Akiva Goldsman

Akiva Goldsman Headshot

Writer • Director • Producer

Birth Date: July 7, 1962

Age: 61 years old

Birth Place: New York City, New York

Perhaps no other screenwriter in the annals of Hollywood history had as varied a career as Akiva Goldsman. For the first decade of his life as a film scribe, Goldsman collaborated with Joel Schumacher on some of the director's more derided films, including "Batman Forever" (1995) and the universally lambasted "Batman & Robin" (1997). Despite the financial success of both movies, Goldsman was trapped in a cycle of taking any job that came his way, rather than putting pen to paper on the stories he wanted to write. By the time the millennium rolled around, Goldsman was one of the top scribes working in the business, thanks in part to a lucrative side business as an uncredited writer-for-hire. But he finally received the respect he deserved when he became a member of the power trio that included director Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe on "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), which earned Goldsman his first Academy Award win. Following another critically acclaimed Howard-Crowe-Goldsman collaboration on "Cinderella Man" (2005), he baited controversy with successful adaptations of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" (2006) and "Angels and Demons" (2009), both of which confirmed that he was the top working screenwriter of his day.

Born on July 7, 1962 in Brooklyn, NY, Goldsman was raised by his father, Tev, a therapist, and his mother, Mira, a Holocaust survivor, child psychologist and author of Children with Emerald Eyes. Both his parents founded the Blueberry Treatment Centers, one of the United States' first group homes for emotionally disturbed children. By the time he was 10, however, Goldsman was fed up with his parents' focus on the other children, which actually spurred his desire to slip into a fantasy world and write. As a teenager, he followed through on his desire and began writing stories that he submitted to several prominent publications, including The New Yorker. His efforts were met with resounding rejection, but he continued undaunted, graduating high school at 16 and attending Wesleyan University, where he still indulged his inner muse. The summer before he graduated Wesleyan in 1983, Goldsman visited his mother, who was a clinical director at a camp for autistic and schizophrenic children. When an eight-year-old boy drowned, Goldsman was deeply effected - enough to spend the next decade working at his parents' treatment center.

Though he devoted his young adulthood to helping children, Goldsman still held ambitions to be a writer. He pursued a master of fine arts in creative writing at New York University, after which he dove headlong into his parents' business, founding a consulting firm to assist mental health workers in creating comprehensive treatments for their patients. It was after winning a debate at Harvard University over treatment of troubled children that Goldsman decided to pursue a writing career. After taking a course in screenwriting, he churned out the pages for what became "Silent Fall" (1994), a psychological thriller drawn from Goldsman's experiences with mentally troubled children about a psychologist (Richard Dreyfuss) aiding a criminal investigation in which a key witness is an autistic boy (Ben Faulkner). Though "Silent Fall" was considered mediocre creatively and financially, the film nonetheless helped Goldsman gain a foothold in the industry. He was soon hired by director Joel Schumacher to adapt John Grisham's best-selling novel for "The Client" (1994), a compelling thriller that netted star Susan Sarandon an Oscar nomination and marked the start of a fruitful collaboration with Schumacher.

In 1995, Goldsman did rewrites on Schumacher's "Batman Forever," the third installment in a franchise that was quickly losing its edge, with many feeling that it was inferior to the first two Tim Burton-directed films. A second Grisham adaptation, "A Time to Kill" (1996), was better received by critics and audiences, who responded positively to its plot involving murder and race relations in Mississippi. Meanwhile, the Schumacher-Goldsman collaboration continued with "Batman & Robin" (1997), a confusing, excessively overproduced fourth installment that nearly killed the once ballyhooed series. Most agreed that the script was littered with lame jokes and bad dialogue, particularly when Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) - who spouted lines like "The iceman cometh" and "My name is Freeze. Learn it well, for it's the chilling sound of your doom" - was on screen. Though many blamed Schumacher's direction for veering too close to the camp of the 1960s television series, Goldsman shared responsibility. Perhaps significantly, the film marked a break in the collaboration between Goldsman and Schumacher.

