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 52)[1]
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1994–present
Notable work
Alexandra Dickson
(m. 2005)

James Gray (born April 14, 1969) is an American film director and screenwriter. Since his feature debut Little Odessa in 1994, he has made six other features, four of which competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Early life[edit]

Gray was born in New York City and grew up in the neighborhood of Flushing.[3] He is of Ukrainian-Jewish descent,[4][5][6][7] with grandparents from Ostropol, Western Ukraine.[8] 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.[9]



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.[10] The film won the Silver Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival.[11]


In 2000, Miramax released his second film, The Yards, a crime drama shot in 1998.[12] His third film, We Own the Night, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg, played in competition at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival in May,[13] receiving widely divergent reviews from international critics. We Own the Night was released theatrically in the US on October 12, 2007.[14]


His 2013 film The Immigrant was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[15] He wrote the screenplay for Guillaume Canet's 2013 film Blood Ties with Canet.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

Gray first confirmed his plans to write and direct sci-fi space epic Ad Astra on May 12 during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.[19] The film was released in September 2019.


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 Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Donald Sutherland, Cate Blanchett and Oscar Isaac confirmed to be cast in roles.[20][21] The film began filming in October 2021.

Personal life[edit]

Gray married Alexandra Dickson in 2005. The couple have three children.[22]



Year Title Director Producer Writer Distributor
1994 Little Odessa Yes No Yes Fine Line Features
2000 The Yards Yes No Yes Buena Vista Pictures
2007 We Own the Night Yes No Yes Columbia Pictures/Universal Pictures
2008 Two Lovers Yes Yes Yes Magnolia Pictures
2013 The Immigrant Yes Yes Yes The Weinstein Company
2016 The Lost City of Z Yes Yes Yes Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street
2019 Ad Astra Yes Yes Yes 20th Century Fox
TBA Armageddon Time Yes Yes Yes Focus Features


Year Title Director Producer Writer Notes
2014 The Red Road Yes No No Episode: "Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream"


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


  1. ^ Tatiana Siegel (20 May 2007). "Dialogue: James Gray". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  2. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (5 November 2013). "James Gray, Nicolas Winding Refn & More Giving Masterclasses At 2013 Marrakech International Film Festival". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  3. ^ Hirschon, Nicholas (December 23, 2011). "James Gray's Films Explore Underdog Living in Qns." Daily News (New York, New York). p. p. 35.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Jeng, Jonah (April 20, 2017). "Of Immigrants and the City: A James Gray Retrospective". Paste Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Applebaum, Stephen (March 27, 2017). "James Gray: Exploring the dark and personal". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  8. ^ "James Gray Interview For 'The Immigrant'". Flicks and Bits. 23 May 2013. Archived from the original on 19 June 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  9. ^ Transcript of Online Conference with Little Odessa Writer/Director James Gray, Fine Line Features, 1995, Accessed 11 May 2008.
  10. ^ James, Caryn (19 May 1995). "Little Odessa (1994) – Film Review; Russian Emigre Family With a Son in the Mob". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Anastasia, George; Macnow, Glen, eds. (2011). The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies. Running Press. pp. 293, 294.
  12. ^ The Yards (200) - Filming & Production - IMDb
  13. ^ "Festival de Cannes: We Own the Night". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  14. ^ We Own the Night (2007) - IMDb
  15. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. 20 April 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  16. ^ Halligan, Fionnuala (20 May 2013). "Blood Ties – Reviews". Screen International.
  17. ^ "Warner Bros. Lines Up Director James Gray For Boston Mafia Crime Drama White Devil". Boston Magazine. 21 August 2013.
  18. ^ "The Lost City of Z" Resuscitates Cinema's Classic Adventure Tale|The New Yorker
  19. ^ Lang, Brent (12 May 2016). "Cannes: James Gray Making Sci-Fi Epic 'Ad Astra'". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  20. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (2020-06-16). "Robert De Niro, Oscar Isaac, Donald Sutherland & Anne Hathaway Join Cate Blanchett In James Gray's 'Armageddon Time:' Hot Virtual Cannes Package". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  21. ^ Sharf, Zack (2020-06-16). "James Gray Unveils 'Ad Astra' Follow-Up Starring Blanchett, Isaac, De Niro, and Hathaway". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  22. ^ "Cannes: James Gray on 'The Immigrant,' Marion Cotillard and Returning to the Fest (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013.

External links[edit]