Colin Callender

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Sir Colin Callender
Born May 1952 (age 65)
Alma mater University of East Anglia
Occupation Film executive and executive producer
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Gaine
Children Ian Callender
Caroline Callender
Charlotte Callender

Sir Colin Nigel Callender CBE (born May 1952) is an English television, film and theater producer working primarily in the United States where he is CEO at Playground Entertainment. He was the founder of The Callender Company production company in 1983 and began working for HBO in 1987. In 1999 he was made President of HBO Films, a position he held until 2008. In 2010 Callender founded Playground Entertainment.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Born to a Jewish family[2][3] in London in 1952, Callender holds a BA with Honors in Philosophy and Politics from the University of East Anglia.

Early career[edit]

Callender started working in British television during the 1970s, taking a job at ITV network in Granada. Later he became the head of Primetime Television and founded The Callender Company. In 1982 Callender produced the television adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production of Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby: Part One and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby: Part Two in 1983. The plays were performed at the Old Vic theater in London, which was transformed into a television studio for the production. It was broadcast on the WNEW and syndicated in the US[4] where it won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries.[5] He produced the shows as a part of his role as managing director of the independent British television company Primetime Television.[6]

In 1983, Callender founded his own production company The Callender Company Ltd.[7] Callender was producer for the television movie Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson in 1983, in addition to the television adaptations of The Captain's Doll and Separate Tables. In 1984 he began producing the Scrabble television game show, and in 1985 he produced the television films White City and Time Slip.[8] In 1987 the company produced the official British entry to the Cannes Film Festival The Belly of an Architect.[9] The company also produced the film Madame Sousatzka, for which Shirley MacLaine won the 1988 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama. In 1987 Callender also produced episodes of the television series The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross and The Bretts for Masterpiece Theater.[8]


In 1987, Callender was made the executive producer for HBO Showcase, HBO's newly formed East coast film production unit.[10] During his tenure he was the executive producer for nearly twenty television films for HBO.[8] In 1996 he and Jeffrey Bewkes (HBO's CEO at the time) created HBO NYC, a new film division for HBO, resulting in Callender's becoming the head of HBO NYC and the closing of HBO Showcase. He was interviewed by the New York Times in 1998 about the new division, and stated that, "One of our challenges is to take serious subjects, even risky subjects, and treat the material seriously, but give it some pizzaz and flair.... We don't want to end up with something that feels 'good for you.' We try to discover the entertainment value, to make something people want to watch."[11] During Callender's time there, HBO NYC produced films including If These Walls Could Talk,[12] and In the Gloaming.[13]

In April 1999, Callender was promoted to president of HBO Original Movies, later renamed HBO Films.[14] In 2004 Callender spoke to the New York Times after HBO's Elephant won the Palme d'Or, and stated that he felt that cable television was becoming a refuge of nonconformity for American media.[15] In 2006 he was awarded the Humanitas Prize Kieser Award, given to an individual whose work has helped to promote a greater appreciation for the dignity of each member of the human family.[16] Over his 21-year career at HBO, Fox News stated that Callender was "responsible for HBO receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations".[17] The total of wins for projects overseen by Callender included 104 Emmy awards, 29 Golden Globe Awards,[18] nine Peabody Awards, and twelve Humanitas Prizes.[16] Projects that Callender oversaw at HBO Films included Angels in America, John Adams, The Pacific, Empire Falls, and Recount. He also oversaw motion pictures including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Maria Full of Grace, and American Splendor.[19]


In 2008, Callender left HBO Films and stated he would form his own production company.[20] That year he was named number 20 on The Daily Telegraph′s list of the most influential Britons in America.[21] In 2010 he founded Playground.[1] In 2012 Playground was in discussions to produce the first original mini-series and movies for Netflix.[22] For the Starz network, Callender was the producer for the second season of the television show Magic City and the executive producer for the networks' Emmy and Golden Globe nominated television mini-series The White Queen.[23] In 2013, he also served as executive producer for NBC's drama Dracula,[24] as well as producing the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated television mini-series Dancing on the Edge for the BBC.[25] In conjunction with Sports Illustrated, Callender executive produced the sports documentary series Sport in America: Our Defining Stories, which aired on Callender's old network HBO.[26] He is also the executive producer for Golden Globe nominated limited series The Missing. In 2015 Callender produced the PBS television miniseries Wolf Hall, after purchasing the rights to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in 2012 from the author.[27] In March 2015, Callender announced the start of production of The Dresser,[28] a television adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play The Dresser for Starz and the BBC. Callender is also currently developing adaptations of Howards End and Dangerous Liaisons for the BBC.[29]

