Charles Stuart Kaufman
; born November 19, 1958) is an American screenwriter, producer, director, and novelist. He wrote the films Being John Malkovich
(2002), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
(2004). He made his directorial debut with Synecdoche, New York
(2008), which film critic Roger Ebert
called "the best movie of the decade" in 2009.
Further directorial work includes the stop motion animated
(2015) and I'm Thinking of Ending Things
(2020). In 2020, Kaufman made his literary debut with the release of his first novel, Antkind
Early life and education
After high school graduation, Kaufman attended Boston University
before transferring to New York University
, where he studied film. While attending NYU, Kaufman met Paul Proch, with whom he wrote many unproduced scripts and plays.
Early work and television (1983–1997)
In 1991, one of Kaufman's spec scripts finally got attention and he gained a talent agent. The agent suggested Kaufman move from Minneapolis
to Los Angeles
in search of more job prospects. He moved to Los Angeles alone for two months interviewing for a variety of different television writing jobs. The only offer he got was a Comedy Central
series titled Access America
, hosted by actor Fred Willard
, which coincidentally was being filmed in Minneapolis. Kaufman was prepared to accept the job and move back to Minneapolis until he was offered a job by David Mirkin
writing for the second season of his and Chris Elliott
's sitcom Get a Life
, starring Elliott.
He wrote two episodes of Get a Life
before its cancellation in 1992. At first Kaufman found the experience of working on a writing staff nerve-wracking and did not speak in the writer's room for the first few weeks. After his work was well received by other members of the staff, Kaufman overcame his timidity and became more susceptible to showing others his work.
After Get a Life'
s cancellation, Kaufman pursued work on series such as Seinfeld
, The Larry Sanders Show
, The Simpsons
and Mr. Show
, but to no avail. He continued to work on other comedic series: Fox's sketch comedy show The Edge
, The Trouble with Larry
and Ned and Stacey
, the last of which he also produced. The most notable series he worked on in this period was The Dana Carvey Show
, which featured writers and performers such as Louis C.K.
, Robert Smigel
, Greg Daniels
, Stephen Colbert
and Steve Carell
. On all these series Kaufman struggled to keep his material from being adulterated or not produced at all, because of his unconventional writing and his quiet nature.
Kaufman also wrote some pilot
scripts of his own, but none of them were produced.
These included two pilots for Disney
, Depressed Roomies
and Rambling Pants
(the former a surrealist take on the "buddy sitcom" and the latter focused on the adventures of a time-travelling poet named Pants) and a pilot for HBO
, In Limbo
, a naturalistic look at a romantic relationship devoid of the usual tropes of romantic films
Move to films and critical acclaim (1999–2004)
Kaufman first came to mainstream notice as the writer of Being John Malkovich
, directed by Spike Jonze
, earning an Academy Award
nomination for his effort and winning a BAFTA
. He wrote the script on spec in 1994, sending it to many companies and studios, all of which turned it down. The script eventually reached Francis Ford Coppola
, who passed it on to his then-son-in-law Jonze, who agreed to direct the film.
After the success of Being John Malkovich
, another of Kaufman's screenplays was produced: Human Nature
, which was directed by Michel Gondry
and produced by Kaufman and Jonze.
Kaufman and Jonze reunited yet again as the screenwriter and director of Adaptation
, which earned him another Academy Award nomination and his second BAFTA. Adaptation
featured a fictionalized version of Kaufman and his fictional brother, Donald, who is credited as writer of the film along with Kaufman. The idea came to Kaufman while attempting to adapt Susan Orlean
's book The Orchid Thief
into film. Struggling with writer's block
, Kaufman turned the script into an exaggerated account of his struggles with adapting the screenplay.
Kaufman wrote the screenplay for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
, a biopic based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of Chuck Barris
, the creator of such popular game shows as The Dating Game
and host of The Gong Show
. The film focuses on Barris's claim to have been a CIAhit man
. It was George Clooney
's directorial debut. Kaufman criticized Clooney for making drastic alterations to the script without consulting him (instead, Clooney consulted Barris). Kaufman said in an interview with William Arnold: "The usual thing for a writer is to deliver a script and then disappear. That's not for me. I want to be involved from beginning to end. And these directors [Gondry and Jonze] know that, and respect it."
