Stephen Schiff

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Stephen Schiff
Detroit, Michigan, United States
ResidenceNew York City, New York
Home townLittleton, Colorado
AwardsWriters Guild of America Richard B. Jablow Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist

Stephen Schiff is an American screenwriter and journalist. He is best known for his work at The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, his screenplays for Lolita, True Crime, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and his work as a writer and producer on the FX television series The Americans.

Early life[edit]

Schiff grew up in Littleton, Colorado.[1] He graduated from Wesleyan University.[2]


Schiff began his writing career at The Boston Phoenix, where he became the chief film critic and film editor (succeeding David Denby),[3] and hired and trained such critics as Owen Gleiberman and David Edelstein.

In 1983, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism.[4][5] Later that year, he was named Critic-at-Large of Vanity Fair, a post he held until 1992, when he became a staff writer at The New Yorker, specializing in cultural profiles, many of which appeared under his rubric, “Cultural Pursuits.”[6] His subjects included Steven Spielberg, V.S. Naipaul, Stephen Sondheim, Oliver Stone, Muriel Spark, and Edward Gorey.[7]

From 1987 until 1996, Schiff was also the Film Critic of National Public Radio's Fresh Air.[8] He served three terms as chairman of the National Society of Film Critics,[9][10] and spent two seasons as a Correspondent on CBS-TV's prime-time newsmagazine West 57th, whose other Correspondents included Steve Kroft and Meredith Vieira.[11]

In 1995, Schiff was asked to write a screenplay adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, by the prospective film’s then-producer, Richard Zanuck. It was Schiff’s first screenplay, and the controversial film that was made from it, directed by Adrian Lyne, was released in 1998.[12] In her New York Times review, critic Caryn James called "Stephen Schiff's discerning, faithful screenplay [...] sensitive to Nabokov's wit as well as his lyricism."[13] Schiff became a full-time screenwriter,[14] leaving The New Yorker in 2003. His subsequent films include The Deep End of the Ocean (1999), starring Michelle Pfeiffer,[15] and True Crime (1999), directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He worked the screenplay for Unfaithful (2002), starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere, and Leatherheads (2008), directed by and starring George Clooney, without receiving a credit for it.[16]

Schiff's more recent film work includes the screenplay for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Oliver Stone's sequel to the 1987 film Wall Street.[17]

Schiff is a writer and co-executive producer of the FX television series The Americans,[18] starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. He is also the writer and executive producer of the extreme sports documentary series Ultimate Rush.[19]

Schiff served four terms on the governing Council of the Writers Guild of America East. He also served as the Writers Guild’s National Chairman and twice headed the East’s negotiating committee. In 2002, he was given the Guild’s Richard B. Jablow Award.[20] Since 2005, he has served as chairman of the Board of the Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition, which publishes Parabola magazine. He recently contributed the critical essay on Nabokov's Lolita to Harvard University Press's landmark scholarly compendium A New Literary History of America, which was published in September, 2009.[21]

In December 2009, Henry Holt and Company announced that it would publish Schiff's forthcoming biography of Norman Mailer.[22]



  • Bruccoli, Matthew Joseph; Baughman, Judith; le Carre, John, Conversations With John Le Carre (Literary Conversations Series), Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, pp. 93–106, ISBN 1-57806-669-7
  • Gorey, Edward; Wilkin, Karen (2001), Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey: Interviews, San Diego, California: Harcourt, pp. 136–157, ISBN 0-15-100504-4
  • Huffhines, Kathy Schulz (1991), Foreign affairs: the National Society of Film Critics' video guide to foreign films, San Francisco: Mercury House, ISBN 1-56279-016-1
  • Jameson, Richard T. (1994), They went thataway: redefining film genres: a National Society of Film Critics video guide, San Francisco: Mercury House, ISBN 1-56279-055-2
  • Jussawalla, Feroza F. (1997), Conversations with V. S. Naipaul, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, pp. 135–153, ISBN 0-87805-946-6
  • Keough, Peter; Society of Film Critics, National (1995), Flesh and blood: the National Society of Film Critics on sex, violence, and censorship, San Francisco: Mercury House, ISBN 1-56279-076-5CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Lupack, Barbara Tepa (1998), Critical essays on Jerzy Kosinski, New York: G.K. Hall, pp. 221–235, ISBN 0-7838-0073-8
  • Rainer, Peter (1992), Love and hisses: the National Society of Film Critics sound off on the hottest movie controversies, San Francisco: Mercury House, ISBN 1-56279-031-5
  • Schiff, Stephen (1998), Lolita: The Book of the Film, Milwaukee: Applause Books, p. 226, ISBN 1-55783-354-0
  • Schiff, Stephen (April 30, 2000), Summer Films: Screen play -- Edith Wharton Gets the Treatment (3 Ways); Meeting Cute on a Far Planet: The Bibliodromist Knows Best, The New York Times, retrieved 13 August 2009
  • Spielberg, Steven; Notbohm, Brent; Friedman, Lester D. (2000), Steven Spielberg: interviews, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, pp. 170–192, ISBN 1-57806-113-X
  • Sragow, Michael (1990), Produced and abandoned: the best films you've never seen, San Francisco: Mercury House, ISBN 0-916515-84-2
  • Stoppard, Tom; Delaney, Paul (1994), Tom Stoppard in conversation, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, pp. 212–224, ISBN 0-472-06561-0
  • Thiroux, Emily (1997), Cultures: diversity in reading and writing, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-400128-1pp. 96–105


  1. ^ Schiff, Stephen (22 April 1999), Littleton, Then and Now, The New York Times, retrieved 2009-08-14
  2. ^ "Going From Book To Film".
  3. ^ Keough, Peter (1–8 October 1998), Lolita seduces, Nabokov's masterpiece crosses the line, The Boston Phoenix, archived from the original on 2009-05-06, retrieved 2009-08-14
  4. ^ The Pulitzer Prizes 1983 Finalists, Columbia University: The Pulitzer Prizes, retrieved 2009-08-14
  5. ^ The Pulitzer Prizes Criticism, Columbia University: The Pulitzer Prizes, retrieved 2009-08-14
  6. ^ Carmody, Deirdre (1992-07-02). "". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-08-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "".
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (1985-01-03). "". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  10. ^ "". The New York Times. 1987-01-05. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (1998-08-05). "". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  13. ^ James, Caryn (1998-07-31). "". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Rooney, David; Harris, Dana (2004-07-28). "". Variety. Archived from the original on 2012-09-15.
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (1999-03-12). "". The New York Times.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Cieply, Michael (2007-05-05). "". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  18. ^ "The Americans Recap: Partial Truths". 20 March 2014.
  19. ^ Template:Un icon [1] Archived 2014-08-22 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Special Awards History, 1978-2009". Writers Guild of America, East. 1 July 2008. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
  21. ^ "A New Literary History of America, Edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors". Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  22. ^ "Holt Acquires Schiff Bio of Mailer".