Jump to content

Barry Sonnenfeld

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Barry Sonnenfeld
Sonnenfeld in October 2012
Born (1953-04-01) April 1, 1953 (age 71)
Alma materHampshire College (BA)
New York University (MFA)
  • Film director
  • producer
  • cinematographer
Years active1978–present
Susan L. Ringo
(m. 1989)

Barry Sonnenfeld (born April 1, 1953) is an American filmmaker and television director. He originally worked as a cinematographer for the Coen brothers before directing films such as The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel Addams Family Values (1993), Get Shorty (1995), the Men in Black trilogy (1997–2012), and Wild Wild West (1999).

Early life[edit]

Sonnenfeld was born and raised in New York City, the son of Irene "Kelly" (Kellerman), an art teacher, and Sonny Sonnenfeld, a lighting salesman, educator, and architectural lighting designer.[1][2][3] He was raised in a Jewish family.[4] After he received his bachelor's degree from Hampshire College, he graduated from New York University Film School in 1978.


He began working on pornographic films[5] before starting work as director of photography on the Oscar-nominated In Our Water (1982). When he met Joel Coen at a Christmas party, he told Sonnenfeld about a script that he had written with brother Ethan Coen, Blood Simple, and hired him to be their cinematographer, with the resulting movie coming out in 1984.[6] This film began his collaboration with the Coen brothers, who used him for their next two pictures, Raising Arizona (1987) and Miller's Crossing (1990). He also worked with Danny DeVito on Throw Momma from the Train (1987) and Rob Reiner on When Harry Met Sally... (1989) and Misery (1990).

Sonnenfeld gained his first work as a director from Paramount Pictures on The Addams Family, a box-office success released in November 1991. Its sequel, Addams Family Values (1993), was not as successful at the box office, but he received critical acclaim for his fourth directorial outing, Get Shorty (1995). Produced by Jersey Films and based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, the film won a Golden Globe for John Travolta (Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical). The film was also entered into the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[7] Following Tim Burton and the Coen brothers, Sonnenfeld's films would tell stories about unusual and unorthodox people who are into the unexpected and the strange. His films would often use his trademark filmmaking techniques such as his unusual camera angles, offbeat dialogue and, in certain films, strange behavior and weird creatures.

In 1996, Steven Spielberg asked him to direct Men in Black (1997). Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, the film was a critical and financial success. In 1998, Jon Peters asked him to direct Wild Wild West (1999). Starring Smith and Kevin Kline, the film was a critical and financial flop. He also directed the comedy Big Trouble (2002), after which he made his most successful film sequel to that point, Men in Black II (2002). He is also a contributing editor for Esquire. He also co-produced (alongside his partner Barry Josephson) the 2007 film Enchanted for Walt Disney Pictures that starred Amy Adams. In 2008, Sonnenfeld earned an Emmy for directing Pushing Daisies. Sonnenfeld returned for Men in Black 3;[8] released in 2012, the third installment received positive reviews and became the highest-grossing film in the series worldwide. In 2007, his Right Coast production company has been signed with Sony.[9]

His memoir, Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker, was published by Hachette Books in 2020.[6]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2022, Sonnenfeld lives in Pemberton, British Columbia with his wife Susan.[10]

In 1999, Sonnenfeld was the sole passenger on a plane that crashed upon landing at Van Nuys Airport. He was unhurt.[11]



Year Film Director Producer Notes
1991 The Addams Family Yes No
1993 For Love or Money Yes No
Addams Family Values Yes No
1995 Get Shorty Yes executive
1997 Men in Black Yes No Nominated- Saturn Award for Best Director
1998 Out of Sight No executive
1999 Wild Wild West Yes Yes Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2000 The Crew No Yes
2002 Big Trouble Yes Yes
Men in Black II Yes No
2004 The Ladykillers No Yes
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events No executive
2006 RV Yes No
2007 Enchanted (2007) No Yes
2008 Space Chimps (2008) No Yes
2012 Men in Black 3 Yes No
2016 Nine Lives Yes No
2019 Men in Black: International No executive
2022 Disenchanted (2022) No Yes

As cinematographer[edit]

Year Title Director Notes
1982 In Our Water Meg Switzgable Documentary;
With Robert Chappell
1984 Blood Simple Joel Coen
1985 Compromising Positions Frank Perry
1987 Raising Arizona Joel Coen
Three O'Clock High Phil Joanou
Throw Momma from the Train Danny DeVito
1988 Big Penny Marshall
1989 When Harry Met Sally... Rob Reiner
1990 Miller's Crossing Joel Coen
Misery Rob Reiner

As actor[edit]

Year Title Role
1991 The Addams Family Passenger on Gomez's train (uncredited)
1993 Addams Family Values Mr. Glicker
1995 Get Shorty Doorman (Uncredited)
1997 Men in Black Alien on Monitor
2002 Big Trouble Gator fan on radio (voice) (uncredited)
2002 Men in Black II Neuralyzed Father
2006 RV Irv
2012 Men in Black 3 Husband Watching Launch
2016 Nine Lives Additional cat voices


TV series[edit]

