Ron Underwood

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Ron Underwood
Ronald Brian Underwood

(1953-11-06) November 6, 1953 (age 67)
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, producer and television director
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Sandy Underwood
ChildrenLarissa, Lana, Lauren

Ronald Brian Underwood (born November 6, 1953) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer and television director.

Early life[edit]

Underwood was born November 6, 1953, in Glendale, California. In school he lived in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, as an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student. After graduating from high school, he briefly attended Occidental College as a pre-med student, but transferred to the USC School of Cinema (now USC School of Cinematic Arts) after deciding to become a filmmaker. Underwood majored in cinema with a minor in anthropology.

Film career[edit]

Early career (1976–1989)[edit]

Upon completion of his fellowship at the American Film Institute, Underwood began working as a staff director for Barr films, a company specializing in the production of educational films. Underwood directed over one hundred short films, including an adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut short story, "Deer in the Works", starring Dennis Dugan. While directing and producing short films for the educational market, Underwood pursued work in the motion picture industry. One of the first movies Underwood worked on was Futureworld (1976) as a production assistant. The film starred Blythe Danner and Peter Fonda, actors he would later direct in 2004. During the filming of Futureworld, one of his tasks was to babysit a young Gwyneth Paltrow. Soon after Underwood served as the location manager on the Peter Hyams directed motion picture, Capricorn One (1978). Another early job was acting as an assistant director to first-time director David Schmoeller on Tourist Trap, a low-budget horror film. After this he continued to direct and produce educational films for the next seven years. In 1986 Underwood established himself as a director when his animated special The Mouse and the Motorcycle won a Peabody Award, which was followed two years later by the sequel Runaway Ralph, for which he received a Daytime Emmy nomination.

Mainstream breakthrough (1990–present)[edit]

Following his critically acclaimed venture into television, Underwood decided to have a go at directing feature films. His first effort was Tremors[1] starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire in her acting debut. Written and produced by his friends Brent Maddock & S. S. Wilson, it was released by Universal Studios in 1990. The film was well received by the critics and later established itself as a cult classic.

Underwood received his first taste of commercial success with 1991's City Slickers, which starred Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Jack Palance, who won an Academy Award for his performance. The film made $179m worldwide with a budget of only $27m. It was the tenth most successful film released in 1991 (the fifth most successful in the US). His next film, also written by Brent Maddock & S. S. Wilson, Heart and Souls (1993), was again well-received by critics but struggled at the box office (making a total of $16m in the US). It starred Robert Downey, Jr., Alfre Woodard, Kyra Sedgwick, Charles Grodin, Tom Sizemore, Elisabeth Shue and David Paymer. He followed this with Speechless (1994), written by Robert King and starring Michael Keaton and Geena Davis.

Given the opportunity to direct a big-budget film by Walt Disney Pictures in 1998, he was asked to direct Mighty Joe Young, a remake of the 1949 RKO film. The film, starring Charlize Theron in her first lead role, was nominated for the Academy Award for Visual Effects and featured some of the most sophisticated special effects seen in film up to that point, paving the way for later ape films like Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005). The special effects drove production costs to around $90m.

Following Mighty Joe Young, Underwood began work on Eddie Murphy fronted The Adventures of Pluto Nash. The film also starred Rosario Dawson and was filmed in Montreal, Canada. Unfortunately for Underwood, the film was greeted with universally poor reception, and proved a box-office failure.

Underwood has returned to his roots, directing both low-budget films and television. He directed Stealing Sinatra (2003) for Showtime, for which William H. Macy received an Emmy nomination, Back When We Were Grownups (2004) for the Hallmark Hall of Fame which garnered star Blythe Danner nominations for the Golden Globe and the Emmy, and In the Mix (2005), starring R&B singer Usher, Chazz Palminteri and Emmanuelle Chriqui for Lions Gate Entertainment. He directed several holiday themed movies for television: The Year Without a Santa Claus, Holiday in Handcuffs, and Santa Baby. He has directed a number of episodic television dramas, including episodes of Monk, Boston Legal, Reaper, Ugly Betty, Heroes, Grey's Anatomy, Burn Notice, Once Upon a Time, Desperate Housewives, Nashville, Scandal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Quantico, The Good Fight, Fear the Walking Dead and Evil.


