Jonathan Sanger

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Jonathan Sanger
Born (1944-04-21) April 21, 1944 (age 76)
CitizenshipUnited States
OccupationFilm Director, Producer, Media Consultant
Years active1971–present
Notable work
The Elephant Man, Vanilla Sky, Flight of the Navigator, Ray's Male Heterosexual Dance Hall, Frances
Spouse(s)Carla Sanger
ChildrenDavid Sanger and Christopher Sanger

Jonathan Sanger (born April 21, 1944, in Brooklyn, New York City) is an American film, television, and theater producer and director.

Early life and career[edit]

Sanger spent much of his early childhood traveling with his family around Central and South America. Sanger's interest in theater stemmed from his undergraduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was Chairman of the Board of The Pennsylvania Players, and President of the Performing Arts Council. At the graduate level, Sanger attended the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, studying documentary and biography based filmmaking. After graduating, Sanger joined the Peace Corps in a special program with an emphasis on television and film production. Sanger was assigned to help create an Educational Television station in Montevideo, Uruguay. He later transferred to Bogotá, Colombia, to make films for ICODES, the Colombian Institute of Social Development. After his Peace Corps term was completed, Sanger worked on documentary films in Ecuador, Chile and Mexico for NBC's International Zone. Soon after, he became Associate Editor for Americás, a cultural magazine published by The Organization of American States, where he wrote and translated articles. Sanger was contracted by the Encyclopædia Britannica to write the article on Bogotá, Colombia for Britannica 3.[1][2][3]


In 1971, Sanger was accepted as a member of the Directors Guild of America Training Program, and worked on several films shot in New York City, among which were Across 110th Street, Harry and Tonto and Next Stop, Greenwich Village. Moving to Los Angeles in 1976, Sanger worked for Lorimar Television on the network Television series The Blue Knight and Eight Is Enough. In 1978, he was Mel Brooks' Assistant Director on High Anxiety, which led to a long professional association. For Brooks' wife, Anne Bancroft's feature directorial debut Fatso, Sanger served as Associate Producer. During this period, Sanger had acquired the rights to the script of The Elephant Man.[4] Sanger bought the script to Brooks' newly created independent production company, and The Elephant Man was chosen as the company's first project; it was Sanger's debut feature film producing credit. It received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and was awarded the BAFTA Award for Best Film in 1980 and the French César Award for Best Foreign Film.[5][6][7]

Film producing[edit]

Sanger has produced over fifty films, shorts and documentaries, including the 1982 film Frances,[8][9][10] a biography starring Jessica Lange, Kim Stanley and Sam Shepard. Sanger joined Cruise/Wagner Productions (Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's production company) in 1996. He executive produced Without Limits,[11] Suspect Zero and Vanilla Sky[12][13] as well as supervising production on Mission: Impossible 2[14] as well as all the Cruise/Wagner Productions over his six years with that company. Other films produced by Sanger include Flight of the Navigator [15] for Walt Disney Productions, The Doctor and the Devils for Twentieth Century Fox, The Producers,[16] 100 Feet, and Paraíso Travel[17][18][19][20]

Directing career[edit]

Among Sanger's directing credits are: Code Name: Emerald,[21] a World War II spy drama; Down Came a Blackbird[22][23] a television film for Showtime Networks, nominated for three CableACE Awards; and several movies-of-the-week for NBC, CBS and ABC. In addition to writing numerous episodic television shows, Sanger also wrote and directed the short film Peacemaker, with Lukas Haas, for PBS' American Playhouse, which was awarded the Best Short Subject at the Houston International Film Festival.[24][25]

Chanticleer Films[edit]

In the late 1980s Sanger partnered with fellow producer Jana Sue Memel to create Chanticleer Films as an umbrella company for The Discovery Program. The mission statement of this company was to create an opportunity for film professionals (writers, editors, actors, sound mixers, cinematographers, etc.) to direct a 35mm feature-quality short film. Hundreds of professionals applied for the five directing spots available annually. In the eight years of Sanger's involvement, over forty five films were made; ten were nominated for an Academy Award, and three won. The first film produced by Sanger for the program, Ray's Male Heterosexual Dance Hall, won the Academy Award for Best Short Film in 1988.[26][27][28]

The Academy Film Archive houses the Chanticleer Films Discovery and Directed by Shorts Collection, consisting of 35mm prints and elements for more than sixty short films.[29]


In 2008, Sanger produced his first musical, the true story of Florence Greenberg, pioneer rock and roll record producer, entitled Baby It's You.[30] The musical started as a workshop production in a West Hollywood theater before moving to the Pasadena Playhouse. Warner Brothers Theatrical Ventures and Universal Music Group became producing partners, and the show made its Broadway debut in March 2010. Sanger has several other musicals in development and also directed his first play, the dystopian drama, The Birthday Present - 2050 in 2010.[20][31]


All films, he was producer unless otherwise noted.


