitation production company headquartered in Manhattan. Reportedly, he wrote, rewrote or doctored some 25 scripts, receiving credit for such efforts as "Mother's Day" (1980) and "Stuck on You!" (1983). Leight also co-authored Doris Dorrie's controversial "Me and Him" (1988), about a man (Griffin Dunne) who converses with his penis (voiced by Mark-Linn Baker). He segued to the director's chair with the charming although lightweight "The Night We Never Met" (1993), a romantic comedy about a trio of young professionals who all share a prime New York apartment on alternating days. Leight also penned the original script for "Dear God" (1996), about a con man postal worker, but was dismayed to have the project taken away from him. After 11 additional writers left their imprints on the film, the released version stilled credited Leight as one of the screenwriters.

Dismayed by his Hollywood experiences, Leight turned to the theater and quickly wrote "Side Man". After a staged reading in 1996, he spent the next two years developing the material. As he was approaching his upbringing from the viewpoint of someone facing middle age, he brought a deeper measure of understanding and forgiveness to the characters. Most of the events depicted in the play are factual (though compressed for dramatic effect). While seemingly very specific, the themes proved universal. Leight has stated in several interviews that audience members have reacted by telling him that they see their father on stage. "I've had to get over thinking they were all musicians," he has said, "Turns out they were stockbrokers, or a professor at Stanford . . ." Of course, with the success of the play, Hollywood beckoned once again. Though a screen version of "Side Man" is a possibility, Leight seemed more content to continue to focus on the theater, with a new play "The Glimmer Brothers" (also set in the world of jazz musicians) that premiered at the 1999 Williamstown Theatre Festival.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Night We Never Met, The (1993) Director

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in NYC
1977:
After graduating college, worked as a house painter in Northern California
1977:
Returned to NYC when his mother became ill
:
Worked a variety of odd jobs, including as freelance journalist, joke writer, stand-up comic and teacher
1980:
First screenplay produced, the low-budget thriller "Mother's Day",; co-wrote with director Charles Kaufman; credited as Warren D Leight
:
Wrote or rewrote screenplays for a Manhattan-based low-budget exploitation production company (Troma)
1984:
Contributed to the syndicated TV series "National Lampoon's Hot Flashes"
1985:
Contributed to the Off-Broadway musical revue "Mayor!"
1988:
Was one of three credited writers for the script of Doris Dorre's "Me and Him"
1993:
Feature directorial debut, "The Night We Never Met"; also debut as solo screenwriter
1996:
Wrote the original script for "Dear God"; Leight has said that after several drafts the project was taken away from him and 11 other writers worked on film but he shared screen credit in the released version; referred to it as "a humiliating disaster"
1996:
First prodcution of his autobiographical play "Side Man" at Manhattan's West Bank Cafe
1998:
"Side Man" opened Off-Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company (CSC) then transferred Off-Broadway to Roundabout Theater and later to Broadway (with Christian Slater in a leading role); play was finalist for 1999 Pulitzer Prize; also received Tony nomination as Best Play
1999:
New play "The Glimmer Brothers" premiered at Williamstown Theater Festival
2000:
Signed to write screenplay for sequel to "The Commitments"
2001:
Premiered revised version of "The Glimmer Brothers", now called "Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine", at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A.
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Stanford University: Stanford , California - 1977

Notes

Leight was injured in an autmobile accident in July 1997 and spent three months in the hospital. Eight months later "Side Man" opened off-off-Broadway.

On directing "The Night We Never Met", which was produced by Miramax and entailed daily battles with Harvey Weinstein over casting and editing:

"I don't do well if people shout at me, and Harvey shouts. . . . Unless it's a four-star Academy Award movie, I think Harvey feels really shamed by a B-plus effort. It's like you have a kid, OK, he's not going to go to Harvard and he'll get in to UC Santa Cruz. That's fine. But Harvey's like, 'No, let's send him back to preschool, no, let's get him a new suit, let's send him to military school, let's kill him.' I figure I grew up in an abusive household, I didn't want to work in one."

--Leight quoted in LOS ANGELES TIMES, January 31, 1999

". . . In my house, I was either a switchboard operator or a translator. It was like those homes where the parents spoke one language, and the kids learned English. You try to learn enough of your father's native language so that you can communicate with him, because he's not learning yours. These musicians would come over to the house, and I could talk cbout what they're playing, the Detroit Tigers. . . . They'd have little 'Rain Man'-like focused areas. Part of what I gre up doing was bridging gaps between people." --Warren Leight quoted in INTHEATER, July 10, 1998

"Film is good money, but there's areason: they pay you to go away. 'Side Man' is filled with my voice because it's my story." --Leight to THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 21, 1998

"If I'd finished ['Side Man'] at 24, it would have been a 'fuck-you-Mom-fuck-you-Dad' play. But because it took so long, it has perspective. It's less nasty, more cathartic. Maybe even forgiving." --Warren Leight to TIME OUT NEW YORK, June 18-25, 1998

Family close complete family listing

father:
Donald Leight. Trumpet player. Born c. 1923; played jazz with Claude Thornhill, Woody Herman and others.
mother:
Timmy Leight. Born c. 1928; of Italian-American heritage; played small role in "A Certain Sacrifice" (1979).

Bibliography close complete biography

"The I Hate New York Guidebook"
"From Here to Maternity"
"Side Man" Grove Press

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