J. J. Abrams
J. J. Abrams
Abrams at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con
Jeffrey Jacob Abrams
June 27, 1966
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Education||Palisades Charter High School|
|Alma mater||Sarah Lawrence College|
|Home town||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Parent(s)||Gerald W. Abrams|
Carol Ann Kelvin
Jeffrey Jacob Abrams (born June 27, 1966) is an American filmmaker. He is known for his work in the genres of action, drama, and science fiction. Abrams wrote or 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 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 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 and raised in New York City and raised 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.
He 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.
—Nicholas Meyer the director/writer of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and writer Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Revealed in 2018 that he had been disappointed with the lack of originality in the second Abrams’s Star Trek film, Into Darkness. As well as by how, it heavily borrowed lines and plot elements from II: The Wrath of Khan (which Meyer, originally did).
—George Takei, who originated the role of Hikaru Sulu on the Star Trek series and films, and whom appered along the character Khan in his two original apperances. Expressed dissapointment on the re-casting of classic villian Khan Noonien Singh, resulting in whitewashing.
Abrams directed the sequel to Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, released in May 2013. The film was a loose remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Regardless of critics reacting positively to the film, Nicholas Meyer, the director of the original Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, from which Into Darkness borrowed lines and plot elements, revealed in 2018 that he had been disappointed with Abrams’s film, calling it a "gimick", perceiving it did nothing that the original movie, hadn´t done before. Additionally, some Star Trek legacy actors criticized Abrams role as a producer, due to the film´s poor treatment of classic villian Khan Noonien Singh, declaring much of the character originally played by mexican actor Ricardo Montalban had been lost, specially his ethnic identity. While the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch was well received, Christian Blauvelt of Hollywood.com said the character had been "whitewashed into oblivion", since Khan is an explicitly non-white character in the Star Trek canon (introduced as a Sikh and former ruler of much of eastern Eurasia). There have been similar accusations of whitewashing by fans and American Sikhs.
George Takei, whom played the original Hikaru Sulu (of whom a re-casted version is a main character in the Abrams films), was also disappointed with the casting, expressing he thought it would have been better to make a new character. Takei´s Hulu appeared along Montalban´s Khan in his original television and film appearances. Star Trek: Voyager actor Garrett Wang, also expressed disappointment, tweeting "The casting of Cumberbatch was a mistake on the part of the producers (of whom Abrams was one). I am not being critical of the actor or his talent, just the casting". On Trekmovie.com, co-producer and co-screenwriter Bob Orci addressed Khan's casting: "Basically, as we went through the casting process and we began honing in on the themes of the movie, it became uncomfortable for me to support demonizing anyone of color, particularly any one of Middle Eastern descent or anyone evoking that. One of the points of the movie is that we must be careful about the villain within US, not some other race". An in-canon comic book has subsequently been created to retcon Khan's hitherto unexplained change in ethnicity in the film. In an interview with Buzzfeed two years after the film's release, Abrams apologized publicly for the plot and shortcomings of the film. Stating he shouldn´t had keept the identity of Khan a secret prior to the film's release, Abrams stated he felt he "was trying to preserve the fun for the audience, and not just tell them something that the characters don’t learn for 45 minutes into the movie, so the audience wouldn’t be so ahead of it." In the end, Abrams recognized that "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 problems with the plot] was not anyone’s fault but mine, or, frankly, anyone’s problem 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." He also apologized, stating the dynamic for Kirk and Spock's relationship "wasn’t really clear."
—George Lucas, creator of Star Wars who directed the original Oscar nominated 1977 film, and the three prequels. In an interview with journalist Charlie Rose that aired on December 24, 2015, Lucas expressed disappointment on how Abrams´ sequel Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, heavily borrowed elements from the original Star Wars movie (which Lucas himself, wrote/directed). Lucas likened his decision to sell Lucasfilm to Disney to a "divorce" and outlined the creative differences between him and the producers of The Force Awakens. Lucas described the previous Star Wars films as his "children" and criticized the "retro feel". Sad about this, Lucas also likened Disney to "white slavers", which drew some criticism; he subsequently apologized.
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, which is a rival saga to Star Trek for which Abrams previously directed. Disney/Lucasfilm 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, with whom he had released all of his previously directed feature work, and which had a first-look deal with his Bad Robot Productions. Paramount vice-chairman Rob Moore stated that Abrams will 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, working alongside Lawrence Kasdan (whom co-wrote original trilogy sequels Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, along franchise creator George Lucas), after original co-writer Michael Arndt departed (but still contributed enough to retain credit as co-writer). Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in theaters on December 18, 2015. It grossed over $2 billion at the box office, making him the first director of a $2 billion movie since James Cameron. Despite its strong box-office performance and positive reviews from critics, the film was considered by some, including Star Wars creator George Lucas, to be too similar to the original 1977 film. Lucas felt the film relied too much on "retro" nostalgia to his films and too little on creating merits of its own. In a 2019 memoir, Disney president Bob Iger further said that Lucas felt "betrayed" after learning that Abrams, Kennedy, and Iger were not using his ideas for the sequel trilogy.
