James Gray (director)

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James Gray
MJK34332 James Gray (The Lost City Of Z, Berlinale 2017).jpg
Born (1969-04-14) April 14, 1969 (age 53)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUSC School of Cinematic Arts
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter
Years active1994–present
Alexandra Dickson
(m. 2005)

James Gray (born April 14, 1969)[1] is an American film director and screenwriter. Since his feature debut Little Odessa in 1994, he has made seven other features including We Own the Night (2007), Two Lovers (2008), The Immigrant (2013), The Lost City of Z (2016), Ad Astra (2019), and Armageddon Time (2022). Five of his films have competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Early life[edit]

Gray was born in New York City and grew up in the neighborhood of Flushing.[3][4] He is of Russian Jewish descent,[5][6][7][8] with grandparents from Ostropol, Western Ukraine, which at that time was a part of the USSR.[9] The original family name was "Grayevsky" or "Greyzerstein."[10] His father was once an electronics contractor. Gray attended the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where his student film, Cowboys and Angels, helped him get an agent and the attention of producer Paul Webster, who encouraged him to write a script which he could produce.[11][12]



In 1994, at age 25, Gray made his first feature film Little Odessa, a film starring Tim Roth about a hit man confronted by his younger brother upon returning to his hometown, "Little Odessa," a section of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.[13] The film won the Silver Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival.[14]


In 2000, Miramax released his second film, The Yards, a crime drama shot in 1998.[15] His third film, We Own the Night, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg, played in competition at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival in May,[16] receiving widely divergent reviews from international critics. We Own the Night was released theatrically in the US on October 12, 2007.[17]


His 2013 film The Immigrant was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[18] Earlier that year, Gray co-wrote the screenplay for Guillaume Canet's 2013 film Blood Ties with Canet.[19] In 2015, Gray directed a television commercial for Chanel men's fragrance, Bleu de Chanel, starring Gaspard Ulliel.[20] It was filmed in Los Angeles and released on February 5, 2015.[21]

In October 2016, Gray's film The Lost City of Z premiered at the New York Film Festival. The film, based on the book by David Grann, depicts the life of explorer Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam.[22] At the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Gray announced plans to direct the sci-fi space epic Ad Astra.[23] Brad Pitt signed on to star in April 2017 and the rest of the cast joined later that year. Ad Astra premiered at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019 and was theatrically released in the United States on September 20, 2019 by 20th Century Fox.[24]


On June 17, 2020, it was officially confirmed that his next film, titled Armageddon Time, would be a coming-of-age drama story of loyalty and friendship against the historical backdrop of Ronald Reagan's presidential election loosely based on Gray's childhood memories, with Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong cast in the film.[25] The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2022 and was released in the United States on October 28, 2022 by Focus Features.

Unrealized and upcoming projects[edit]

In January 2011, it was reported that Gray would be directing a film adaptation of Mark Greaney's novel The Gray Man written by Adam Cozad. The project was first set up at New Regency.[26] Brad Pitt was initially cast to star, but by October 2015 he and Gray were no longer involved with the film.

In August 2013, it was announced that Warner Bros tapped Gray to write and direct White Devil, a film based on the life of John Willis.[27]

In April 2018, MGM closed a deal for Gray to direct I Am Pilgrim, an adaptation of the espionage novel trilogy by Terry Hayes.[28]

In April 2022, Gray announced plans to develop a series about Norman Mailer based on J. Michael Lennon's biography Norman Mailer: A Double Life.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Gray married Alexandra Dickson in 2005. The couple have three children.[30]


As director[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1991 Cowboys and Angels Yes No No Student short film, unconfirmed release[31]
1994 Little Odessa Yes Yes No
2000 The Yards Yes Yes No Co-written with Matt Reeves
2007 We Own the Night Yes Yes No
2008 Two Lovers Yes Yes Yes Co-written with Richard Menello
2013 The Immigrant Yes Yes Yes
2016 The Lost City of Z Yes Yes Yes Based on the book by David Grann
2019 Ad Astra Yes Yes Yes Co-written with Ethan Gross
2022 Armageddon Time Yes Yes Yes

Other film work[edit]

Year Title Writer Executive
2013 Blood Ties Yes Yes Co-written with Guillaume Canet
2016 Swift Current No Yes Documentary film


