Christopher Wilkinson

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For other people named Chris Wilkinson, see Chris Wilkinson (disambiguation).
Christopher Wilkinson
Born (1950-03-29) March 29, 1950 (age 65)
New York, NY
Nationality American
Alma mater Temple University
Occupation Screenwriter, producer, director
Years active 1979–present
Spouse(s) Cathy Guisewite (1997-2011)
Children 2

Christopher Wilkinson (born March 29, 1950) is an American screenwriter, producer, and director. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Nixon (1995).[1] He also wrote the screenplays for Ali (2001)[2] and Copying Beethoven (2006), the latter of which he also produced.[3] His scripts are often historically based.

Early life[edit]

Wilkinson was born in New York City and raised in Philadelphia. He began his career as a musician before attending film school at Temple University.[4]


Wilkinson starting out his career writing, producing and directing industrials, commercials and documentaries in Philadelphia and New York, while also working as a cameraman for ESPN, CBS Sports and EUE/Screen Gems. His documentaries from this time include Engine 2, Ladder 3, Echoes and One in Ten, all of which appeared on PBS. These films won awards at the Chicago International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and CINE (among others).[4]

His break in Hollywood came when Engine 2, Ladder 3 was seen by director Mark Rydell at the Maine Media Workshop. Rydell asked Wilkinson to direct the second unit on his 1984 film The River. He went on to direct the second unit on For The Boys (1991), on which he also served as associate producer, and Intersection (1994). From 1987 to 1989, Wilkinson served as head of development for Rydell’s production company Concourse Productions. During his tenure, the company produced Children of a Lesser God (1986), Nuts (1987) and The Man in the Moon (1991). In 1990, he wrote, produced and directed Penrod and Nobody's Home, children's films for FilmFair, which appeared on Showtime.[4]

Wilkinson has written several biopics with frequent writing partner Stephen J. Rivele, starting with 1995's Nixon, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Anthony Hopkins, about the life of president Richard Nixon.[5] Ali (2001), directed by Michael Mann and starring Will Smith, details Muhammad Ali's boxing career and soul-searching struggles.[2] Copying Beethoven (2006) dramatized the last years of Ludwig van Beethoven's life as he became increasingly isolated, struggled with deafness and was scorned by the public. Wilkinson also produced the film, which was directed by Agnieszka Holland and starred Ed Harris.[3][6] In 2008, he and Rivele did script work on Moneyball (2011).[7]

Wilkinson and Rivele have completed scripts for several films set to begin shooting in 2014. They wrote Mercury, a biopic about Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, who died of complications from AIDS in 1991.[8] Sacha Baron Cohen was originally attached to star as Mercury, before dropping out due to differences of opinion with the remaining members of Queen.[9] Pawn Sacrifice, based on the 1972 chess match between American Bobby Fischer and Soviet Boris Spassky, will be directed by Ed Zwick and star Tobey Maguire.[10][11] The long-planned Tupac, to be directed by Antoine Fuqua, is based on the final days of rapper Tupac Shakur, who was killed in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting in 1996.[12][13][14] Birth of the Dragon is a Bruce Lee origin story inspired by the real-life no-rules fight between Lee and Chinese kung fu master Wong Jack Man. Produced by Michael London and Bill Block, the fictionalized action film imagines Lee and Wong teaming up to battle Chinatown gangsters in San Francisco in 1965.[15] They recently completed work on Dempsey, The Green Wave (for producer Mike Tollin and director Nick Cassavetes)[16][17] and a Miles Davis biopic (for actor/producer Don Cheadle),[18] all of which are in development as of October 2013. In addition, Wilkinson is working on a documentary on Miles Davis's life.[19]

Wilkinson is currently writing The Dog Stars. He wrote, produced and directed Virtuosity, a feature documentary about the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, filmed in June 2013 in New York, Rome, Moscow, Tokyo and Fort Worth, Texas, and in post-production as of October 2013.[20]

He is a member of the DGA, WGA and SAG.