On the stage, Callender and his company produced the play Lucky Guy by the late Nora Ephron, which tells the story of tabloid reporter Mike McAlary, winner of a 1998 Pulitzer Prize.[30] The play became the highest grossing play in Broadway history, recouping its capitalization budget within eight weeks, nominated for six Tonys with two wins.[31] In 2014, Callender produced Harvey Fierstein's stageplay Casa Valentina nominated for four Tonys[32] and a revival of Hedwig And The Angry Inch[33] for which he won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.[34] Also in 2014, he produced Sir Kenneth Branagh's New York stage debut in Macbeth[35] at the Park Avenue Armory and was a co-producer on Jez Butterworth's The River[36] starring Hugh Jackman. He also earned the rights to the latest Harry Potter installment, a stage play being produced in London[29] entitled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child run on London's West End.[37]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to attorney Elizabeth Gaine with whom he has two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte. He also has a son Ian from a previous marriage. Callender was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2003 Birthday Honours for services to the UK film and television industries in the USA[38][39] and was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to the British creative industries.[40]


  1. ^ a b "HBO Films President Colin Callender Leaves HBO to Start New Company". 14 October 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Jewish Daily Forward: "Stirring ‘Harts’ And Minds at A Tribute Gala" by Masha Leon December 17, 2004 |As a British Jew raised in London, I experienced antisemitism daily… I was bar-mitzvahed in the school hall because the school had been burned down by Neo-Nazis…. I now live in a world where an African-American can wish his Jewish friends a happy Hanukkah
  3. ^ Jewish Chronicle: "Golden Globe winner compares outside status of growing Jewish in Britain to Harry Potter" by Josh Jackman January 25, 2016
  4. ^ Tom Jory (17 December 1982). "'Nickelby' expected to reach two-thirds of the tv audience". St. Joseph News-Press. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  5. ^ IMDb (27 July 2015). "'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby' - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Putting on Nickelby - 'Like Climbing Everest'". Ottawa Citizen. 12 March 1983. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "Colin Callender". Designer Media. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c "Colin Callender". IMDB. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Johanna Steinmetz (10 August 1990). "No fire in `The Belly' Greenaway's stilted film works best as a prelude to `The Cook, the Thief'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Nancy Mills (30 September 1990). "Shooting Their Own In a war for viewers, cable channels and the networks are producing their own movies in record numbers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Lawrie Mifflin (25 February 1998). "A Lean Unit Explores Fat Subjects For HBO". New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  12. ^ Shauna Snow (3 October 1996). "Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Lawrie Mifflin (25 February 1998). "A Lean Unit Explores Fat Subjects for HBO". New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2012. 
  14. ^ "Colin Callender: Biography". Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  15. ^ Lynn Hirschberg (14 November 2004). "US & THEM; What Is an American Movie Now?". New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  16. ^ a b "Kieser Award to Colin Callender". Emmy Awards. 22 May 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  17. ^ "Oliver Stone Feels Sorry for Bush". Fox News. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "HBO Executive Is Leaving to Start Company". New York Times. 15 October 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  19. ^ Ben Fritz (21 February 2012). "Netflix discussing deal with ex-HBO Films chief Colin Callender". Los Angeles Times. 
  20. ^ Jeremy Kay (15 October 2008). "Colin Callender leaves HBO Films after 21 years at the company". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  21. ^ Steve Barnett (9 January 2008). "The most influential Britons in America: 30-21". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Ben Fritz and Meg James (21 February 2012). "Comcast and Netflix escalate fight for viewers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Nellie Andreeva (4 September 2012). "Starz Picks Up ‘White Queen’ Drama Series, Colin Callender To EP In 2-Year Starz Deal". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  24. ^
  26. ^ Terry McDonell (21 November 2012). "Why We Talk About Sports". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b
  30. ^ Associated Press (28 June 2012). "Producer remains 'committed' to bringing Nora Ephron's 'Lucky Guy' to Broadway". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  31. ^ "LUCKY GUY Recoups; Becomes Highest Grossing Play in Broadway History". Broadway World. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ Jeremy Gerard (May 30, 2014). "Ex-HBO Film Chief Colin Callender Plays Tony Poker With `Hedwig’ `Casa Valentina’, `Harry Potter’". Deadline. Retrieved June 30, 2015. 
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ "No. 56963". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2003. p. 25. 
  39. ^ Gary Susman (16 June 2003). "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  40. ^ "No. 61450". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2015. p. N2. 

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