Year Title Episode
2014 The Red Road "Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream" (S1 E1)


Year Award Category Title Result
2000 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or The Yards Nominated
2007 We Own the Night Nominated
2008 Two Lovers Nominated
2013 The Immigrant Nominated
2022 Armageddon Time Nominated
2008 César Awards Best Foreign Film We Own the Night Nominated
2009 Two Lovers Nominated
1996 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Little Odessa Nominated
Best First Screenplay Nominated
2010 Best Director Two Lovers Nominated
1994 Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Little Odessa Nominated
Silver Lion Won
2019 Golden Lion Ad Astra Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tatiana Siegel (May 20, 2007). "Dialogue: James Gray". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  2. ^ CANNES 2000: Embracing Indiewood, Cannes 2000 Lineup Selected from Nearly 1,400 Films; 15 Countries|IndieWire
  3. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (November 5, 2013). "James Gray, Nicolas Winding Refn & More Giving Masterclasses At 2013 Marrakech International Film Festival". IndieWire. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  4. ^ Hirschon, Nicholas (December 23, 2011). "James Gray's Films Explore Underdog Living in Qns." Daily News (New York, New York). p. p. 35.
  5. ^ Kilday, Gregg (May 21, 2013). "Cannes: James Gray on 'The Immigrant,' Marion Cotillard and Returning to the Fest (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (October 17, 2016). "Director James Gray goes on his own search while creating 'The Lost City of Z'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2018. And he is. He's also a grade-A kibitzer, a gregarious character, whose chatty and self-effacing wit bespeaks his Queens upbringing and Eastern European-Jewish heritage.
  7. ^ Jeng, Jonah (April 20, 2017). "Of Immigrants and the City: A James Gray Retrospective". Paste Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  8. ^ Applebaum, Stephen (March 27, 2017). "James Gray: Exploring the dark and personal". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "James Gray Interview For 'The Immigrant'". Flicks and Bits. May 23, 2013. Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  10. ^ "James Gray's New York of underdogs and dreamers". Le Monde.fr. May 19, 2022.
  11. ^ Transcript of Online Conference with Little Odessa Writer/Director James Gray, Fine Line Features, 1995, Accessed May 11, 2008.
  12. ^ Hanson, Peter (June 28, 2010). The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study of Films and Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8078-4.
  13. ^ James, Caryn (May 19, 1995). "Little Odessa (1994) – Film Review; Russian Emigre Family With a Son in the Mob". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Anastasia, George; Macnow, Glen, eds. (2011). The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies. Running Press. pp. 293, 294.
  15. ^ The Yards (200) - Filming & Production - IMDb
  16. ^ "Festival de Cannes: We Own the Night". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  17. ^ We Own the Night (2007) - IMDb
  18. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. April 20, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  19. ^ Halligan, Fionnuala (May 20, 2013). "Blood Ties – Reviews". Screen International.
  20. ^ "James Gray directs the latest Chanel Bleu campaign". Fashion Network. February 2, 2015.
  21. ^ "Gaspard Ulliel in a vertigo in the new Bleu De Chanel film". Vogue India. February 5, 2015.
  22. ^ "The Lost City of Z" Resuscitates Cinema's Classic Adventure Tale|The New Yorker
  23. ^ Lang, Brent (May 12, 2016). "Cannes: James Gray Making Sci-Fi Epic 'Ad Astra'". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  24. ^ Pallotta, Frank (September 20, 2019). "'Ad Astra' could be the hit that 20th Century Fox desperately needs". CNN. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  25. ^ "Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong Join 'Armageddon Time'". October 12, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  26. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr (January 14, 2011). "James Gray To Direct 'The Gray Man'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  27. ^ "Warner Bros. Lines Up Director James Gray For Boston Mafia Crime Drama White Devil". Boston Magazine. August 21, 2013.
  28. ^ "James Gray To Direct MGM's 'I Am Pilgrim' Spy Franchise From Terry Hayes Novel". Deadline. April 16, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  29. ^ "James Gray To Write & Direct Drama Series About Norman Mailer". Deadline. April 4, 2022. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  30. ^ "Cannes: James Gray on 'The Immigrant,' Marion Cotillard and Returning to the Fest (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. May 21, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  31. ^ Hanson, Peter (June 28, 2010). The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study of Films and Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8078-4.

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