Barry Lee Levinson (born April 6, 1942) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. His best-known works are mid-budget comedy drama and drama films such as Diner (1982), The Natural (1984), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Bugsy (1991), and Wag the Dog (1997). Levinson won the Academy Award for Best Director for Rain Man (1988). In 2021, he co-executive produced the Hulu miniseries Dopesick and directed the first two episodes.
Barry Lee Levinson
April 6, 1942
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Alma mater||American University|
(m. 1975; div. 1982)
|Children||3, including Sam Levinson|
Early life edit
Levinson is of Russian-Jewish descent. After growing up in Forest Park, Baltimore and graduating from Forest Park Senior High School in 1960, Levinson attended Baltimore City Community College and American University in Washington, D.C. at the American University School of Communication, where he studied broadcast journalism.
He then moved to Los Angeles to work as an actor and writer and performed comedy routines. Levinson at one time shared an apartment with would-be drug smuggler (and subject of the movie Blow) George Jung.
Levinson's first writing work was for variety shows such as The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, The Lohman and Barkley Show, The Tim Conway Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. After some success as a screenwriter – notably the Mel Brooks comedies Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977) (in which he played a bellboy) and the Oscar-nominated script (co-written by then-wife Valerie Curtin) ...And Justice for All (1979) – Levinson began his career as a film director.
His first directorial effort was Diner (1982), for which he also wrote the script, earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Diner was the first of four films set in the Baltimore of Levinson's youth. The other three were Tin Men (1987), a story of aluminum-siding salesmen in the 1960s starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito; the immigrant family saga Avalon (1990) featuring Elijah Wood in one of his earliest screen appearances; and Liberty Heights (1999).
His biggest hit, both critically and financially, was Rain Man (1988), a sibling drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in which Levinson appeared as a doctor in a cameo appearance. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also won the Golden Bear at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival.
Levinson directed the popular period baseball drama The Natural (1984), starring Robert Redford. Redford later directed Quiz Show (1994), and he cast Levinson as television personality Dave Garroway. Levinson also directed the classic war comedy Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), starring Robin Williams (as Adrian Cronauer), and he later collaborated with Williams on the fantasy film Toys (1992) and the political comedy Man of the Year (2006). Levinson also directed the critically acclaimed historical crime drama Bugsy (1991), which starred Warren Beatty and which was nominated for ten Academy Awards.
He directed Dustin Hoffman again in Wag the Dog (1997), a political comedy co-starring Robert De Niro about a war staged in a film studio. (Levinson had been an uncredited co-writer on Hoffman's 1982 hit comedy Tootsie.) The film won the Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival.
Levinson partnered with producer Mark Johnson to form the film production company Baltimore Pictures, with 1990's Avalon as the company's first production. Johnson departed the firm in 1994. Levinson has been a producer or executive producer for such major productions as The Perfect Storm (2000), directed by Wolfgang Petersen; Analyze That (2002), starring De Niro as a neurotic mob boss and Billy Crystal as his therapist; and Possession (2002), based on the best-selling novel by A. S. Byatt.
Levinson has a television production company with Tom Fontana (The Levinson/Fontana Company) and has served as executive producer for a number of series, including Homicide: Life on the Street (which ran on NBC from 1993 to 1999) and the HBO prison drama Oz. Levinson also played an uncredited main role as a judge in the short-lived TV series The Jury.
Levinson published his first novel, Sixty-Six (ISBN 0-7679-1533-X), in 2003, and like several of his films, it is semi-autobiographical and set in Baltimore in the 1960s. In 2004, he directed two webisodes of the American Express ads "The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman." In 2004, he was also the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Levinson directed a documentary PoliWood about the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions: the documentary — produced by Tim Daly, Robin Bronk and Robert E. Baruc — had its premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.
Levinson, in 2011, was developing a film based on Whitey Bulger, the Boston crime boss. The film Black Mass (script by Jim Sheridan, Jez Butterworth, and Russell Gewirtz) is based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, and it is said to be the "true story of Billy Bulger, Whitey Bulger, FBI agent John Connelly and the FBI's witness protection program created by J. Edgar Hoover." Levinson later left the project.