Year Title Director Executive
1998 Maximum Bob Yes Yes Directed "Pilot"
1998–1999 Fantasy Island No Yes 13 episodes
2000 Secret Agent Man No Yes 12 episodes
2001–2002 The Tick Yes Yes Directed "Pilot"
2007–2009 Pushing Daisies Yes Yes Directed 2 episodes;
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
2007–2010 Notes from the Underbelly Yes Yes Directed 6 episodes
2008 Suburban Shootout Yes No Unaired pilot
2010 Funny in Farsi Yes No
2013 Beverly Hills Cop[broken anchor] Yes No
2014 Storyline No Yes 1 episode
2016 Independent Lens No Yes TV series documentary;
Film An Honest Liar
2016–2019 The Tick No Yes 12 episodes
2017–2019 A Series of Unfortunate Events Yes Yes Directed 10 episodes;
Nominated- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program
2021 Schmigadoon! Yes Yes Directed 6 episodes


As cinematographer

Year Title Notes
1984 ABC Afterschool Specials 1 episode
1985 Doubletake 2 episodes

Acting roles

Year Title Role Notes
2001 The Tick Guy in Couch, Cab Driver (uncredited) Episode: "Pilot"
2017–2019 A Series of Unfortunate Events Mr. Tammerlane (voice)
Isaac "Ike" Anwhistle
4 episodes

TV movies[edit]

Year Title Director Executive
1999 Partners No Yes
2008 Hackett Yes No
Play or Be Played Yes Yes
2009 The Bridget Show Yes No
2014 Dead Boss Yes No

As cinematographer

Future projects[edit]

He is working on new projects, among them include Things a Man Should Never Do Past 30: a single-camera comedy from executive producer/director Sonnenfeld, the Tannenbaum Company and Sony Pictures Television. The project mostly is based on the personal experiences of Esquire writer David Katz and Esquire editor at large A. J. Jacobs. The show is about a man working at a men's magazine who is reluctant to embrace adulthood and his friend who is an immersion journalist. Al Higgins (Malcolm in the Middle) is set to serve as showrunner/head writer if the project is picked up.[12]

He has become attached to a movie adaptation of The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz, about a family of private investigators.[13] Sonnenfeld will direct the movie adaptation of the fantasy novel Gil's All Fright Diner in partnership with DreamWorks Animation.[14] He is also developing a sitcom for ABC, Funny in Farsi, based on the book of the same name.[15]

In 2012, it was stated that he was appointed to direct Lore, an adaptation based on the comic by T.P. Louise and Ashley Wood of the same name.[16][17] But, in 2013, Indie director Dave Green has signed on to replace Barry Sonnenfeld as director, Sonnenfeld will take part as executive producer on the project.[18]

Barry is also in talks with Warner Bros. to make a live action film adaptation of the DC Comics characters, The Metal Men.[19][20] Sonnenfeld also agreed to direct the Beverly Hills Cop pilot for CBS and serve as an executive producer as well.[21] However, Paramount Pictures dropped the idea in favor of a fourth film directed by Mark Molloy.


  1. ^ "Barry Sonnenfeld Biography (1953-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  2. ^ Coakley, Jacob. "In Memoriam: Sonny Sonnenfeld, 1919-2016 - PLSN".
  3. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths SONNENFELD, IRENE KELLY.". The New York Times. 9 March 2000.
  4. ^ "TCM Barry Sonnenfeld Biography". Tcm.com. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  5. ^ 'I guess I'm a whore, a masochist and a whore'. The Guardian. 12 August 1999.
  6. ^ a b Kolberg, Brad (May 9, 2020). "Call Your Mother: Filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld Looks Back With Humor In New Memoir". Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved October 22, 2021.
  7. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  8. ^ "'Men in Black 3' Ready to Roll in 3-D With Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones". 22 April 2010.
  9. ^ Schneider, Michael (2007-06-14). "Sony, Sonnenfeld pact for TV". Variety. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  10. ^ "SmartLess: "Barry Sonnenfeld" on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts. Retrieved 2022-01-05.
  11. ^ Fox, Sue (February 27, 1999). "Film Director Says Jet Crew Fled After Crash". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (November 24, 2008). "It's a man's world at CBS". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008.
  13. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 1, 2009). "Sonnenfeld takes 'Spellman Files'". Variety.
  14. ^ "Barry Sonnenfeld to Direct Gil's All Fright Diner for DreamWorks". 17 December 2009.
  15. ^ "Sonnenfeld takes helm of "Farsi" comedy pilot". Reuters. November 30, 2009.
  16. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (25 September 2012). "Barry Sonnenfeld To Direct Supernatural 'Lore' With Dwayne Johnson | IndieWire". www.indiewire.com. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  17. ^ "Barry Sonnenfeld in Talks to Direct 'Lore' for Warner Bros". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  18. ^ "Director Dave Green Replaces Barry Sonnenfeld in Lore". 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  19. ^ "Exclusive: Barry Sonnenfeld's Secret Comic-Book Movie Is". Vulture. June 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  20. ^ "DC Entertainment Chief Reveals What's Next for Superman, Wonder Woman and 5 Superheroes Who Deserve Movies (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. July 17, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  21. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 8, 2013). "Barry Sonnenfeld To Direct CBS' 'Beverly Hills Cop' Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 31, 2019.

External links[edit]