Year Film Notes
1979 A Force of One Associate producer
1980 Fatso Associate producer
The Elephant Man
1982 Frances
1985 Code Name: Emerald Co-producer
The Doctor and the Devils
1986 Flight of the Navigator Executive producer
1988 The Jogger
1990 Heart of the Deal Executive producer
1991 Without a Pass Executive producer
1993 House of Cards Co-producer
1994 Sherwood's Travels
1998 Without Limits Executive producer
2001 Vanilla Sky Executive producer
2004 Suspect Zero Executive producer
2005 The Producers
2008 Paraiso Travel Executive producer
100 Feet
2013 Altered Minds Executive producer
2017 Chapter & Verse
As director
Year Film Notes
1985 Code Name: Emerald
1989 Peacemaker Short film
Second unit director or assistant director
Year Film Notes
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Second assistant director
One Summer Love Second assistant director
Hawmps! Second assistant director
1977 Thieves Second assistant director
Nasty Habits Assistant director
High Anxiety Assistant director
1978 Movie Movie Assistant director
1980 Below the Belt Assistant director
1998 Without Limits Second unit director
2001 Vanilla Sky Second unit director
Production manager
Year Film Notes
1978 Movie Movie Unit production manager
The Brink's Job Production manager
1979 A Force of One Associate producer
1980 Fatso Unit production manager
2000 Mission: Impossible 2 Executive in charge of production
2008 100 Feet Unit production manager
As writer
Year Film Notes Credit
1989 Peacemaker Short film Screenplay
Miscellaneous crew
Year Film Notes
2001 The Others Production consultant
Year Film Notes
2007 Americanizing Shelley Grateful acknowledgment


Year Title Notes
1989 Teach 109 Television short
Executive producer
Open Window Television short
Executive producer
1990 The Showtime 30-Minute Movie Executive producer
1991 American Playhouse Executive producer
The Letters from Moab Television short
Executive producer
1992 The Washing Machine Man Television short
Executive producer
Fifteenth Phase of the Moon Television short
Executive producer
Another Round Television short
Executive producer
1993 The Last Shot Television short
Executive producer
Lush Life Television film
The Great O'Grady Television short
Night Driving Television short
Executive producer
1994 Missing Parents Television short
Executive producer
18 Minutes in Albuquerque Television short
Executive producer
1995 Take Out the Beast Television short
Executive producer
1996 Mr. & Mrs. Smith Co-executive producer
1998 Grandpa's Funeral Television short
Executive producer
2015 The wHOLE Executive producer
As director
Year Title Notes
1986 L.A. Law Episode: "Sidney, the Dead-Nosed Reindeer"
1988 Hothouse Episodes:
"His Mother"
"Love and Taxes"
1989−90 Wiseguy Episodes:
"People Do It All the Time"
"Hello Buckwheat"
1990 Children of the Bride Television film
The Flash Episode: "Sins of the Father"
Broken Badges Episode: "Strawberry"
1991 Twin Peaks Episode: "Variations and Relations"
American Playhouse Episode: "Triple Play II"
Segment: "Peacemaker"
The Commish Episode: "Behind the Storm Door"
Chance of a Lifetime Television film
1992 Obsessed Television film
Just My Imagination Television film
On the Air Episode: "Episode #1.4"
1993 The Secrets of Lake Success Episode: "A Family Affair"
1994 seaQuest DSV Episode: "The Stinger"
1995 Down Came a Blackbird Television film
The Marshal Episodes:
"Land of Opportunity"
"Kissing Cousins"
1996 Mr. & Mrs. Smith Episode: "The Bob Episode"
Production manager
Year Title Notes
1977 Eight Is Enough Unit production manager
1993 12:01 Television film
Unit production manager

Other achievements[edit]

In addition to twenty Academy Award nominations and three wins, Sanger has won a Christopher Award, a BAFTA ( BAFTA Award for Best Film ), a César Award, Scholastic Magazine's Bell Ringer Award, and a Cine Golden Eagle Award CINE. Sanger was named Filmmaker-in-Residence at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film And Media Arts during the Spring semester of 2010, and was made Adjunct Professor in 2011, teaching a course in Creative Producing. He has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1981, and a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) since 1971, serving on its National Board. His other professional organizations include The Producers Guild of America (PGA), The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA). In 2016, McFarland & Co. Inc. published Sanger's new book, Making The Elephant Man: A Producer's Memoir.