Directorial work and writer for hire (2005–2014)
After agreeing to participate in Carter Burwell
's Theater of the New Ear
, a double bill "sound play", Kaufman wrote and directed the audio play Hope Leaves the Theater
, while the other play in the production, Sawbones
, was written and directed by the Coen Brothers
. Hope Leaves the Theater
follows a middle-aged woman, dissatisfied with her life and relationships, watching a play-within-the-play, and featured performances by Hope Davis
, Peter Dinklage
and Meryl Streep
. Theater of the New Ear
debuted in April 2005 at St. Ann's Warehouse
in Brooklyn, New York
Due to scheduling conflicts, later productions of Theater of the New Ear
did not feature the Coens' play, replacing it with Anomalisa
, which Kaufman wrote under the pseudonym "'Francis Fregoli". Anomalisa
centers around a man (David Thewlis
) who perceives everyone in the world to be the same person (Tom Noonan
) until he meets an exception (Jennifer Jason Leigh
Kaufman made his directorial film debut with the postmodern
film Synecdoche, New York
, starring an ensemble cast led by Philip Seymour Hoffman
It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival
in 2008. The idea for the film came when Kaufman and Spike Jonze were approached to direct a horror film
. Rather than make a conventional horror film, the two agreed to have the film deal with things they found frightening, such as mortality and life's brevity.
Kaufman decided to direct the film after Jonze left the project to direct Where the Wild Things Are
instead. The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival
where it split critics, with some calling it the best film of the year and others finding it pretentious.
In the years since its release it has appeared on multiple lists ranking the best films of the 21st century.
The film's poor box office resulted in Kaufman finding it difficult to gain funding for scripts to which he has attached himself as director.
Kaufman was slated to write and direct a film with the working title Frank or Francis
. Few details have been confirmed about the plot except that it is a musical comedy
about internet anger culture
and was set to star Jack Black
, Nicolas Cage, Steve Carell, Kevin Kline
, Catherine Keener, Paul Reubens
, Jacki Weaver
and Elizabeth Banks
In July 2012, Black said that funding for the project had fallen through, as the studio was unsure about its chances for success after the financial failure of Synecdoche, New York
. Although the future of the project is not certain, Kaufman says "It could still happen. It would have to be reinvented, though. We had a whole cast and we were headed into pre-production. So, I’d have to get people back and who knows if they would be interested anymore. But at this point, we don’t have any money, so that’s a secondary concern."
Trying to make a return to television when the funding for Frank or Francis
fell through, Kaufman sold a series to HBO in the May 2012 with Catherine Keener attached to star, but the series did not get past the scripting stage.
Kaufman also directed and wrote a pilot for FX
titled How and Why
in 2014. The plot was described as being about a "man (played by John Hawkes
) who can explain how and why a nuclear reactor works but is clueless about life". Along with Hawkes, the pilot co-starred Michael Cera
, Sally Hawkins
, Catherine Keener and Tom Noonan
. FX decided to not pick up the pilot.
In April 2012, Kaufman was hired to adapt Patrick Ness
's Chaos Walking
book series, of which he wrote the first draft before leaving the project. After multiple rewrites by other writers, the film
was released in 2021 with Kaufman uncredited.
Continued directing and debut novel (2015–present) Dino Stamatopoulos
, a former colleague of Kaufman's from The Dana Carvey Show
, became interested in adapting Kaufman's Anomalisa
play script into a stop motion animated
film. With Kaufman's permission, Stamatopoulos turned to the crowdfunding
to fund the film. The Kickstarter page was set up in August 2012 and by the time funding had ended $406,237 was pledged.
The rest of the $8 million budget was funded by the film's production company, Starburns Industries.
Kaufman co-directed the film with Duke Johnson
, who had previous experience in stop motion filmmaking, and the original cast of the play production returned to reprise their roles. It had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival
on September 4, 2015,
receiving universal acclaim from critics.
The film went on to win the Grand Jury Prize
at the Venice Film Festival
and was nominated for an Academy Award
for Best Animated Feature
, but like Synecdoche
, it did poorly at the box office.
