Barry Sonnenfeld

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Barry Sonnenfeld
Barry Sonnenfeld 2012.jpg
Sonnenfeld in October 2012.
Born (1953-04-01) April 1, 1953 (age 68)
Alma materHampshire College (BA)
New York University (MFA)
OccupationFilm director, producer and cinematographer
Years active1978—present
Susan L. Ringo
(m. 1989)
ChildrenChloe Sonnenfeld (b. 1993)

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) alongside the Men in Black trilogy (1997–2012), Wild Wild West (1999) and Get Shorty (1995). Sonnenfeld has collaborated with actor and rapper Will Smith four times.

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). Then Joel Coen and Ethan Coen hired him for Blood Simple (1984). 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.[6] 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 smash. 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;[7] 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.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Sonnenfeld lives in Telluride, Colorado with his wife Susan and their daughter Chloe and have permanent resident status in Canada.

In 1999, he was unhurt in a plane crash at Van Nuys Airport, when his business jet veered off the runway upon landing, crashing into five parked planes.[9]



Year Film Director Producer Notes
1991 The Addams Family Yes No
1993 Addams Family Values Yes No
For Love or Money Yes No
1995 Get Shorty Yes executive
1997 Men in Black Yes No Nominated- Saturn Award for Best Director
1999 Wild Wild West Yes Yes Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2002 Big Trouble Yes Yes
Men in Black II Yes No
2006 RV Yes No
2012 Men in Black 3 Yes No
2016 Nine Lives Yes No

As producer

As executive producer

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
1997 Men in Black Alien on Monitor
2002 Big Trouble Gator fan on radio (voice only) (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

Frequent collaborations[edit]

Actor/Actress The Addams Family (1991) For Love or Money (1993) Addams Family Values (1993) Get Shorty (1995) Men in Black (1997) Wild Wild West (1999) Big Trouble (2002) Men in Black II (2002) RV (2006) Men in Black 3 (2012) Nine Lives (2016)
Carel Struycken ☒N ☒N ☒N
Anjelica Huston ☒N ☒N
Raul Julia ☒N ☒N
Christopher Lloyd ☒N ☒N
Christina Ricci ☒N ☒N
Dana Ivey ☒N ☒N
Jimmy Workman ☒N ☒N
Mercedes McNab ☒N ☒N
John Franklin ☒N ☒N
Dan Hedaya ☒N ☒N
Patrick Breen ☒N ☒N ☒N
Ian Abercrombie ☒N ☒N
Tony Shalhoub ☒N ☒N ☒N
Dennis Farina ☒N ☒N
Rene Russo ☒N ☒N
Jon Gries ☒N ☒N
Rip Torn ☒N ☒N
David Cross ☒N ☒N
Siobhan Fallon Hogan ☒N ☒N
Tommy Lee Jones ☒N ☒N ☒N
Will Smith ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
Johnny Knoxville ☒N ☒N
Patrick Warburton ☒N ☒N
Will Arnett ☒N ☒N
Cheryl Hines ☒N ☒N


Year Title Director Executive
1998 Maximum Bob Yes Yes Directed "Pilot"
2001–2002 The Tick Yes Yes Directed "Pilot"
2008 Hackett Yes No TV movie
Notes from the Underbelly Yes Yes Directed 6 episodes
Play or Be Played Yes Yes TV movie
Suburban Shootout Yes No
2009 Pushing Daisies Yes Yes Directed 2 episodes;
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
The Bridget Show Yes No TV movie
2010 Funny in Farsi Yes No Unaired TV pilot
2013 Beverly Hills Cop Yes No Unaired TV pilot
2014 Dead Boss Yes No TV movie
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 Upcoming series[10]

As executive producer

Year Title Notes
1999 Fantasy Island 13 episodes
Partners TV movie
2000 Secret Agent Man 12 episodes
2016 Independent Lens TV series documentary;
Film An Honest Liar
2017 The Tick 12 episodes

As Producer

As cinematographer[edit]

Year Title Notes
1983 How to Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days TV movie
1984 ABC Afterschool Specials 1 episode
1985 Doubletake TV miniseries;
2 episodes
1986 Classified Love TV movie
Welcome Home, Bobby TV movie

As actor[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2001 The Tick Guy in Couch, Cab Driver (uncredited) Episode: "Pilot"
2017 A Series of Unfortunate Events Mr. Tammerlane (voice)
Isaac "Ike" Anwhistle
2 episodes
Episode: "The Carnivorous Carnival" Pt. 1

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.[11]

He has become attached to a movie adaptation of The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz, about a family of private investigators.[12] Sonnenfeld will direct the movie adaptation of the fantasy novel Gil's All Fright Diner in partnership with DreamWorks Animation.[13] He is also developing a sitcom for ABC, Funny in Farsi, based on the book of the same name.[14]

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.[15][16] 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.[17]

Barry is also in talks with Warner Bros. to make a live action film adaptation of the DC Comics characters, The Metal Men.[18][19] Sonnenfeld also agreed to direct the Beverly Hills Cop pilot for CBS and serve as an executive producer as well.[20] However, Paramount Pictures dropped the idea in favor of a fourth film directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah.


  1. ^ "Barry Sonnenfeld Biography (1953-)". 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". Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  5. ^ 'I guess I'm a whore, a masochist and a whore'. The Guardian. 12 August 1999.
  6. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  7. ^ "'Men in Black 3' Ready to Roll in 3-D With Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones".
  8. ^ Schneider, Michael (2007-06-14). "Sony, Sonnenfeld pact for TV". Variety. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  9. ^
  10. ^ ""Schmigadoon!," from executive producer Lorne Michaels and starring Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, to premiere globally this summer on Apple TV+". Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  11. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (November 24, 2008). "It's a man's world at CBS". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 24, 2008.
  12. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 1, 2009). "Sonnenfeld takes 'Spellman Files'". Variety.
  13. ^ "Barry Sonnenfeld to Direct Gil's All Fright Diner for DreamWorks".
  14. ^ "Sonnenfeld takes helm of "Farsi" comedy pilot". Reuters. November 30, 2009.
  15. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin. "Barry Sonnenfeld To Direct Supernatural 'Lore' With Dwayne Johnson | IndieWire". Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  16. ^ "Barry Sonnenfeld in Talks to Direct 'Lore' for Warner Bros". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  17. ^ "Director Dave Green Replaces Barry Sonnenfeld in Lore". 2013-08-28. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  18. ^ "Exclusive: Barry Sonnenfeld's Secret Comic-Book Movie Is". Vulture. June 2012. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 8, 2013). "Barry Sonnenfeld To Direct CBS' 'Beverly Hills Cop' Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 31, 2019.

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