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September 12, 1951 |
Buffalo, New York, United States
|Occupation||Screenwriter, playwright, producer|
Fontana was born on the west side of Buffalo, New York, and is the fourth of five children in an Italian-American family; he is a cousin of actress Patti LuPone. He attended Cathedral School, Canisius High School, and Buffalo State College. He worked at the Studio Arena Theater in Buffalo in various capacities before moving to New York City in 1973. Fontana began writing plays when he was about 9 years old; his early efforts were recorded into a reel-to-reel tape recorder with the neighbor kids as performers. At least one of his plays was produced when he was a student at Buffalo State. His college stage debut as an actor was in a production of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, directed by his frequent mentor, Warren Enters. Fontana's efforts as a playwright never proved financially successful. It was while working at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the early 1980s, that he was offered the opportunity to write for television — the offer coming from Bruce Paltrow who was launching a series called St. Elsewhere on NBC.
Fontana has written and produced such groundbreaking television series as St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Oz, for which he has received, among others, three Emmy Awards, four Peabody Awards, three Writers’ Guild Awards, four Television Critics Association Awards, the Cable Ace Award, the Humanitas Prize, an Edgar Award, and the first prize at the Cinéma Tout Ecran Festival in Switzerland. In 2003, Fontana was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Outstanding Television Writer Award.
Fontana wrote the HBO film Strip Search, directed by Sidney Lumet, as well as contributing two pieces to the September 11th special, America: A Tribute to Heroes. He was the executive producer of American Tragedy for CBS, Shot in the Heart for HBO Films, the independent film Jean and the documentary The Press Secretary for PBS.
Fontana also created the historical drama TV series Borgia (2011-2013) for the French premium-pay channel Canal+, produced by Atlantique Productions and EOS Entertainment. The series recounts the Borgia family's rise to power and subsequent domination of the Vatican during the Renaissance.
2012 saw the premiere of Copper a 1860's police procedural set in the turbulent Five Points neighborhood of New York. The series, co-created by Will Rokos, boasts long time collaborator Barry Levinson as executive producer.
According to his website, Fontana does not own or use a computer and writes all of his scripts longhand on a yellow legal pad.
Fontana grew up in a Catholic family. He lives in New York City's West Village in a building that was formerly a branch of the New York Public Library. The book-lined, two-story main reading room is now a living room where he often hosts fund-raisers for arts and civil rights organizations.
Tom was married to actress Sagan Lewis for twelve years.
Fontana has written articles for such periodicals as The New York Times, TV Guide and Esquire and has taught at Columbia, Syracuse, Rutgers and the State University College at Buffalo, his alma mater, from which he received the Distinguished Alumni Award and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.
Fontana has had numerous plays produced in New York City, where he lives, and at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Buffalo Studio Arena Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival and McCarter Theatre Company.
He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Producers Guild of America, and the WGA, East, from which he received the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for lifetime achievement. [Source of this paragraph: Biography published in awards program.] Fontana served as vice-president of the Writers Guild of America, East from 2005-2007. He is currently President of the WGAE Foundation and serves on the boards of The Acting Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, DEAL, The New York City Police Museum, Stockings With Care, among others.
- Official Website
- New York Magazine Tom Fontana profile and The Jury preview
- Board of Advisors, The Buffalo Film Festival, Buffalo, NY, United States
- Tom Fontana interview at Archive of American Television
- Tom Fontana at the Internet Movie Database