J. J. Abrams
J. J. Abrams
Jeffrey Jacob Abrams
June 27, 1966
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Education||Palisades Charter High School|
|Alma mater||Sarah Lawrence College|
|Children||3; including Gracie|
|Parent(s)||Gerald W. Abrams|
Carol Ann Kelvin
Jeffrey Jacob Abrams (born June 27, 1966) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and composer. He is best known for his works in the genres of action, drama, and science fiction. Abrams wrote and produced such films as Regarding Henry (1991), Forever Young (1992), Armageddon (1998), Cloverfield (2008), Star Trek (2009), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
Abrams has created numerous television series, including Felicity (co-creator, 1998–2002), Alias (creator, 2001–2006), Lost (co-creator, 2004–2010), and Fringe (co-creator, 2008–2013). He won two Emmy Awards for Lost – Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series.
His directorial film work includes Mission: Impossible III (2006), Star Trek (2009), Super 8 (2011), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). He also directed, produced and co-wrote The Force Awakens, the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga and the first film of the sequel trilogy. The film is his highest-grossing, as well as the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time not adjusted for inflation. He returned to Star Wars by executive producing The Last Jedi (2017), and directing and co-writing The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
Abrams's frequent collaborators include producer Bryan Burk, producer/director Tommy Gormley, actors Greg Grunberg, Simon Pegg, Amanda Foreman, and Keri Russell, composer Michael Giacchino, writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, cinematographers Daniel Mindel and Larry Fong, and editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey.
Abrams was born to Jewish parents and raised in New York City and in Los Angeles. He is the son of television producer Gerald W. Abrams (born 1939) and executive producer Carol Ann Abrams (née Kelvin; 1942–2012). His sister is screenwriter Tracy Rosen. He attended Palisades High School. After graduating from high school, Abrams planned on going to art school rather than a traditional college, but eventually enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College, following his father's advice: "it's more important that you go off and learn what to make movies about than how to make movies."
Abrams' first job in the movie business was at age 16 when he wrote the music for Don Dohler's 1982 horror movie Nightbeast. During his senior year at college, he teamed with Jill Mazursky to write a feature film treatment. Purchased by Touchstone Pictures, the treatment was the basis for Taking Care of Business, Abrams' first produced film, which starred Charles Grodin and James Belushi. He followed with Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford, and Forever Young, starring Mel Gibson. He also co-wrote with Mazursky the script for the comedy Gone Fishin' starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover.
In 1994, he was part of the "Propellerheads" with Rob Letterman, Loren Soman, and Andy Waisler, a group of Sarah Lawrence alums experimenting with computer animation technology. They were contracted by Jeffrey Katzenberg to develop animation for the film Shrek. Abrams worked on the screenplay for the 1998 film Armageddon with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay. That same year, he made his first foray into television with Felicity, which ran for four seasons on The WB Network, serving as the series' co-creator (with Matt Reeves) and executive producer. He also composed its opening theme music.
Under his production company, Bad Robot, which he founded with Bryan Burk in 2001, Abrams created and executive-produced ABC's Alias and is co-creator (along with Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber) and was executive producer of Lost. As with Felicity, Abrams also composed the opening theme music for Alias and Lost. Abrams directed and wrote the two-part pilot for Lost and remained active producer for the first half of the season. Also in 2001, Abrams co-wrote and produced the horror-thriller Joy Ride. In 2006, he served as executive producer of What About Brian and Six Degrees, also on ABC. He also co-wrote the teleplay for Lost's third-season premiere "A Tale of Two Cities" and the same year, he made his feature directorial debut with Mission: Impossible III, starring Tom Cruise. Abrams spoke at the TED conference in 2007.
In 2008, Abrams produced the monster movie Cloverfield, which Matt Reeves directed. In 2009, he directed the science fiction film Star Trek, which he produced with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. While it was speculated that they would be writing and producing an adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series of novels, they publicly stated in November 2009 that they were no longer looking to take on that project. In 2008, Abrams co-created, executive produced, and co-wrote (along with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) the FOX science fiction series Fringe, for which he also composed the theme music. He was featured in the 2009 MTV Movie Awards 1980s-style digital short "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions", with Andy Samberg and Will Ferrell, in which he plays a keyboard solo. NBC picked up Abrams's Undercovers as its first new drama series for the 2010–11 season. However, it was subsequently cancelled by the network in November 2010.
Abrams wrote and directed the Paramount science fiction thriller Super 8, starring Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning, while co-producing with Steven Spielberg and Bryan Burk; it was released on June 10, 2011.
