Philip Kaufman


Director, Screenwriter

About

Birth Place
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Born
October 23, 1936

Biography

A Chicago-born maverick director who has tackled a wide range of projects with consistent intelligence and style, Philip Kaufman shared the Prix de la Nouvelle Critique at Cannes for his first feature "Goldstein" (1964). Based on Kaufman's unfinished novel and co-written and co-directed with Benjamin Manaster, "Goldstein" was loosely based on a Hassidic tale about a old man who mysteriou...

Family & Companions

Rose Kaufman
Wife
Screenwriter. Met while attending University of Chicago; worked with husband on "The Wanderers" (1979) and "Henry & June" (1990).

Notes

Kaufman met Anais Nin while she was promoting the films of Hugh Guiler, her husband, then known as Ian Hugo. After hearing Kaufman's idea for a screenplay he was considering, she encouraged him to follow through with his filmmaking.

The film, "Fearless Frank," was shot in 1964, reviewed by Variety in 1964 because of its presence in the Cannes Film Festival of that year, but was not released in the USA until 1969.

Biography

A Chicago-born maverick director who has tackled a wide range of projects with consistent intelligence and style, Philip Kaufman shared the Prix de la Nouvelle Critique at Cannes for his first feature "Goldstein" (1964). Based on Kaufman's unfinished novel and co-written and co-directed with Benjamin Manaster, "Goldstein" was loosely based on a Hassidic tale about a old man who mysteriously emerges from Lake Michigan and alters the lives of three Chicagoans and introduced the recurrent theme of hero-worship found in many of the director's subsequent efforts. Despite receiving critical acclaim at Cannes, the film was virtually overlooked when it debuted in the USA.

Kaufman's second feature "Fearless Frank" (1967), was a comic skewering of American movie genres. Featuring a then-unknown Jon Voight and several members of the Second City comedy troupe (Severn Darden, Joan Darling, David Steinberg), this independent film spoofed superheroes, gangsters and evil scientists. While it premiered to good notices at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival under the title "Frank's Greatest Adventure," it was unreleased until 1969 when Voight had become a star thanks to "Midnight Cowboy." Upon its release, Jennings Lang at Universal was impressed enough to offer Kaufman a contract. His first effort for the studio was the meticulously-researched off-beat Western, "The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid" (1972), about the unsuccessful 1876 bank robbery attempt by the Younger-James gang. Toplining Robert Duvall and Cliff Robertson, the movie was a revisionist look at America's past, casting Jesse James as a psychopath and Cole Younger as a cunning but sensitive killer. The studio attempted to market the film as another "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but Kaufman's approach was darker in tone and when the film failed to find an audience was abandoned by the studio.

Kaufman only directed "The White Dawn" (1974) but he brought a strong visual sense to the tale of three whalers who survive an 1896 Arctic shipwreck and their culture clash with the Eskimos who rescue them. Despite a predictable ending, the film offered strong performances from leads Timothy Bottoms, Louis Gossett Jr and Warren Oates. Nevertheless, the subject matter was not a popular one and the film was not a financial success. Kaufman had been hired to write and direct "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1975) with Clint Eastwood starring as a pacifist Southern farmer turned vigilante when his family is killed by Union soldiers. After two weeks of filming, however, Eastwood assumed the directorial reins with Kaufman retaining his screenplay credit (shared with Sonia Chernus).

Kaufman enjoyed his first box-office hit with the 1978 remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," switching the setting to San Francisco and including a number of in-jokes (like casting Don Siegel, the director of the 1956 original, in a bit part). He followed with another financial success, "The Wanderers" (1979), co-written with his wife Rose, about street gangs in 1963 New York. He collaborated with George Lucas on the script for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) while simultaneously developing what many feel is his magnum opus, "The Right Stuff" (1983). Adapted from Tom Wolfe's best-seller, "The Right Stuff" was a three-hour examination of the creation of the American space program, tracing its origins from Chuck Yaeger's 1947 breaking of the sound barrier to the launches of the Gemini capsules. Some felt that except for the pilots, the characters are presented as cartoonish, yet despite its length, the film does not feel padded and is not boring. Despite its eight Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, although oddly none for Kaufman's direction or script) and four wins, "The Right Stuff" also proved to be less than successful at the box office.

Kaufman scored another succes d'estime with his adaptation of Milan Kundera's non-linear novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988). More Continental in feel than his previous work, Kaufman distilled the novel to a romantic triangle set against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He elicited strong performances from his leads Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin and Daniel Day-Lewis (although some critics felt the actor was too young for the role). The film also crossed over from art-houses partly because of the tastefully done but explicit love scenes and seemed a warm-up for his next effort. "Henry & June" (1990), adapted from Anais Nin's erotic diaries of her relationships with Henry Miller and his wife, was a major factor in prompting the MPAA to create a new NC-17 rating for explicit--but not pornographic--material. Although employing the stylings of a European art film, Kaufman stumbled somewhat in his approach to the material although stars Fred Ward and Uma Thurman delivered fine portrayals of the title characters.