Sanger is married to Carla Sanger, and has two sons: David and Christopher Sanger. He has two grandsons, Harrison and Miles Sanger and two grand daughters, Zada and Liliana.


  1. ^ Binstine, Brabra. "Interview of Jonathan Sanger with President Uribe of Colombia". CARAS Magazine, September 2006, p.92-94.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. Bogota, Colombia. Encyclopædia Britannica, Macropedia Volume 2, 1978, p. 1183-1184 .
  3. ^ George Godwin, Kenneth. Jonathan Sanger. Cagey Films December 10, 1981, p. 39.
  4. ^ Kuhn,Joy. The Elephant Man – The Book of the Film. Virgin Books, 1980, p. 22.
  5. ^ Kael, Pauline. "Elephant Man". New Yorker, October 27, 1980, p. 178.
  6. ^ Summers,Jimmy. "Elephant Man". Box Office, October 1980, cover story.
  7. ^ Academy Awards. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  8. ^ Kilday, Gregg "Frances". L.A. Herald Examiner, December 2, 1982, cover story.
  9. ^ Benson, Shiela. "Frances". L.A. Times Calendar, December 3, 1982, cover story.
  10. ^ Pollack, Dale. "Frances". L.A. Times Calendar, December 3, 1982, p. 21.
  11. ^ Greg, Kilday. "Without Limits". The Hollywood Reporter, March 16, 1998, p. 14.
  12. ^ Turan, Kenneth. "Vanilla Sky". L.A. Times, December 14, 2001, p. 32.
  13. ^ Todd, McCarthy. "Vanilla Sky". Variety, December 9, 2001, p. 10.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Sternbergh, Adam. "The Producers Movie". New York Magazine, December 2005, pp. 45, 51.
  17. ^ Singer, Michael. Film Directors – A Complete Guide. Lone Eagle Publishing Company, August 1992, p. 331.
  18. ^ Padgett, Tim. An Honest Look at Illegal Immigration. Time Entertainment, 2008
  19. ^ Wallenstein, Joe. Practical Moviemaking, A Hand Book For The Real World. McFarland & Company Publishing, October 25, 2012, pp. 177–178.
  20. ^ a b Cassell, A.R. "Producer Jonathan Sanger Directs The Birthday Present 2050". LA Stage, March 18, 2011.
  21. ^ IMDb [1] IMDb'. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
  22. ^ Scott, Tony. "Down Came A Blackbird". Variety, October 15, 1995, p. 6.
  23. ^ Frink, Jon-Stephen. Cluck! The True Story of Chickens in the Cinema. Virgin Books, October 15, 1981, pp. 60, 128–130.
  24. ^ "American Playhouse Peacemaker". Daily Variety, October 1989, p. 27.
  25. ^ Singer, Michael. Film Directors – A Complete Guide. Lone Eagle Publishing, November 11, 1990, p. 331.
  26. ^ Lieberman,Jane. Chanticleer Films, Discovery Program . L.A.Times , Jan,1,1988 ,p.28.
  27. ^ Wilson,John M. Chanticleer Films, Discovery Program . L.A.Times , Jan,6,1991 ,p.33.
  28. ^ Singer,Michael. Film Directors - A Complete Guide. Lone Eagle Publishing Company , August,1992 ,p.331.
  29. ^ "Chanticleer Films Discovery and Directed by Shorts Collection". Academy Film Archive.
  30. '^ Cox,Gordon. Sanger and Sica say 'It's You. Variety, Oct,20,2010,p.12.
  31. ^ L.A.Weekly Theater Critics. The Birthday Present 2050. L.A.Weekly, Mar, 2011 ,p.21.
  • Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners (2012). [2] (Film production). Los Angeles, USA: Academy Awards. External link in |title= (help)
  • Academy Awards (1988) Nominees and Winners (2012). [3] (Film production). Los Angeles, USA: Academy Awards. External link in |title= (help)
  • Loynd, Ray (Special to the Times) (2012). [4] (Print/Web). Los Angeles, USA: Los Angeles Times. External link in |title= (help)
  • Tim Padgett, Time Entertainment (2012). [5] (Web/Print). USA: Time. External link in |title= (help)
  • Cassell, A.R (Writer) (March 18, 2011). [6] (Film production). Los Angeles, USA: Los Angeles Times. External link in |title= (help)
  • Adam Sternbergh (December 12, 2005). [7] (Web/Print). USA: New York Magazine. External link in |title= (help)

loynd, Ray. "'Imagination' an Irresistible Love Story". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 July 2012.

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