Abrams directed the sequel to Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, released in May 2013. The film was interpreted as a loose remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Critics generally reacted positively to the film, while Nicholas Meyer, the director of The Wrath of Khan, called it a "gimmick". Abrams was criticized for the film's treatment of classic villain Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch). Many felt that much of the character, originally played by Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban, had been lost, especially his ethnic identity.[a] Two years after the film's release, Abrams said of the film, "there were certain things I was unsure of. ... Any movie ... has a fundamental conversation happening during it. And [for Into Darkness,] I didn't have it... [The weakness of the plot] was not anyone's fault but mine. ... [The script] was a little bit of a collection of scenes that were written by my friends ... And yet, I found myself frustrated by my choices, and unable to hang my hat on an undeniable thread of the main story. So then I found myself on that movie basically tap-dancing as well as I could to try and make the sequences as entertaining as possible. ... I would never say that I don't think that the movie ended up working. But I feel like it didn't work as well as it could have, had I made some better decisions before we started shooting."
On January 25, 2013, The Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm officially announced Abrams as director and producer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh entry in the Star Wars film saga. It was also announced that Bryan Burk and Bad Robot Productions would produce the feature. Following the news that he would direct The Force Awakens, speculation arose as to Abrams's future with Paramount Pictures, under which he had released all of his previous feature work as a director, and which had a first-look deal with his company, Bad Robot Productions. Paramount vice-chairman Rob Moore stated that Abrams would continue to have a hand in the Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises going forward.
Abrams directed, produced, and co-wrote the screenplay for The Force Awakens, which opened in theaters on December 18, 2015, and grossed over $2 billion at the box office, making Abrams the first director of a $2 billion movie since James Cameron. Despite its strong box office performance and positive reviews, the film was considered by some, including Star Wars creator George Lucas, to be too similar to the original 1977 film. In 2016, Abrams responded towards these complaints, stating: "What was important for me was introducing brand new characters using relationships that were embracing the history that we know to tell a story that is new — to go backwards to go forwards".[b] In 2021 Lucas ex-wife Marcia Lucas, whom earned an Oscar for her editing of the 1977 original film and edited the other Original Trilogy films, was highly negative towards Abrams Abrams by stating he ¨did not have a clue about the franchise¨, and calling his storyline "terrible".
Abrams returned as producer for Star Trek Beyond, released in 2016. And also produced The Cloverfield Paradox, a sequel to 10 Cloverfield Lane. It was released on Netflix in February 2018. Also on 2018, Abrams produced Overlord, a horror film set behind German enemy lines in World War II and directed by Julius Avery. Abrams also produced the fourth, fifth, and sixth Mission: Impossible films.
In September 2017, it was announced by Lucasfilm's president, Kathleen Kennedy, that Abrams would be returning to direct and co-write Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with Chris Terrio. The film was released in December 2019; it received mixed reviews from critics and fans, while audience reactions leaned more positively. The film was criticized for revealing the lack of a plan connecting the sequel trilogy (most notably walking back choices made by The Last Jedi) and containing a number of plot holes, especially regarding Palpatine's return and his relationship to Rey. Forbes criticized the attempts at fixing the film by explaining things that should had been explained on the film through tie-ins or interviews by the writers. Star Wars: Duel of the Fates was the original script draft of the third film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, written by director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, without J.J. Abrams, nor Chris Terrio´s input whose plot was reworked into what became Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, directed by J. J. Abrams in 2019. The day the script leaked, Yahoo noted a number of Twitter users expressed that they would have preferred to see Trevorrow's Duel of the Fates over The Rise of Skywalker, which was written by J. J. Abrams and Chris Terrio. Many plot points were borrowed from the unmade script. Before the draft was revealed as real, Esquire described it as too good to be fan-fiction, calling the script "worldclass", and in contrast criticized The Rise of Skywalker as cowardly for not killing any main character, other than Palpatine, "the old man that was already dead". Nerdist notes that Rey remained a no one, as compared to making her a Palpatine, which completely undermined the meaning of The Last Jedi. Forbes and some other websites perceived Trevorrow's unmade script as more closely aligned with the themes of the previous films of the saga, mainly The Last Jedi, and some also perceived it as giving more to do to characters played by people of color like Finn and Rose Tico. John Boyega concurred with this, stating that the released film by Terrio and Abrams denied him of the "big hero moment" that the unmade film intended for his character, for instance when he leads an army into battle against the First Order holding a Rebellion flag, which was developed as concept art. Finn was also going to convince stormtroopers to deflect the First Order and lead them into battle against it. The concept art of Finn's speech while holding the flag, as well as dialogue from the unmade film, were shared on social media and compared very positively and paralleling a speech given by Boyega during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
Some websites criticized The Rise of Skywalker for its treatment of characters of color and women, particularly Rose Tico (who barely appears in the film), Poe Dameron, and Finn. Eliana Dokterman, writing for Time magazine, called the film and its retcons "problematic", perceiving Abrams' choices as having been made to appease the complaints leveled by a toxic contingent of online fandom angered by The Last Jedi, in particular online trolls who harassed Johnson, Boyega, Ridley, and several cast members, most notably Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose. Chris Terrio stated that Tran's reduced screen time was caused by the difficulty of including archival footage of the deceased Carrie Fisher in scenes featuring both characters. Poe's new backstory as a smuggler was criticized as being racist towards Latinos, as Dameron is portrayed by Guatemalan-born actor Oscar Isaac.