Three years later, the director tackled more mainstream material adapting Michael Crichton's novel "Rising Sun" (1993). Although streamlined, the adaptation resulted in a confusing denouement that inspired incredulity. Despite his obvious gifts, Kaufman spent the remainder of the decade in development hell, attempting to find financing for several intriguing projects including a film based on Caleb Carr's novel "The Alienist" and a biopic of former CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton. He finally returned to the director's chair for "Quills" (2000), an adaptation of Doug Wright's stage play about the Marquis de Sade's incarceration at the asylum of Charenton. Working with the playwright, Kaufman helped to shape the material and make it more cinematic. The resulting film addressed issues of sexuality and freedom in a blackly comic manner and featured strong performances from stars Geoffrey Rush (as the lascivious de Sade), Joaquin Phoenix and Kate Winslet.

Life Events

1960

Moved family to California; supported them with odd jobs while trying to complete a novel

1961

Relocated family to Europe; tried to finish the novel and taught English in Greece and math in Florence

1962

Met Anais Nin at the University of Chicago

1962

Returned to Chicago

1964

Co-wrote and co-directed with Benjamin Manaster, his first feature based on his yet unfinished novel, "Goldstein"

1964

Directed Jon Voight in his screen debut in "Fearless Frank"; also produced and scripted

1969

Moved to Hollywood; put under contract to Universal Studios

1972

First film for Universal, "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid", about the James and Younger brothers

1974

Directed "The White Dawn", a whaling adventure set in the 19th Century, greatly helped by the expert cinematography of Michael Chapman

1975

Was fired from "The Outlaw Josey Wales" by star Clint Eastwood, who took over the directorial reins; retained screenwriter credit

1977

Moved to San Francisco

1979

First feature co-written with wife, Rose Fisher Kaufman, "The Wanderers", adapted from Richard Price's novel

1980

Made what is considered his best film, "The Right Stuff", based on Tom Wolfe's book about the US space program; although a box-office disappointment, film earned eight Oscar nominations, including one as Best Picture

1988

Received Academy Award nomination for co-writing (with Jean-Claude Carriere) the screenplay adaptation of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"; also directed

1990

His "Henry & June" became the first film to receive the new MPAA classification NC-17 over its sexual content; film, which was a box-office failure, traced the relationship of authors Henry Miller and Anais Nin

1993

Helmed the film adaptation of Michael Crichton's controversial novel "Rising Sun"; also co-scripted with Crichton

1995

Executive produced and narrated "China: The Wild East", a documentary directed by his son Peter

2000

Returned to the director's chair to helm "Quills", a film based on Doug Wright's stage play about the Marquis de Sade