Levinson finished production on The Humbling (2014), starring Al Pacino. Levinson also directed Rock the Kasbah (2015), written by Mitch Glazer. The film starred Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Kelly Lynch, Arian Moayed, Taylor Kinney, and Beejan Land.
|1982||Diner||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists|
|1984||The Natural||Tri-Star Pictures|
|1985||Young Sherlock Holmes||Paramount Pictures|
|1987||Tin Men||Buena Vista Distribution|
|Good Morning, Vietnam|
|1992||Toys||20th Century Fox|
|1994||Jimmy Hollywood||Paramount Pictures|
|1996||Sleepers||Warner Bros. / PolyGram Filmed Entertainment|
|1997||Wag the Dog||New Line Cinema|
|2000||An Everlasting Piece||DreamWorks Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing|
|2001||Bandits||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / 20th Century Fox|
|2004||Envy||DreamWorks Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing|
|2006||Man of the Year||Universal Pictures|
|2008||What Just Happened||Magnolia Pictures|
|2012||The Bay||Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions|
|2014||The Humbling||Millenium Films|
|2015||Rock the Kasbah||Open Road Films|
|2021||The Survivor||HBO Films|
|2024||Alto Knights||Warner Bros. Pictures|
Awards and nominations edit
|Year||Title||Academy Awards||BAFTA Awards||Golden Globe Awards|
|1985||Young Sherlock Holmes||1|
|1987||Good Morning, Vietnam||1||2||1||1|
|1997||Wag the Dog||2||1||3|
- Balaban, Bob (April 19, 2011). "Interview with Barry Levinson for the Directors Guild of America's Visual History Program". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- O'Falt, Chris (July 6, 2018). "Barry Levinson: The Oscar-Winning Director Who Decades Ago Saw TV's Peak Potential and Trump-like Danger". IndieWire. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
- Erickson, Hal (2010). "Barry Levinson". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 21, 2010. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
- Canby, Vincent (December 16, 1988). "Review/Film; Brotherly Love, of Sorts". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
- Barnes, Brooks (December 14, 2009). "Al Pacino, Barry Levinson and Buck Henry Team Up on a Roth Tale". The New York Times.
- Ebert, Roger. "Avalon movie review & film summary (1990) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com/. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- "Jews in the News:Sarah Michelle Gellar, Julianne Margulies and Jake Gyllenh | Tampa JCCs and Federation". www.jewishtampa.com. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Arnold, Peter (May 3, 2017). "Jmore Exclusive with Baltimore Filmmaker Barry Levinson". JMORE - Baltimore Jewish Living. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- "Barry Levinson: Baltimore, My Baltimore". archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- O'Brien, Kyle (April 24, 2017). "Gilbert Gottfried and Barry Levinson talk storytelling during live podcast at Tribeca Film Festival". The Drum. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- Carr, Sandra (April 28, 2012). "Barry Levinson Shares His Life and Career with Fans at the Florida Film Festival". Savvy Scribe's Blog. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- "Distinguished Alumni - Notable Alumni". http. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- "Barry Levinson". TVGuide.com. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
- "Berlinale: 1989 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
- "Berlinale: 1998 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
- Rottenberg, Josh (February 22, 2013). "Hollywood Insider: What's Going on Behind the Scenes: Boston's Bulger is Now Hollywood's "It" Gangster". Entertainment Weekly. New York. p. 27.
- Cappadona, Bryanna (June 20, 2013). "Who Should Play Whitey Bulger in Black Mass?". Boston. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 3, 2013). "QED Sets Bill Murray For Barry Levinson-Directed 'Rock The Kasbah'". deadline.com. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
- "Acclaimed Screenwriter Barry Levinson to Receive WGAW's 2010 Screen Laurel Award". Writers Guild Awards. February 20, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2023.