Kaufman's debut novel, Antkind
, was released in July 2020. Kaufman said in 2016 that the novel was being written so as to be unfilmable, and is itself about "an impossible movie
film critic B. Rosenberg attempts to recall a three-month long stop-motion animation film that perished in a fire. Believing the film to be his last chance at achieving the respect and admiration of his peers, B. embarks on an absurdist journey that explores comedy
, film theory
, and social commentary
's 706 pages.
In January 2018, it was announced that Kaufman was working on writing and directing an adaptation
of Iain Reid
's 2016 novel I'm Thinking of Ending Things
In December 2018, it was announced that Brie Larson
and Jesse Plemons
were signed to co-star as the leads; the film was described as "the story of a woman’s trip to a family farm that leads to an unexpected detour leaving her stranded, [and] a twisted mix of palpable tension, psychological frailty and sheer terror ensues."
The project began filming in March 2019, with Jessie Buckley
having replaced Larson, and Toni Collette
and David Thewlis
joining the cast, and was released on Netflix in September 2020 to positive reviews.
Kaufman is developing a limited series for HBO
based on his unproduced screenplay of I.Q. 83
. He is also writing a script about dreams for Ryan Gosling
's production company and an adaptation of the novel The Memory Police
that Reed Morano
is slated to direct.
Themes and influences
Apes recur in Kaufman's work: in Being John Malkovich
, Lotte has a pet chimp named Elijah; in Human Nature
, Puff was raised as an ape; in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
, Penny dreams about an ape; and in Adaptation
, the original deus ex machina
was a swamp ape.
Some writers and directors Kaufman has named as favorites of his, or as influences, are Franz Kafka
, Samuel Beckett
, Stanisław Lem
, Shirley Jackson
, Philip K. Dick
, Patricia Highsmith
, David Lynch
,Lars von Trier
, Roy Andersson
, Woody Allen
and The Coen Brothers
Awards and nominations
- ^ Ebert, Roger. (December 13, 2009) The best films of the decade – Roger Ebert's JournalArchived May 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Blogs.suntimes.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-19.
- ^ Ebert, Roger (November 5, 2008). "Synecdoche, New York Movie Review (2008)". Retrieved October 16, 2015. "Charlie Kaufman is one of the few truly important writers to make screenplays his medium."
- ^ "Charlie Kaufman Is The 21st Century's 'Mad Genius Of Cinema'". GQ. June 3, 2016. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
- ^ "Charlie Kaufman: Screenwriters Lecture". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved October 16, 2015. "One of modern cinema's most celebrated writers"...
- ^ Ulin, David L. (May 14, 2006). "Why Charlie Kaufman Is Us". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 16, 2015. "In exploring our inner selves, he's become one of the best writers of his generation, David L. Ulin argues."
- ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays List". Writers Guild of America, West. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
- ^ Applebaum, Stephen (May 7, 2009). "It's not easy being Charlie Kaufman". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
- ^ Feinstein, Howard (December 28, 2009). "Decade: Charlie Kaufman on "Synecdoche, New York"". IndieWire. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
- ^ Solomons, Jason (March 17, 2016). "Tradition? No, I just want to write what I think is funny". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
- ^ Bloom, Nate (February 25, 2016). "The tribe at the Oscars, 2016". Times of Israel.
- ^ LaRocca, D. (2011). The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman. University Press of Kentucky. p. 3. ISBN 9780813133928. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
- ^ a b c d e f "Biography". BeingCharlieKaufman.com. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- ^ "Scans of said articles". Beingcharliekaufman.com. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
- ^ "Journey Into Madness". Archived from the original on February 10, 2017.
- ^ a b c d "Charlie Kaufman: Confessions of an Original Mind". GoodRead.com. Retrieved January 18, 2020.
- ^ a b "Salon.com Interview by Michael Sragow". Retrieved May 15, 2007.
- ^ Kobel, Peter (October 24, 1999). "FILM; The Fun and Games of Living a Virtual Life". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- ^ Claude Brodesser (November 10, 1999). "Scribe revisiting reality". Variety. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
- ^ "Kaufman interviewed by William Arnold". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. March 18, 2004. Retrieved May 19, 2007.
- ^ "PEN Center USA: 2005 Literary Awards Winners". Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
- ^ David Edelstein. "Forget Me Not: The genius of Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- ^ "Creative Screenwriting Magazine on Hope Leaves the Theater". Archived from the original on April 29, 2007.
