Ron Underwood

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Ron Underwood
Underwood in 2006
Ronald Brian Underwood

(1953-11-06) November 6, 1953 (age 70)
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
Occupation(s)Film and television director
Years active1980–present
SpouseSandy Underwood
ChildrenLarissa, Lana, Lauren

Ronald Brian Underwood (born November 6, 1953) is an American film and television director, known for directing such films as Tremors (1990), City Slickers (1991), Heart and Souls (1993), and Mighty Joe Young (1998).

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 while her mother, Ms. Danner, was shooting. Soon after Underwood served as the location manager on the Peter Hyams directed motion picture, Capricorn One (1978). Another early job was acting as 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 and children's television for the next several years. In 1986 Underwood established himself as a director when his live action/stop motion film adaptation of Beverly Cleary's 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 moved into directing feature films. His first effort was Tremors[1] starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, 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 Maddock & 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 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) based on the Anne Tyler novel which garnered star Blythe Danner a nomination for an Emmy, and In the Mix (2005), starring R&B singer Usher, Chazz Palminteri and Emmanuelle Chriqui for Lions Gate Entertainment. He has directed many episodic television dramas, including episodes of Monk, Boston Legal, Ugly Betty, Heroes, Grey's Anatomy, Burn Notice, Once Upon a Time, Desperate Housewives, Nashville, Scandal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Good Fight, Fear the Walking Dead, Evil and Big Shot.




Other credits

Year Title Notes
1976 Futureworld Production assistant
1978 Capricorn One Location manager
1979 Tourist Trap First assistant director
1986 Crawlspace Associate producer
1996 Tremors 2: Aftershocks Executive producer


TV movies[edit]

TV series[edit]

Year Title Episode(s)
1986 ABC Weekend Special
  • "The Mouse and the Motorcycle"
  • "Runaway Ralph"
2003 Monk
  • "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater"
  • "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico"
2004 Boston Legal
  • "Change of Course"
  • "The Ass Fat Jungle"
2007 Reaper
  • "Magic"
  • "My Brothers's Reaper"
  • "Dirty Sexy Mongol"
2008 The Secret Life of the American Teenager
  • "Falling in Love"
  • "What Have You Done to Me?"
  • "I Feel Sick"
Ugly Betty
Eli Stone
  • "Owner of a Lonely Heart"
  • "One More Try"
2009 Make It or Break It
  • "Where's Kaylie?"
Drop Dead Diva
  • "The 'F' Word"
  • "Dead Model Walking"
2010 Heroes
Happy Town
  • "Questions and Antlers"
No Ordinary Family
  • "No Ordinary Vigilante"
  • "Worried Baby Blues"
  • "Finish What We Started"
  • "Song of the North"
  • "Love and Rockets"
  • "Mincemeat"
2011 Necessary Roughness
  • "Anchor Management"
Harry's Law
  • "American Girl"
  • "The Whole Truth"
2011–2013 Castle
  • "Food to Die For"
  • "Scared to Death"
2012 Burn Notice
  • "Means and Ends"
Desperate Housewives
  • "What's the Good of Being Good"
2012–2018 Once Upon a Time
2012–2013 Scandal
  • "Hunting Season"
  • "Snake in the Garden"
2012–2015 Grey's Anatomy
  • "Suddenly"
  • "The Girl With No Name"
  • "Things We Said Today"
  • "You Got To Hide Your Love Away"
  • "All I Could Do Is Cry"
2013 The Glades
  • "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves"
  • "Fast Ball"
2014–2015 Nashville
  • "We've Got Things To Do"
  • "Unguarded Moments"
2014 Resurrection
  • "Us Against the World"
  • "Multiple"
2014–2016 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2016 Quantico
  • "Drive"
Dead of Summer
  • "Barney Rubble Eyes"
  • "Taking on Water: How Leaks in D.C. Are Discovered and Patched"
No Tomorrow
  • "No Regrets"
2016–2019 Hawaii Five-0
  • "Ka hale ho 'okauweli"
  • "He kaha lu'u ke ala, mai kolo aku"
  • "A'ohe kio pohaku nalo i ke alo pali"
  • "Ka la 'au kumu 'ole o Kahilikolo"
2017–2018 The Good Fight
  • "Stoppable: Requiem for an Airdate"
  • "Day 429"
  • "Day 485"
2017 Kevin (Probably) Saves the World
  • "Dave"
2018–2019 MacGyver
  • "Mac + Jack"
  • "Fence + Suitcase + Americium-241"
2018–2019 Magnum P.I.
  • "The Ties That Bind"
  • "Lie, Cheat, Steal, Kill"
2019–2023 Fear the Walking Dead
  • "210 Words Per Minute"
  • "The Key"
  • "Cindy Hawkins"
  • "Sonny Boy"
  • "Odessa"
2019 Grand Hotel
  • "Smokeshow"
  • "177 Minutes"
2021-2022 Big Shot
  • "TCKS"
  • "Carlsbad Crazies"
  • "Everything to Me"
  • "BOYS!"
2021 Evil
  • "C Is for Cop"
2022 Tales of the Walking Dead
  • "Evie / Joe"
La Brea
  • "The Fog"
2024 La Brea
  • "Sierra"
  • "Don't Look Up"

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]