In September 2020, John Boyega also criticized the filmed version of The Rise of Skywalker for sidelining characters played by people of color, including him, Tran, Isaac, and Ackie. In November 2020, Boyega revealed that the controversy surrounding the diminished roles of the characters played by people of color in The Rise of Skywalker led him to have a "very honest conversation" with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, who supported his claims. Boyega also said he would like to see Duel of the Fates adapted into a television series, particularly an animated one. Some sources have suggested that aspects of the script could be incorporated into other future Star Wars media.
In 2008, it was reported that Abrams purchased the rights to a New York Times article "Mystery on Fifth Avenue" about the renovation of an 8.5 million dollar co-op, a division of property originally owned by E. F. Hutton & Co. and Marjorie Merriweather Post, for six figures and was developing a film titled Mystery on Fifth Avenue, with Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot Productions, and comedy writers Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky to write the adaptation. According to the article, a wealthy couple Steven B. Klinsky and Maureen Sherry purchased the apartment in 2003 and live there with their four children. Soon after purchasing the apartment, they hired young architectural designer Eric Clough, who devised an elaborately clever "scavenger hunt" built into the apartment that involved dozens of historical figures, a fictional book and a soundtrack, woven throughout the apartment in puzzles, riddles, secret panels, compartments, and hidden codes, without the couple's knowledge. The family didn't discover the embedded mystery until months after moving into the apartment. After Abrams purchased the article, Clough left him an encrypted message in the wall tiles of a Christian Louboutin shoe store he designed in West Hollywood.
In July 2016, Abrams reported that a fourth alternate universe Star Trek installment was in the works and that he is confident that Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Chris Hemsworth will return for the sequel.
In May 2018, Abrams and Avery had reunited to produce and direct, respectively, a superhero thriller film titled The Heavy, with a script written by Daniel Casey. Paramount and Bad Robot plan to begin filming sometime in 2018.
In September 2019, Abrams and his Bad Robot Productions company signed a $250 million five-year deal with WarnerMedia, including HBO and Warner Bros. Pictures. In April 2020, it was announced that Abrams would be developing three new shows for HBO Max: Justice League Dark, Overlook, and Duster. The A.V. Club was mixed about involving Abrams on projects based on DC comics, like an upcoming Batman cartoon, due to how he the fans Star Wars and Star Trek fans felt mixed about his previous work.
In 1989, Abrams met Steven Spielberg at a film festival, where Spielberg spoke about a possible Who Framed Roger Rabbit sequel, with Abrams as a possible writer and with Robert Zemeckis as producer. Nothing came up from this project, although Abrams has some storyboards for a Roger Rabbit short.
In July 2002, Abrams wrote a script for a possible fifth Superman film entitled Superman: Flyby. Brett Ratner and McG entered into talks to direct, although Abrams tried to get the chance to direct his own script. However, the project was finally cancelled in 2004 and instead Superman Returns was released in 2006.
In November 2009, it was reported that Abrams and Bad Robot Productions were producing, along with Cartoon Network Movies, Warner Bros., Frederator Films and Paramount Pictures, a film adaptation of Samurai Jack. However, in June 2012, series creator Genndy Tartakovsky stated that the production of the film was scrapped after Abrams' departure from the project to direct Star Trek. For this and other reasons, Tartakovsky decided to make a new season instead of a feature film. Also in 2009, it was reported that Abrams and Bad Robot Productions would produce a film based on the Micronauts toy line. However, a film has never gone into production.
Star Wars: Duel of the Fates was the original script draft of the third film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, written by director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, without J.J. Abrams, nor Chris Terrio´s input. Although Abrams was going to produce. The plot was reworked into what became Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, directed by J. J. Abrams in 2019.
Books and comics
In 2019, Abrams made his debut as a writer for Marvel Comics, co-authoring the company's title Spider-Man from September of that year with his son Henry. The first issue of the comic includes the death of Mary-Jane Watson, and a twelve-year time shift, with the series' protagonist being Ben Parker, son of Peter Parker and Mary Jane.
