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A bespectacled, hormonally charged British spy and an accident-prone male nurse helped to make producer-director Jay Roach one of the most successful comedy filmmakers in motion picture history. He made his feature debut with "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997), Mike Myers' raucous spoof of 1960s pop culture, and later helmed both of its increasingly raunchy sequels, "Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999) and "Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002). He immediately followed these with "Meet the Parents" (2000), which delivered the improbable comedy team of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, as well as its sequel, "Meet the Fockers" (2004). The latter was the highest grossing comedy ever made, and paved the way for Roach to lend his talents to projects as a producer. He showed an equally golden touch in that capacity by overseeing such box office winners as "50 First Dates" (2004) and "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: (2006). In 2008, he showed that broad comedy was not the only color in his directorial palette by helming the Emmy-winning "Recount," a dramatization of the behind-the-scenes politics in the 2000 Presidential election, followed with "Game Change" (HBO, 2012), an inside look at the 2008 presidential campaign. Roach's astounding track record, garnered over a remarkably brief period of time, showed him to be a filmmaker with an unerring knack for understanding and even developing moviegoers' tastes in 21st century comedy.
Born Matthew Jay Roach in Albuquerque, NM on June 14, 1957, he graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Economics before pursuing his master's degree in filmmaking from the University of Southern California. Before earning his MFA in 1986, he directed a short film, "Asleep at the Wheel," which netted a Student Academy Award nomination. Roach got his start in professional filmmaking as a cinematographer and camera operator on low-budget efforts like "Zombie High" (1987) and "A Gnome Named Gnorm" (1990). His first credit as director came in a joint effort with writer Jesse Wells on a little-seen comedy called "Zoo Radio" in 1990. Television gave him the leverage to advance up the production ladder. He served as co-producer on the science fiction adventures series "Space Rangers" (CBS, 1993), which was canceled after just one episode, but he found greater success as the co-producer and writer of "Lifepod" (1993), a TV movie that gave a futuristic update to Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" (1944). Roach later repeated these duties on the middling feature thriller "Blown Away" (1994) with Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones.
In 1997, he was tapped to direct "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997), a modestly budgeted comedy with Mike Myers as a cryogenically frozen spy from swinging London who is thawed in modern times to help defeat his old nemesis, Dr. Evil (also Myers). At once a boisterous, proudly juvenile comedy rife with hoary double entendres and a knowing spoof of James Bondesque spy cinema, "Powers" benefited greatly from Roach's grasp of 1960s cinematic tropes, including frequent cutaways to "Hullabaloo"-style musical numbers that featured his real-life wife, Bangles leader Suzanna Hoffs. The film performed well in theaters but even better on home video, which necessitated a sequel. "Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me" (1999) benefited from a bigger budget, which allowed for a Grammy-winning single by Madonna, which helped it earn over $310 million at the box office.
Roach took a break from the "Powers" franchise to direct "Mystery, Alaska" (1999), a more genteel comedy with Hollywood newcomer Russell Crowe as the sheriff of a small town in the 50th State that organizes a hockey team to take on the visiting New York Rangers. Despite its stellar cast, which included Hank Azaria, Burt Reynolds and Mary McCormick, it failed to connect with audiences. Roach then returned to the broader comedy style of his "Powers" pictures with "Meet the Parents" (2000), an uproarious comedy of manners about a mild-mannered male nurse (Ben Stiller) who finds himself at constant odds with his new father-in-law (Robert De Niro), a tough CIA agent masquerading as a florist. Co-produced by De Niro and Roach, the film was the seventh highest grossing release of that year and marked the highest opening weekend box office of any of De Niro's films. Despite this new success, Roach remained loyal to the "Powers" pictures by returning to direct the third film in the series, "Austin Powers in Goldmember" (2002). Though it retained the essential trademarks of its predecessors - sniggering sexual innuendos, psychedelic music montages, and Myers as multiple characters under layers of makeup - it failed to surpass the ticket sales or charm of "The Spy Who Shagged Me." Its high points, however, were particularly high, including the addition of Destiny's Child frontwoman Beyonce Knowles as blaxploitation superhero Foxy Cleopatra and Michael Caine as Austin's equally randy father.