- ^ "The Body – Projects – Theater of the New Ear". Archived from the original on January 7, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
- ^ "Theater of the New Ear". Retrieved July 30, 2015.
- ^ "Kaufman's Directorial Debut Lands Williams, Hoffman". Archived from the original on December 5, 2017. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
- ^ "Synecdoche, New York: A Great Film About the Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse? | Blog | WorldMaker.net". Blog.worldmaker.net. May 18, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
- ^  Archived January 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
- ^ Kois, Dan (January 5, 2009). "Vulture's Critics' Poll: The Complete Ballots". Vulture.com. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
- ^ "The 100 best films of the 21st Century". The Guardian. September 13, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
- ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
- ^ a b Jagernauth, Kevin (November 12, 2015). "Charlie Kaufman Explains Why Star-Studded 'Frank Or Francis' Fell Apart, Says It Could Still Happen". Indiewire. Archived from the original on December 30, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- ^ "Is this the plot of "Frank or Francis"?". BeingCharlieKaufman.com. July 30, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
- ^ a b c d e f "IN CONVERSATION: CHARLIE KAUFMAN". Vulture.com. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- ^ "FX's Charlie Kaufman Pilot Not Going Forward". Deadline Hollywood.
- ^ a b "Charlie Kaufman on his new film, a metaphysical time-hopping thriller". Dazed and Confused.
- ^ "Steve Carell, Charlie Kaufman Lock 'I.Q. 83'; Viral Outbreak Dumbs Down World". Deadline Hollywood.
- ^ "Daisy Ridley-Starring 'Chaos Walking' will Shoot in Canada". Backstage.
- ^ "Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa". Kickstarter.
- ^ Starburns Industries (May 22, 2014). "Kickstart Update #39: Anomalisa Timeline". Kickstarter. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
- ^ Kohn, Eric (September 5, 2015). "Telluride Review: Charlie Kaufman's Marvelously Strange 'Anomalisa' is An Animated Identity Crisis". Indiewire.com. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- ^ "Anomalisa (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
- ^ "Anomalisa". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved February 21, 2016.
- ^ "Charlie's novel has a title! And maybe a release date? And a blurby thing". Being Charlie Kaufman. February 18, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- ^ "Antkind by Charlie Kaufman review – absurdism ad infinitum". the Guardian. August 2, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
- ^ "Charlie Kaufman Adapting Novel by Canadian Author Iain Reid for Netflix". The National Post. January 25, 2018. Retrieved July 31, 2018.
- ^ "Brie Larson to Star in Charlie Kaufman's Netflix Movie 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'". Collider. December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
- ^ "AQUAMAN 2 IS IN THE WORKS, AND MORE MOVIE NEWS'". Rotten Tomatoes. December 7, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
- ^ Howland, Jack (March 21, 2019). "Charlie Kaufman movie for Netflix filming in Fishkill, Hudson Valley". Poughkeepsie Journal. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
- ^ "Larson out, Toni Collette, Jessie Buckley and David Thewlis in for "Ending Things"". Being Charlie Kaufman. March 28, 2019. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
- ^ "'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' Director Charlie Kaufman Isn't Trying to Mess With Your Mind". Variety. August 27, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
- ^ "Indie Wire interview". Archived from the original on September 24, 2005.
- ^ "How to Be Someone Else: Transgender Themes in the Work of Charlie Kaufman". Crooked Marquee. September 7, 2020. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
- ^ "Adaptation (Draft 2)". Archived from the original on March 28, 2009.
- ^ "Charlie Kaufman interview: Life's little dramas". Scotsman.com. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- ^ "Talking with the Kaufman About Pandas". The L Magazine. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- ^ a b "Being Charlie Kaufman". Salon. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- ^ a b "Being Charlie Kaufman". Salon. November 11, 1999. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- ^ "The Filmmakers @KVIFF 2016: Charlie Kaufman".
- ^ Sternbergh, Adam (December 16, 2015). "In Conversation: Charlie Kaufman". Vulture. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- ^ Mooallem, Jon (July 2, 2020). "This Profile of Charlie Kaufman Has Changed" – via NYTimes.com.
- ^ Andreeva, Nellie (January 14, 2014). "John Hawkes & Michael Cera To Star In Charlie Kaufman's FX Comedy Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
Last edited on 20 April 2021, at 06:12
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