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Miriam Leder[needs IPA] (born January 26, 1952) is an American film and television director and producer noted for her action films and use of special effects.[1] She was the first female graduate of the AFI Conservatory, in 1973.

Mimi Leder
Mimi Leder at the 75th Annual Peabody Awards for The Leftovers.jpg
Leder at the 75th Annual Peabody Awards
Miriam Leder

(1952-01-26) January 26, 1952 (age 67)
EducationAFI Conservatory
OccupationFilm director, film producer, script supervisor
Years active1976–present
Spouse(s)Gary Werntz
ChildrenHannah Leder


Early lifeEdit

Leder was born in New York City in 1952, the daughter of Etyl, a classical pianist, and Paul Leder, a director, producer, actor, writer, and editor of such films as My Friends Need Killing, Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla, and Dismember Mama.[2][3] Leder was raised in Los Angeles, in a Jewish home. Her mother is a Holocaust survivor from Brussels, Belgium, who was interned at Auschwitz.[4] During childhood, her father, a low-budget independent filmmaker, introduced Mimi and her siblings to film production. Her father often dropped her off at the cinema to watch the latest films. Leder states that one of the first films that had an impact on her was Federico Fellini's 8 1/2.[2] Having worked for the majority of her life in film gave her the skill and confidence to be the first woman accepted into the AFI Conservatory. She studied cinematography but enjoyed working with actors and telling stories.

Film careerEdit

Leder began her career as a script supervisor on a string of films, including Spawn of the Slithis (1978), Dummy (1979), The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980), and A Long Way Home (1980), before moving on to the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981). After making a short film, Short Order Dreams, written and funded by her father Paul,[5] she screened it for Steven Bochco, creator of Hill Street Blues, and his friend Gregory Hoblit who hired her to direct an episode of L.A. Law.

In 1988 Leder went on to direct episodes of Crime Story, The Bronx Zoo, Midnight Caller, before getting hired to direct several episodes of China Beach (1988–91) for which she was nominated for four Emmys. She decided to make a few made-for-TV films, Woman with a Past (1992), House of Secrets (1993), and Baby Brokers (1994) before getting hired as one of the core directors for ER (1994–2009). She made proficient use of her cinematography background and the Steadicam to create high energy scenes that moved around the corridors and rooms of the hospital. The show earned her Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series in 1995 and 1996. She returned to direct an episode of the series during its final season in 2009. She was receiving much attention and soon received a job offer from Steven Spielberg to direct the film The Peacemaker (1997), an action-adventure film that she has said she sees as a drama.[1] Leder became one of only a handful of woman directors to break into the action genre,[6] and her assignment to this film generated much press about the opportunities for women directors in Hollywood. She studied trains and other visual effects to prepare herself for the film and is proud of the results.[5]

Continuing to work for DreamWorks, she directed Deep Impact (1998) and Pay It Forward (2000) while simultaneously creating a personal love story about her parents, Sentimental Journey (1999). Leder went through a period after making Pay It Forward where she wasn't being hired to direct any feature films.  This was due to the lack of success of the film. Leder felt as though she had been put into a ‘movie jail’ by Hollywood for the lack of success that is associated with Pay It Forward.  Leder also attributed this reaction from the industry to her being a female.[7] Even with Leder's already privileged position of being a filmmakers daughter, it is still hard for her to keep her footing in the largely male industry. Leder doesn't like being called a ‘woman’ director, and instead prefers to simply be called a director. Despite her challenges with being a woman in film, Leder still integrates distinctly female perspectives into her directing style. She has changed the way that her characters interact with stereotypes in some of her films such as Deep Impact so that female protagonists are stronger and shallow villains are deeper with interesting backstories.[2]  Leder envisions a future in film that is not only shaped and changed by technological advancements, but also by more female voices.[8] Leder has used her position to hire many women in times where not many women were being hired. Some of the women that she has hired over the years have been Bethany Rooney, Sharron Miller, Diane Keaton, and Michelle MacLaren. She tries to bring female directors onto shows that she produces as much as possible.[9]

Leder's dry spell of feature films after the release of Pay It Forward drove her to work even harder with her other pursuits in television and film executive producing.  She shot nine pilots and produced six series including The Beast (2001), John Doe (2002), Johnny Zero (2005), and Vanished (2006).  Leder also made many made-for-TV movies such as Thick as Thieves (2009), U.S. Attorney (2009), and Heavenly (2011).[10]  In 2015 Leder was brought on by HBO to direct a first-season episode of The Leftovers and was later hired as a co-showrunner.