Photo Collections

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wanderers, The (1979) - Bunch Of Neanderthal Retardos After director Philip Kaufman’s credit, The Bronx 1963, Joey (John Friedrich) hopes to stop fellow Wanderer Turkey (Alan Rosenberg) from joining the Fordham Baldies (a real street gang of the day), and we meet PeeWee (Linda Manz), Terror (Erland van Lidth), Toni Kalem as Despie beneath Ken Wahl as Richie, and Jim Youngs as Buddy, in The Wanderers, 1979.
Wanderers, The (1979) - Just The Dirty Parts Molesting women for sport in The Bronx, 1963, Ken Wahl as Richie, semi-leader of the title-gang, takes a run in their crudely named game at Karen Allen, in her first scene, as Nina, supported by John Friedrich as Joey, with Tony Ganios as big Perry and Jim Youngs as Buddy, in director Philip Kaufman’s The Wanderers, 1979.
Wanderers, The (1979) - I Seen This In My Favorite Movie In a Bronx bowling alley, 1963, Richard Price, author of the underlying book, is the hustler in the necktie, John Califano his accomplice, Ken Wahl and John Friedrich representing the title gang, Dolph Sweet as Chubby, overseeing the wager and his own goons, in director Philip Kaufman’s The Wanderers, 1979.
Wanderers, The (1979) - All Men Are Created Equal Fluid work by director Philip Kaufman and cinematographer Michael Chapman, title-gang member Joey (John Friedrich) arrives at school in The Bronx with Perry (Tony Ganios), his new neighbor from New Jersey, meeting fellow members Richie (Ken Wahl) and Turkey (Alan Rosenberg) in the class led by Mr. Sharp (Val Avery), in The Wanderers, 1979.
Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976) - Opening, Little Josey Opening sequence finds star and director Clint Eastwood a mild-mannered Missouri farmer in the fields with his son, about to be given cause for vengeance in The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976.
Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976) - I'll Be Comin' With You Title character and director Clint Eastwood has just seen his family killed and farm burned by Yankee bandits in Missouri, so he joins up with Confederate stragglers, led by John Russell, cueing the credit sequence, in The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976.
Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976) - Whooped 'em Again! After escaping a slaughter by lawless Union troops in post-Civil War Missouri, a textbook horseback conversation from director and title character Clint Eastwood, with Sam Bottoms as his frightened protegè Jamie, preceding their horse-tackling stunt to avoid capture, in The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976.
Outlaw Josey Wales, The (1976) - I've Got Nothing Better To Do Jamie (Sam Bottoms), alone among surrendering Missouri post-Civil War rebels, senses a trap, nasty Senator Lane (Frank Schofield) and turncoat Fletcher (John Vernon) behind it, and director and title character Clint Eastwood turning the tables, big-ly, in The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1976.
Right Stuff, The (1983) - Did I Ever Let You Down? The first vignette with the first future astronaut, Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid) and wife Trudy (Pamela Reed) arriving Edwards Air Force Base, 1953, in The Right Stuff, 1983, from the Tom Wolfe book.
Right Stuff, The (1983) - That Guy! Watching Ed Sullivan during their mostly comic astronaut recruiting trip, the government guys (Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum) meet Marine pilot John Glenn (Ed Harris) and Navy flier Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), in Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuf, 1983.
Right Stuff, The (1983) - No Buck Rogers Ensemble scene, the Mercury astronauts (Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Scott Paulin, Charles Frank, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard) confront the chief scientist (Scott Beach) about their capsule, in Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff, 1983.
Right Stuff, The (1983) - What's That Sound? Dropped from a B-29, Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) piloting the X1, in director Philip Kaufman's dramatization of the official breaking of the sound barrier, October 1947, Yeager's wife (Barbara Hershey) and pals (William Russ, Kim Stanley) observing, early in The Right Stuff, 1983.

Family

Peter Kaufman
Son
Producer, documentarian. Born c. 1959; mother, Rose Kaufman; produced "Henry & June" (1990), "Rising Sun" (1993) and "Quills" (2000); made documentary "China: The Wild East" (1995).

Companions

Rose Kaufman
Wife
Screenwriter. Met while attending University of Chicago; worked with husband on "The Wanderers" (1979) and "Henry & June" (1990).

Bibliography

Notes

Kaufman met Anais Nin while she was promoting the films of Hugh Guiler, her husband, then known as Ian Hugo. After hearing Kaufman's idea for a screenplay he was considering, she encouraged him to follow through with his filmmaking.

The film, "Fearless Frank," was shot in 1964, reviewed by Variety in 1964 because of its presence in the Cannes Film Festival of that year, but was not released in the USA until 1969.

"I find people the people who are most interesting are the people you talk to and spend time with. And the best films carry on dialogues with the viewer. Even the shorter Hollywood movies of the '40s used to have that because they were for grownups ... I want to live in a world that I find habitable and which stimulates me, and I think films should reflect that." --Kaufman quoted in Variety, July 20-26, 1998.

"There are a lot of nice people in Hollywood and on occasion they make great movies. If I have any problems, it comes from speaking my piece. I'll say what I want to say, and I'll defend it. I'm a relatively easy-going person; though once I get involved with a project I get pretty obsessed. You can think of nothing but what you're working on. For me a film is a great educational process; for me it's a university unto itself." --Philip Kaufman to James Mottram at BBC Online (www.bbc.uk.co/films), January 16, 2001.

On working with stars, Kaufman told The Observer (January 14, 2001): "There is a certain spoilt quality about them. They get used to living like millionaires and acting like millionaires, and there is often a lot of bad behaviour associated with money."

"I felt betrayed with "Henry and June," because I really felt, within the code as it was, it should have been the same rating as "Unbearable Lightness of Being." We were ready to go to Washington to protest it, and that week the ratings system was changed, the head of Universal was backing it totally. Tom Pollock said, 'let's be the first NC-17 film out.' Well, it turned out that the film did great business when it first came out. It set records in some places, but very quickly theaters would not book it, because they thought it was the new X rating. We thought there would be a rating beyond this one, that suddenly we had liberated films for adults--things that European films deal with in a more open way throughout my lifetime--but the result was that the X was shrunk down to NC-17. So, in a way, it was the new X." --Kaufman on the ratings controversy to Andrea Meyer at indieWIRE (www.indiwire.com), November 28, 2000.