Rob Cohen

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This article is about the film director. For other people with the same name, see Robert Cohen.
Rob Cohen
US Navy 040618-N-6817C-090 Director Rob Cohen visits with Commanding Officer, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Capt. Kendall L. Card, on the bridge after the completion of filming, the upcoming motion picture Stealth (cropped).JPG
Cohen on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in 2004
Born (1949-03-12) March 12, 1949 (age 67)
Cornwall, New York, United States
Alma mater Harvard University
Occupation Film director, producer, actor, screenwriter
Years active 1975–present

Rob Cohen (born March 12, 1949) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter.

Cohen began his career as a producer, before concentrating full-time on directing from the 1990s, with action films such as XXX and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. He is the creator of The Fast and the Furious film franchise.

Early life[edit]

Cohen was born in Cornwall, New York. He attended Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude in the class of ’71,[1] concentrating in a cross major between anthropology and visual studies,. His first endeavor in filmmaking was a commissioned recruiting film for Harvard's Admissions Office in 1970, which became his senior thesis.

Upon graduation, Cohen immediately headed to Los Angeles to work as a screenwriter for Martin Jurow but soon found himself unemployed when the producer moved out of state.

After a six-month stint as a kennel boy at the Harvey Animal Hospital in West Hollywood to make ends meet, Cohen landed a job as a reader for then-agent Mike Medavoy. Six weeks into his tenure at International Famous Agency (now part of ICM), he distinguished himself by discovering an unheralded script he found in a slush pile of neglected screenplays. Recognizing its quality, commerciality and uniqueness, Cohen wrote in his coverage that it was "the great American screenplay and this will make an award-winning, major-cast, major-director film"[1]. He championed the piece relentlessly, with his own job at stake, as Medavoy said that he would try to sell it on that recommendation, but promising to fire Cohen if he could not. Universal bought it that afternoon for a record price, and it became the Academy Award winning movie, The Sting (1973). Cohen still keeps the coverage framed on the wall of his office, as this gave him his first identity in Hollywood: "the kid who found "The Sting"’[2]

Film career[edit]


With a career in film and television spanning more than 40 years, Cohen has distinguished him self as a celebrated screenwriter, producer and director. In 1973, 20th Century Fox Television hired Cohen as ‘Head of Current Programming’ helping out with, among other shows, the first year of the epic hit, M*A*S*H. Eager to push Fox into ‘long form’, Cohen cold called the head of ABC and introduced himself as ‘the head of television movies at Fox’. Barry Diller gave him a meeting where he sold two TV films on the spot, properties he had found in the voluminous books of Fox's unproduced properties. A week later, he duplicated the feat at CBS under Philip Barry. Fox president, William Edwin Self, was not happy that a junior employee had garnered these commitments without permission but grudgingly gave Cohen the title Vice President of TV Movies.[3]

Diller recommended Cohen to his friend impresario, songwriter, producer and record label founder Berry Gordy who was looking to bring his company Motown into the film business. He and Gordy connected in a deep and exciting way and he was hired to be the Executive Vice President and head of Motown's motion picture division.[4]

Cohen went to work and developed the first Motown movie from his own idea about the burgeoning phenomenon of African American Super Models he felt was perfect for Motown star Diana Ross. He sold the package to Paramount and in 1974, the cameras rolled on Mahogany in Chicago and Rome. At the same time, he developed a unique film from the Bill Brashler novel The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) starring Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor. To direct, he hired a then unknown TV director John Badham to make his feature debut, a critical hit set in the1930s Negro National League (1920–31) (Twenty years later, he and Badham would partner again to make a number of successful films at Universal Studios).

Departing Motown in 1978, Cohen went on to produce and direct films and television series, including Miami Vice, Light of Day,[5] The Witches of Eastwick, Ironweed, and The Wiz.


From 1990 onwards, Cohen moved into directing full-time. Much success followed with early 90's films such as Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Dragonheart, Daylight and the Golden Globe award winning film The Rat Pack.

At 52, Cohen had become an action director, directing the 2001 film, The Fast and The Furious.

The film was a hit, opening with $40 million its first weekend,[6] starring relative unknowns Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

With the success of The Fast and the Furious, Cohen partnered up with Vin Diesel again the following year to direct, XXX.

In 2008, he directed the third installment of The Mummy, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, grossing $405 million world-wide,[7] and Blumhouse Production's The Boy Next Door starring Jennifer Lopez.

Cohen is also a director of commercials, housed at Original Film, having made over 150 television commercials for products such Disney's Star Wars, Verizon, Ford, GM, Mercedes, Chevy, Saab and Burger King among many others.

Personal life[edit]

Rob Cohen is the father of four children, Kyle, 29, by his third wife and his triplets, Zoe, Sean and Jasi, 8, by his fourth wife, Barbara. An avid surfer, Cohen has homes in Bali, Indonesia, and Malibu, California. Cohen lives with his partner Roma Taylor, a documentary producer.[citation needed]


As director[edit]

As producer[edit]

As writer[edit]


External links[edit]