For his next project, Goldsman turned his attention to another camp television classic from the 1960s, "Lost in Space" (1998), starring William Hurt as the iconic John Robinson. But rather than embrace its inherent camp qualities, Goldsman instead adopted a serious tone that was seriously out of place. Film critic Roger Ebert even opined that "'Lost in Space' is one of those typing-speed jobs where the screenwriter is like a stenographer, rewriting what he's seen at the movies." Though it opened well, "Lost in Space" quickly fell off and ultimately grossed a little over half of its estimated $126 million budget. That same year, Goldsman was one of three credited writers who adapted Alice Hoffman's novel "Practical Magic" (1998) into a vehicle for Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, who starred as two polar opposite sisters whose heritage of practicing magic has led to a curse that ultimately leaves all the men they love dead. Perhaps due to the multitude of writers, the resulting film lacked a strong point of view, leaving many feeling that the quirky charm and inherent comedy in the novel was somehow lost.

After being credited as a producer on Renny Harlin's silly thriller "Deep Blue Sea" (1999), Goldsman remained busy, dividing his time between developing projects through his production company Weed Road Pictures and accepting for-hire writing jobs. He was the first to take a crack at adapting Tom Clancy's novel, The Sum of All Fears, which was released in 2002 with Ben Affleck as the Jack Ryan character. By that time, however, Goldsman's contributions were no longer worthy of screen credit. He also did uncredited takes on adapting Arthur Golden's novel Memoirs of a Geisha for Steven Spielberg, but the filmmaker opted to concentrate instead on "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001), leaving Goldsman's efforts to be reworked by others. Goldsman finally triumphed with his next produced screenplay, "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), which was loosely based on the life of Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russell Crowe), who fought a lonely battle against a lifetime of schizophrenia. Though the film drew criticism for omitting key biographical details, Goldsman readily defended his efforts, saying that it was "a movie of the architecture of a man's life; not a recording of the facts." Regardless of the outcry, "A Beautiful Mind" earned numerous awards, including Goldsman's first Academy Award.

After his Oscar win, Goldsman returned to the world of lucrative script doctoring with uncredited rewrites of "The Missing" (2003), "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" (2003) and "The Chronicles of Riddick" (2004). His next credit project was an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's popular "I, Robot" (2004), starring Will Smith as a futuristic detective investigating the murder of a brilliant scientist (James Cromwell) by the hand of a robot. Following a producer gig for the action comedy "Starsky and Hutch" (2004), Goldsman returned to his successful collaboration with director Ron Howard and actor Russell Crowe for "Cinderella Man" (2005), a compelling and heart-rending look at the life and career of boxer Jim Braddock (Crowe), who - with the help of his dedicated trainer (Paul Giamatti) - rose from working the docks during the Great Depression to become Heavyweight Champion. Though he missed his chance to earn another Academy Award nomination, Goldsman's work was nonetheless hailed by critics - a far cry from his less rewarding days with Joel Schumacher.

Once again working with Ron Howard, Goldsman tackled Dan Brown's hugely best-selling novel, "The Da Vinci Code" (2006), perhaps one of the most controversial and anticipated movies released in decades. The story followed symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), who is called to the Louvre where the murder of a curator has left behind a trail of mysterious symbolic clues that eventually lead to a secret society that has spent 2,000 years guarding a secret that could bring Christianity to its knees. Even before its release, the Catholic Church urged the faithful to boycott the film because of its depiction of members of Opus Dei. In fact, the church wanted filmmakers to put a disclaimer at the start of the film stating that it was fiction, not fact - a demand that the filmmakers publicly refused. Despite the public outcry, "The Da Vinci Code" opened to tepid reviews, though box office totals were healthy.

After an uncredited rewrite on the disaster remake "Poseidon" (2006), Goldsman received credit for "I Am Legend" (2008), a post-apocalyptic thriller about the last man on Earth (Will Smith) that was based on the cult sci-fi favorite, "The Omega Man" (1971). Though Goldsman spent his entire career working in the feature world, he made a sudden shift to the small screen when he wrote and directed episodes of "Fringe" (Fox, 2008-13), J.J. Abrams' science fiction conspiracy thriller about an FBI agent (Anna Torv) investigating worldwide paranormal activities with a brilliant, but mentally damaged scientist (John Noble) and his wisecracking son (Joshua Jackson). Continuing the newfound medium of television, Goldsman directed an episode of "Kings" (NBC, 2009), a modern day retelling of the biblical story of King David. Back in the feature world, he reunited with Ron Howard to adapt Dan Brown's lesser-known, but still best-selling "Angles and Demons" (2009), which actually proved to be more highly-anticipated by movie-going audiences than the "The Da Vinci Code." This time, the story followed Robert Langdon (Hanks) to the Vatican, where he follows a trail leading to the secretive Illuminati.

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