Personal life[edit]

Wilkinson resides in Los Angeles, California, with his son.[21] He was formerly married to cartoonist Cathy Guisewite (creator of the comic strip Cathy), with whom he has a daughter.[21][22]


Year Title Credited as
1979 One in Ten Writer/director/producer
1980 Echoes Writer/director/producer
1982 Engine 2, Ladder 3 Writer/director/producer
1984 The River Second unit director
1987 Nuts Writer (uncredited)
1990 Penrod Writer/director/producer
1990 Nobody's Home Writer/director/producer
1991 For the Boys Second unit director/associate producer
1994 Intersection Second unit director/post-production supervisor
1995 Nixon Writer
2001 Ali Writer
2006 Copying Beethoven Writer/producer
2013 The Miles Davis Documentary Writer/director/producer
2014 Virtuosity Writer/director/producer
2015 Miles Ahead Writer
2015 Pawn Sacrifice Writer


  1. ^ “The Oscars: A Scorecard,” New York Times, March 25, 1996.
  2. ^ a b Claude Brodesser, “Smith laces up for ‘Ali’,” Variety, May 15, 2001.
  3. ^ a b Michael Wilmington, “Movie review: ‘Copying Beethoven’,” Chicago Tribune, November 9, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c Chris Wehner, “10 Questions with Nixon & Ali Screenwriter Chris Wilkinson,” Screenwriter's Utopia, March 29, 2005.
  5. ^ Janet Maslin, “Stone’s Embrace of a Despised President,” New York Times, December 20, 1995.
  6. ^ Manohla Dargis, “Handmaiden to a Maestro and Midwife to His Symphony,” New York Times, November 10, 2006.
  7. ^ Michael Cieply, “Money Worries Kill A-List Film at Last Minute,” New York Times, July 1, 2009.
  8. ^ Jeff Sneider, “Frears frontrunner to helm Freddie Mercury pic,” Variety, May 9, 2012.
  9. ^ Nikki Finke, “Sacha Baron Cohen Exits Freddie Mercury Biopic Over Creative Differences With Queen,”, July 22, 2013.
  10. ^ Tatiana Siegel, “Peter Sarsgaard, Live Schreiber Join Bobby Fischer Pic ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ (Exclusive),” The Hollywood Reporter, September 24, 2013.
  11. ^ Pawn Sacrifice, IMDb. Accessed October 24, 2013.
  12. ^ Daniel Kreps, “Tupac Movie to Focus on Rapper’s Final Day,” Rolling Stone, August 27, 2010.
  13. ^ Claude Brodesser-Akner, “A New Tupac Shakur Biopic Will Answer Why He Was Killed, If Not By Whom,” Vulture, August 26, 2010.
  14. ^ Chris Coplan, “Tupac biopic finally going into production,” Consequence of Sound, September 19, 2013.
  15. ^ Borys Kit, “Bruce Lee Origin Story Heading to Big Screen,” The Hollywood Reporter, February 19, 2013.
  16. ^ Dave McNary, “ESPN, New Line team up on ‘Mulkey’,” Variety, January 14, 2010.
  17. ^ “Nick Cassavetes On Board to Ride ‘The Green Wave’,” The Tracking Board, April 10, 2012.
  18. ^ Michael Fleming, “Cheadle jazzed for Davis biopic,” Variety, March 14, 2007.
  19. ^ Jeffrey Hyatt, “The Miles Davis Movie: HBO, Miles Davis, And The Idea Of A 10-Hour Movie,” Miles Davis Online, February 2, 2010.
  20. ^ Tim Madigan, “Top-flight talent assembled for Cliburn webcast,”, June 1, 2013.
  21. ^ a b Biography for Christopher Wilkinson, IMDb. Accessed October 10, 2013.
  22. ^ Mark Voger, “Cathy is tying the knot,” Seattle Times, February 3, 2005.

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