For the Artists Who Like to Remain Strictly Out of the Box
It took directing what would become the highest-grossing Star Trek film in history to convert J.J. Abrams into a true fan of the science-fiction franchise. The film and television director, producer, screenwriter, and composer has worked in multiple genres on the big and small screens, most notably as director of the latest blockbuster Star Trek feature films. However, Abrams always considered himself more of a Star Wars fan than a Trekkie.
He was 11 years old when the public received its first glimpse of the Star Wars universe in movie theaters. Born Jeffrey Jacob Abrams on June 27, 1966 in New York City, he grew up in Los Angeles with parents Gerald Abrams, a television producer, and Carol Abrams. In fact, Abrams spent much of his childhood with his father on the sets of popular television shows such as “Mork and Mindy” and “Happy Days.” Later, his mother became a television producer, while his sister became a screenwriter.
He seemed destined to become a director and producer, having used an old Super-8 camera, a gift from his grandfather, to shoot his own movies when he was growing up. His dedication to film finally paid off when, still in high school, Abrams and his best friend became the subjects of a local newspaper feature on a young filmmakers’ festival. Celebrity and highly respected Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg read the article and contacted Abrams and his friend, hiring them to edit some of his own Super-8 footage.
Abrams ‘ next job in the industry was when he composed music for a film called “Nightbeast” at the age of 16 while still a student at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles. By the time he was a senior in college, he’d co-written a feature film treatment that became the basis for the Touchstone Pictures movie “Taking Care of Business” (1990). Soon after, he wrote screenplays for the films “Regarding Henry” (1991), which starred Harrison Ford, and “Forever Young” (1992), which starred Mel Gibson. Abrams collaborated with director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer on the 1998 film “Armageddon” when he was 30. The project turned out to be his big break.
Next, he launched into television where he co-created the series “Felicity” (1998-2002) and “Lost” (2004-2010) as well as created the series “Alias” (2001-2006), “Fringe” (2008-2013), and “Undercovers” (2010). He also composed the opening theme music for “Felicity,” “Alias,” and “Lost.” Abrams collected a number of awards for his television work, including the 2005 ASCAP Film and Television Music Award for “Lost” in the Top TV Series category. That year he also won the outstanding drama series and best director Emmy awards for “Lost.” The following year, he again captured the Top TV Series ASCAP Film and Television Music Award.
Abrams made his feature film directorial debut with “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), starring Tom Cruise. As a result of his exposure from his role in that film, he spoke at the TED conference in 2007. He followed the Mission Impossible movie by directing “Cloverfield” (2008), “Morning Glory” (2010), and “Super 8” (2011), which he co-produced with Steven Spielberg. Although some have speculated Abrams would team with “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof to write and produce a screen adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series, the pair announced in 2009 they wouldn’t take on the project.
It was his direction of the 2009 cinematic version of “Star Trek” that gave Abrams his biggest push into the Hollywood limelight. In his attempt to maintain the spirit of the original series while introducing a new audience to the characters, Abrams spearheaded the film’s box office success. However, a number of die-hard Trekkies felt alienated by the film. With his follow-up Star Trek film “Star Trek Into Darkness” released in May of 2013, Abrams’ next major projects include directing “Mystery on Fifth Avenue,” an adaptation of a New York Times article about the renovation of a co-op, and “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which is due to be released in 2015.
Abrams’ regular creative collaborators include writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, cinematographers Daniel Mindel and Larry Fong, composer Michael Giacchino, and editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey. In addition to his own television production company, Bad Robot, his work has been distributed by Paramount Pictures, Touchstone Television, and Warner Bros. Television. Abrams and his wife, public relations executive Katie McGrath, live in Pacific Palisades, California with their three children. Over the years, he has taken on consistently more challenging projects and his work has retained its edgy, high-tech, and action-packed sensibility.
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