Leder's feature film On the Basis of Sex, the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's path to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was released in December 2018.  It is Leder's first theatrical feature in eighteen years. Leder felt a strong connection to the story portrayed, due to Ginsburg's fight for equality in a male-dominated field.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Leder has one daughter, Hannah, with her husband actor Gary Werntz.[11] Leder states she "was raised a feminist" and "was an anti-war protester all during the Vietnam War".[9]


Feature filmsEdit

Year Title
1997 The Peacemaker
1998 Deep Impact
1999 Sentimental Journey
2000 Pay It Forward
2009 Thick as Thieves
2018 On the Basis of Sex


Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Producer
1987 L.A. Law Yes
1988 A Year in the Life Yes
Crime Story Yes
The Bronx Zoo Yes
Nightingales Yes 1988 TV movie pilot for the 1989 TV series
Midnight Caller Yes "After It Happened" (Season 1, Episode 3)
1990 Sisters Yes 1990 TV movie pilot for the 1991 TV series
1988–1991 China Beach Yes Yes Director (13 episodes, 1988–1991)
Producer (22 episodes, 1989–1990)
Supervising producer (16 episodes, 1990–1991)
1991 A Little Piece of Heaven Yes TV movie
1992 Woman with a Past Yes TV movie
1993 Marked for Murder Yes TV movie
There Was a Little Boy Yes TV movie
Rio Shannon Yes TV movie
House of Secrets Yes TV movie
1994 Baby Brokers Yes TV movie
The Innocent Yes TV movie
2001 The Beast Yes Yes Executive producer
2002–2003 John Doe Yes Yes Executive producer
2005 Jonny Zero Yes Yes Executive producer
2006 The West Wing Yes
Related Yes
Vanished Yes Yes Executive producer
1994–2009 ER Yes Yes Director (11 episodes, 1994–2009)
Supervising producer (14 episodes, 1994–1995)
Co-executive producer (11 episodes, 1995)
2009 U.S. Attorney Yes Yes TV movie, Executive producer
2010 The Quinn-tuplets Yes TV movie
Human Target Yes "The Wife's Tale" (Season 2, Episode 2)
2011 Heavenly Yes TV movie
2011–2012 Shameless Yes
2012 Smash Yes
Luck Yes
2014–2017 The Leftovers Yes Yes Executive Producer
2019 The Morning Show Yes Yes Executive Producer

Awards and nominationsEdit


Scott, Tobias. “Veteran TV Director Still Tries to Scale Film Barriers.” New York Times (10/13/2015): C2. Accessed November 13, 2018

Brodesser, Claude. “Helmer: Leder Among Men.” Daily Variety (6/9/2000): A4. Accessed November 13, 2018

Goldman, Michael. “Mimi Leger: Director.” Millimeter (Nov 1998) Accessed November 13, 2018

Rochlin, Margy. “For Mimi Leder, Persistence Pays Off.” Directors Guild of America Quarterly (Spring 2018) Accessed November 14, 2018


  1. ^ a b Hurd, Mary G. Women Directors and Their Films. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Brodesser, Claude (June 2000). "Helmer: Leder Among Men". Daily Variety: A4 – via JSTOR.
  3. ^ "Mimi Leder Biography". Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Gregory, Mollie. Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood. New York: St. Martin's, 2002.
  6. ^ Tasker, Yvonne. Action and Adventure Cinema. London: Routledge, 2004.
  7. ^ Scott, Tobias (October 2015). "Veteran TV Director Still Tries to Scale Film Barriers". New York Times: C2 – via JSTOR.
  8. ^ Goldman, Michael (November 1998). "Mimi Leger: Director". Millimeter – via JSTOR.
  9. ^ a b c Rochlin, Margy (Spring 2018). "For Mimi Leder, Persistence Pays Off". Directors Guild of America Quarterly.
  10. ^ "Mimi Leder: Television Director, Producer." The Paley Center for Media: She Made It. Curator Ron Simon. The Paley Center for Media. Web. May 5, 2012.
  11. ^ Sperling, Nicole (September 7, 2018). "The Long Road from Pay It Forward to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Inside Director Mimi Leder's Return to the Big Screen". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 8, 2018.

External linksEdit