Born 1956, Urdang danced professionally as a child in George Balanchine's staging of The Nutcracker, a chapter of her life documented in the 2006 film The Nutcracker Family: Behind the Magic. She graduated in 1972 from Forest Hills High School in New York City, where she was Chairman of Senior SING! 1972 during her senior year. Urdang originally aspired to become a US senator, earning an Ivy League undergraduate degree in political science. In 1977, she interned for U.S. Senator John A. Durkin (D-N.H.), assisting with constituent communications and issue research. But in 1978 Urdang tore up her application to the John F. Kennedy School of Government and instead sought and won entry to the Yale School of Drama. Her thesis there explored integrating the development of plays and films, which inspired her professional work.
Urdang shared a New York City brownstone with then-boyfriend actor Rob Morrow, during the years in which he was very visible as the protagonist of the quirky award-winning TV serial Northern Exposure. In April 2012, Urdang married actor Jon Tenney, the co-star of the TNT crime drama The Closer and King & Maxwell where he has the role of Sean King.
Her two younger sisters also have many credits in the Hollywood film industry.
Urdang graduated from the Yale School of Drama in 1981. After graduation, she, Mark Linn-Baker and Max Mayer co-founded New York Stage and Film as an institution for professional playwrights, directors, actors, and designers, as well apprentices, to live and work together to move their plays to Broadway and theaters throughout the nation. Some of these projects include the Tony Award winning plays Sideman and Tru, and most recently John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer and Tony Award winning Doubt. Urdang continues to be a Producing Director of the institution.
Urdang was a producer for Robert Redford's company 'Wildwood Enterprises' and for Gary Ross' 'Larger Than Life Productions'. At both companies she developed several projects including the Walter Salles directed The Motorcycle Diaries.
With partners Michael Nozik and Michael Hoffman[disambiguation needed], Urdang founded 'Serenade Films' as an independent film company designed to produce a slate of low budget production. Serenade produced Michael Cuesta's Twelve and Holding (2006 Independent Spirit Awards nominee), The Great New Wonderful with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tony Shalhoub, Edie Falco, and Stephen Colbert, Michael Hoffman's Game 6 with Michael Keaton and Robert Downey, Jr., and The Narrows.
Some of her other producing credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline, Me and Veronica starring Elizabeth McGovern and Patricia Wettig, People I Know starring Al Pacino, and Olympus Pictures' Adam starring Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne. In March 2009, Urdang became president of Olympus Pictures.
- Me and Veronica (1993)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
- People I Know (2002)
- Game 6 (2005)
- The Great New Wonderful (2005)
- Twelve and Holding (2005)
- The Narrows (2008)
- Adam (2009)
- Beginners (2010)
- Rabbit Hole (2010)
- The Oranges (2011) (completed)
- Mister Pip (2012) (pre-production)
Awards and nominations
- Gia Kourlas (January 5, 2006). "Family jewels". Time Out New York. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- page 71, Forester '72 (FHHS, NYC BoE, 1972)
- Patricia Volk (July 17, 1994). "Hey, Kids, Let's Put On A Show". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Andrew L. Yarrow (August 9, 1988). "At Vassar, a Marriage of the Theater and Film". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Jason-K (November 18, 1991). "Faked Alaska". People Magazine. home.comcast.net. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Laura Hitchcock (February 5, 2007). "Speeding the plow once again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- Luaine Lee (July 23, 2009). "Jon Tenney knows how to close the deal". BND. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- "The genealogical tree of Leslie Urdang". Retrieved September 7, 2011.
- Celia McGee (July 22, 2009). "On Campus, an Incubator for New Plays". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- "New York Stage and Film: Developing New Work". Yale School of Drama. p. 17. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- "Olympus Pictures - About". Olympus Pictures. Retrieved August 30, 2011.
- "2007 Independent Spirit Awards nominations list: John Cassavetes Award". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2011.