Film director
Year Film Notes
1980 Deer in the Works Also producer
Short Film based on the story by Kurt Vonnegut in "Welcome to the Monkey House"
1990 Tremors Also writer (Story)
Spawned six sequels and a Syfy network TV series
1991 City Slickers Won Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Won Best Supporting Actor, Nominated for Best Motion Picture, Best Actor Comedy/Musical 1992 Golden Globe Awards
1993 Heart and Souls Won Best Actor, Nominated for Best Director, Best Fantasy Film, Best Writing, Best Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress 1994 Saturn Awards
1994 Speechless Nominated Best Actress Comedy/Musical 1995 Golden Globe Awards
1998 Mighty Joe Young Remake of a 1949 film of the same name, Nominated for Best Visual Effects 1999 Oscar
2002 The Adventures of Pluto Nash Razzie Award nomination for Worst Director
2003 Stealing Sinatra Nominated Supporting Actor 2004 Emmy William H. Macy
2005 In the Mix
Other film credits
Year Film Notes
1976 Futureworld Production assistant
1978 Capricorn One Location manager
1979 Tourist Trap First assistant director
1986 Crawlspace Associate producer
Television director
Year Film Notes
1986 ABC Weekend Specials Episodes The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Peabody Award, 1986) and Runaway Ralph (Daytime Emmy Nomination, Special Class Directing, 1989)
2003 Monk Episodes "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater" and "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico"
2004 Back When We Were Grownups Nominated Best Actress 2005 Emmy Blythe Danner
Boston Legal Episodes "Change of Course" and "The Ass Fat Jungle"
2006 Santa Baby TV movie
The Year Without A Santa Claus Live-action Remake, TV movie (DGA Nomination for Outstanding Children's Programs, 2007)
2007 Holiday in Handcuffs TV movie
Reaper Episodes "Magic", "My Brothers's Reaper", and "Dirty Sexy Mongol"
2008 The Secret Life of the American Teenager Episodes "Falling in Love", "What Have You Done to Me?" and "I Feel Sick"
Ugly Betty Episodes "Ugly Berry" and "Zero Worship"
Eli Stone Episodes "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "One More Try"
2009 Make It or Break It Episode "Where's Kaylie?"
Drop Dead Diva Episodes "The 'F' Word" and "Dead Model Walking"
Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe TV movie
2010 Heroes Episode "Chapter Twelve: 'Upon This Rock'"
Happy Town Episode "Questions and Antlers"
No Ordinary Family Episode "No Ordinary Vigilante"
Hellcats Episodes "Worried Baby Blues" and "Finish What We Started"
Chaos Episodes "Song of the North" and "Love and Rockets" and "Mincemeat"
2011 Necessary Roughness Episodes "Anchor Management"
Castle Episode "Food to Die For"
Harry's Law Episodes "American Girl" and "The Whole Truth"
Deck the Halls TV movie
2012 Grey's Anatomy Episodes "Suddenly" and "The Girl With No Name"
Burn Notice Episode "Means and Ends"
Desperate Housewives Episode "What's the Good of Being Good"
Scandal Episode "Hunting Season"
Once Upon a Time Episodes "Red-Handed" and "Into The Deep"
2013 Castle Episode "Scared to Death"
Once Upon a Time Episodes "Lost Girl" and "The New Neverland"
The Glades Episodes "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Fast Ball"
Scandal Episode "Snake in the Garden"
2014 Grey's Anatomy Episodes "Things We Said Today" and "You Got To Hide Your Love Away"
Nashville Episode "We've Got Things To Do"
Resurrection Episodes "Us Against the World" and "Multiple"
Once Upon a Time Episode "Snow Drifts" and "White Out"
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode "A Fractured House"
2015 Grey's Anatomy Episode "All I Could Do Is Cry"
Once Upon a Time Episodes "Best Laid Plans" and "Mother" and "The Dark Swan"
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode "Devils You Know"
Nashville Episode "Unguarded Moments"
2016 Once Upon a Time Episodes "Firebird" and "A Bitter Draught" and "Wish You Were Here"
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode "Bouncing Back"
Quantico Episode "Drive"
Dead of Summer Episode "Barney Rubble Eyes"
BrainDead Episode "Taking on Water: How Leaks in D.C. Are Discovered and Patched"
Hawaii Five-0 Episode "Ka hale ho 'okauweli"
No Tomorrow Episode "No Regrets"
2017 Once Upon a Time Episodes "Ill-Boding Patterns" and "The Song in Your Heart" and "The Garden of Forking Paths"
The Good Fight Episode "Stoppable: Requiem for an Airdate"
Hawaii Five-0 Episode "He kaha lu'u ke ala, mai kolo aku"
Kevin (Probably) Saves the World Episode "Dave"
2018 MacGyver Episode "Mac + Jack"
Once Upon a Time Episodes "Breadcrumbs" and "Is This Henry Mills?"
The Good Fight Episodes "Day 429" and "Day 485"
Hawaii Five-0 Episode "A'ohe kio pohaku nalo i ke alo pali"
Magnum P.I. Episode "The Ties That Bind"
2019 MacGyver Episode "Fence + Suitcase + Americium-241"
Grand Hotel Episode "Smokeshow"
Fear the Walking Dead Episode "210 Words Per Minute"
Evil Episode "177 Minutes"
Magnum P.I. Episode "Lie, Cheat, Steal, Kill"
Hawaii Five-0 Episode "Ka la 'au kumu 'ole o Kahilikolo"
2020 Fear the Walking Dead Episode "The Key"

Awards and nominations[edit]

Peabody Award:

  • 1986 Peabody Award ("ABC Weekend Specials", "The Mouse and the Motorcycle")

Daytime Emmy Awards:

  • 1987: Special Class Directing (ABC Weekend Specials, "Runaway Ralph" nominated)

Saturn Award:

  • 1994: Best Director (Heart and Souls, nominated)

Golden Raspberry Awards:

  • 2003: Worst Director (The Adventures of Pluto Nash, nominated)

Directors Guild of America Award:

  • 2007: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs (The Year Without a Santa Claus, nominated)


  1. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (September 15, 2011). Horror Films of the 1990s. McFarland. pp. 134–. ISBN 9780786440122. Retrieved May 7, 2012.

External links[edit]