Conflicts over the production schedule for the sequel to "Meet the Parents" forced Roach to step away from the director's chair on two features: a film version of the popular science fiction novel and television series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (2005) and the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore comedy "50 First Dates" (2005). He did remain attached as a producer to both projects, which yielded respectable returns during their theatrical runs. The "Parents" sequel - titled "Meet the Fockers" (2004) after the unfortunate last name of Stiller's character - consumed much of his time in 2003 and 2004, but the effort was well worth it. The comedy, which added Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand to the mix as Stiller's laid-back parents, pulled down astronomical numbers during its release in the 2004 holiday season. Its total world gross topped $516 million dollars, which made Roach the director of the most successful film comedy ever made.
Roach then stepped away from the director's chair for the next four years, save for a shared credit on the TV benefit special "Earth to America" (2005). He joined actor-writer Sascha Baron Cohen as producer for the latter's uproarious docu-comedy "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (2006), which actually surpassed such box office champs as "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006) with its opening weekend ticket sales. However, his subsequent producing efforts - 2008's "Smother" and "Charlie Barnett" - both disappeared from theaters after short runs.
In 2008, Roach stepped in to replace ailing filmmaker Sydney Pollack as director of "Recount," an HBO-produced drama about the 2000 Presidential election. Roach's previous films gave little indication that he could handle a straight drama that focused on back room politics or a cast that included such heavyweights as Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Tom Wilkinson and John Hurt. But to the surprise of many, "Recount" was an engaging drama that yielded largely positive critical response, save from the Republican participants who were dramatized in the film. "Recount" went on to win three Emmys later that year, including Outstanding Directing for Roach and Outstanding Made-for-TV Movie. Despite all indications that Roach could shift his career focus to more dramatic fare, he was soon hard at work producing his second collaboration with Sacha Baron Cohen, another docu-comedy starring yet another of Cohen's over-the-top characters, gay fashion icon, Bruno, in "The Untitled Bruno Project" (2009).
After helming the dismissed "Dinner for Schmucks" (2010) and going back to the well for "Little Fockers" (2010), Roach returned to the small screen to direct "Game Change" (HBO, 2012), an inside look at the 2008 presidential campaign as seen through the eyes of campaign manager Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), who was at least in part responsible for picking Alaskan governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) as the vice presidential running mate of John McCain (Ed Harris). Hailed by critics, "Game Change" earned awards recognition for all involved, including an Emmy Award for Roach in the category of Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special. Sticking with politics, Roach directed Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as two warring Southerners vying for a Congressional seat in the well-received satirical comedy, "The Campaign" (2012).
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Served as consultant to director Jessi Wells on the feature "Zoo Radio"
Wrote and co-produced with Pen Densham the sci-fi series "Space Rangers" (CBS)
Co-produced the TV-movie "Lifepod" (FOX), a sci-fi remake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat"
Co-wrote with John Rice and Joe Batteer the film "Blown Away"; co-produced by Densham
Produced "The Empty Mirror"; also served as 2nd unit director (released theatrically in 1999)
Feature directing debut, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" starring Mike Myers in the title role
Directed the hockey-themed, "Mystery, Alaska" starring Russell Crowe
Helmed the sequel "Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Shagged Me"
Helmed the hit comedy, "Meet the Parents" co-starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller
Again directed Mike Myers in "Austin Powers: Goldmember"
Reunited with Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller for "Meet the Fockers"
Produced the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' popular comic sci-fi novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
Co-produced with Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
Directed the HBO film "Recount" about the 2000 Presidential election fallout
Produced Sacha Baron Cohen's film "Brüno"
Produced and directed the comedy "Dinner for Schmucks," starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carell
Produced the sequel to the hit comedy, "Meet the Parents," titled "Little Fockers"