In 2016, Abrams responded towards complaints that The Force Awakens was too derivative of previous films,[a] Abrams defended his choices, 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] Abrams however, did apologized for how he handled Chewbacca and Leia's meeting after Han Solo's death, noting that Han Solo's best friend and widow ignore each other, with Leia instead hugging Rey (whom Leia is meeting for the first time). That year, the 2016, the Disney-produced Star Wars anthology film Rogue One, with whom Abrams had no involvement, was reported to have been liked by Lucas, more than The Force Awakens. Regardless of this, Abrams remained involved with the franchise, serving as a producer for direct sequel to The Force Awakens, titled The Last Jedi. Leaving writing and directing duties to Rian Johnson, the film was described by Lucas as "beautifully made", which was widely interpreted as Lucas, also liking it more than Abrams´ The Force Awakens.
Abrams also returned as producer for the sequel of the rival franchise 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 remained involved in the Mission: Impossible films, producing the fourth and fifth, and the 2018 released sixth film Mission: Impossible – Fallout (produced alongside Tom Cruise, Don Granger, David Ellison, and Dana Goldberg). The fourth film were written and directed by Brad Bird, while the firth and sixth by Christopher McQuarrie. The three Abrams produced sequels, were better received on Rotten Tomatoes, than the Abrams´s directed Mission: Impossible III.
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. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film became the worst reviewed live-action film in the series, at the time it released.  Scott Mendelson´s review for Forbes described the film as "possibly worse than any prior Star Wars 'episode'. It ends a legendary franchise with a thud while denying this new trilogy its artistic reason for existence." He said that "the 142-minute movie spends almost its entire running time retconning its predecessor (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and adding painfully conventional 'plot twists' and patronizing reversals in the name of mollifying the fans who merely want to be reminded of the first three movies." George Lucas didn´t attended the film´s premiere, which many interpreted as a symbolic absence, as well as the perception of Lucas and Disney agreeing, that Lucas opinion would likely harm the film´s reception.
Additionally, the film was criticized for decreasing diversity by reducing the screen-time of asian actress Kelly Marie Tran, whose character Rose Tico, played a main role in the previous film The Last Jedi. In the previous film, she had around ten minutes of screen-time, while in The Rise of Skywalker, she was reduced to one minute. Some fans and critics, interpreted it as a concession towards fans who committed online harassment towards the actress, forcing her to quit social media,  due to them constantly criticizing her asian ethnicity, body-shaming her, and supposedly disliking her character; from the previous film. As well as a concession towards the fans who committed online harassment towards Sequel trilogy actress Daisy Ridley, whom played main character Rey, for similar reasons, as well as her criticizing the american policies of gun control. With website Polygon, stating the film also validates them on owning guns, because the heroes win due to Lando raising an army of gun owners from thin air. Contrasting how Abrams depiction of Luke as a Jedi, backtracks from Lucas and Rian Johnson´s (Buddhist-religion inspired) depiction of Luke as a pacifist Jedi master, having an inner conflict towards using a lightsaber, due to perceiving it as a weapon of destruction. By making Luke pick the saber he heroically threw at the previous films, to give Rey a speech about the importance of holding on to weapons, which contradicting Luke´s character arc from all previous films. Screenwriter Chris Terrio said Tran had reduced screen-time because of the difficulty of including the late Carrie Fisher in scenes planned to feature both characters.
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.
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.
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. 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|
|Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol||No||Yes||No|
|2013||Star Trek Into Darkness||Yes||Yes||No|
|2014||Infinitely Polar Bear||No||Executive||No|
|2015||Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation||No||Yes||No|
|Star Wars: The Force Awakens||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-writer with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt|
|2016||10 Cloverfield Lane||No||Yes||No|
|Star Trek Beyond||No||Yes||No|
|2017||Star Wars: The Last Jedi||No||Executive||No|
|2018||The Cloverfield Paradox||No||Yes||No|
|Mission: Impossible – Fallout||No||Yes||No|
|2019||Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker||Yes||Yes||Yes||Co-writer with Chris Terrio|
|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)|
|2006–07||What About Brian||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|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|
|My Glory Was I Had Such Friends||No||Yes||No||No||No||Miniseries|
|Justice League Dark||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|2012||Family Guy||Himself||Voice; Episode: "Ratings Guy"|
|2017||Nightcap||Episode: "The Show Might Go on, Part 2"|
|Tour de Pharmacy||Television film|
|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|
- Cite error: The named reference
trekwas invoked but never defined (see the help page).
- 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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