Abrams is married to public relations executive Katie McGrath and has three children. His daughter, Gracie Abrams, is a pop singer-songwriter. He resides in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California. He is Jewish and his wife is Roman Catholic, and he sometimes takes his children to religious services on Jewish holidays.
|1990||Taking Care of Business||No||No||Yes||Co-writer with Jill Mazursky|
|1997||Gone Fishin'||No||No||Yes||Co-writer with Jill Mazursky|
|1998||Armageddon||No||No||Yes||Co-screenwriter with Jonathan Hensleigh|
|2001||Joy Ride||No||Yes||Yes||Co-writer with Clay Tarver|
|2006||Mission: Impossible III||Yes||No||Yes||Directorial debut; co-writer with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci|
|2013||Star Trek Into Darkness||Yes||Yes||No|
|2015||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-writer with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt|
|2019||Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-writer with Chris Terrio, based on the original Star Wars: Duel of the Fates script draft written by director Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly whom were also credited as writers.|
|1991||Regarding Henry||Delivery Boy|
|1993||Six Degrees of Separation||Doug|
|1996||Diabolique||Video Photographer #2|
|1999||The Suburbans||Rock Journalist|
|2015||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||Vocal cameo|
|2017||The Disaster Artist||Himself|
|2019||Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker||D-O (voice)|
|1982||Nightbeast||Composer / Sound effects composer|
|2006||Mission: Impossible III||Digital artist|
|2019||Love, Antosha||Documentary film; appears as himself|
|1998–2002||Felicity||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Director (2 episodes) / Writer (17 episodes)|
|2001–06||Alias||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Director (3 episodes) / Writer (13 episodes)|
|2004–10||Lost||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Director (2 episodes) / Writer (3 episodes)|
|2006||Jimmy Kimmel Live!||Yes||No||No||No||No||Episode: "4.269"|
|2007||The Office||Yes||No||No||No||No||Episode: "Cocktails"|
|2008–13||Fringe||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Writer (6 episodes)|
|2010||Undercovers||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Director (1 episode) / Writer (3 episodes)|
|2011–16||Person of Interest||No||Yes||No||No||Yes|
Executive producer only
- What About Brian (2006–07)
- Six Degrees (2006–07)
- Believe (2014)
- 11.22.63 (2016) (Miniseries)
- Roadies (2016)
- Westworld (2016–present)
- Castle Rock (2018–19)
- Little Voice (2020)
- Lovecraft Country (2020)
- Challenger: The Final Flight (2020)
- Lisey's Story (2021) (Miniseries)
- My Glory Was I Had Such Friends (TBA) (Miniseries)
- Overlook (TBA)
- Justice League Dark (TBA)
|2012||Family Guy||Himself||Voice; Episode: "Ratings Guy"|
|2017||Nightcap||Episode: "The Show Might Go on, Part 2"|
|Tour de Pharmacy||Television film|
|2021||The Simpsons||Episode: "Do Pizza Bots Dream of Electric Guitars"|
|2017||The Play That Goes Wrong||No||No||Yes||Broadway version|
Awards and nominations
|1999||Razzie Award||Worst Screenplay||Armageddon||Nominated|
|2002||Emmy Award||Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series||Alias||Nominated|
|2004||PGA Award||Best Drama||Nominated|
|2005||ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards||Top TV Series||Lost||Won|
|Directors Guild of America||Best Director||Nominated|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series – Pilot||Won|
|Outstanding Drama Series||Won|
|Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series – Pilot||Nominated|
|2006||ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards||Top TV Series||Won|
|PGA Award||Best Drama||Won|
|Writers Guild of America||Dramatic Series||Won|
|2007||Saturn Award||Best Director||Mission: Impossible III||Nominated|
|BAFTA Award||Best International||Lost||Nominated|
|PGA Award||Best Drama||Nominated|
|Writers Guild of America||Dramatic Series||Nominated|
|2008||Emmy Award||Outstanding Drama Series||Nominated|
|Writers Guild of America||Long Form||Fringe||Nominated|
|Scream Awards||Best Director||Star Trek||Won|
|2010||Saturn Award||Best Director||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||Best Director||Nominated|
|PGA Award||Theatrical Motion Picture||Nominated|
|SFX Awards||Best Director||Won|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form||Nominated|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Drama Series||Lost||Nominated|
|2011||Scream Award||Best Director||Super 8||Nominated|
|BAM Awards||Best Director||Nominated|
|2012||Saturn Award||Best Director||Won|
|SFX Awards||Best Director||Nominated|
|2013||PGA Award||Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television||Won|
|2014||Saturn Award||Best Director||Star Trek Into Darkness||Nominated|
|2016||Star Wars: The Force Awakens||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||Best Director||Won|
|Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film||Won|
|Critics' Choice Movie Awards||Best Picture||Nominated|
|Jupiter Awards||Best International Film||Won|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form||Nominated|
- Khan is an explicitly non-white character in the Star Trek canon, introduced as a Sikh and former ruler of much of eastern Eurasia.
- In 2017, Abrams said he would not do more remakes or reboots, to instead focus on his own creations, saying: "You know, I do think that if you're telling a story that is not moving anything forward, not introducing anything that's relevant, that's not creating a new mythology or an extension of it, then a complete remake of something feels like a mistake."
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