Barry Levinson

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Barry Levinson
Barry Levinson Shankbone 2009 Tribeca.jpg
Levinson in 2009
Barry Lee Levinson

(1942-04-06) April 6, 1942 (age 79)
Alma mater American University
  • Director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
  • actor
Years active1970–present
Known for
(m. 1975;div. 1982)

Diana Rhodes
(m. 1983)
Children3; including Sam Levinson

Barry Lee Levinson (born April 6, 1942) is an American film director, screenwriter, producer and actor. [1] Levinson's best-known works are mid-budget [2] comedy-drama and drama films such as Diner (1982); The Natural (1984); Good Morning, Vietnam (1987); Bugsy (1991); and Wag the Dog (1997). He won the Academy Award for Best Director for Rain Man (1988). [3] [4] [5]


Early life

Levinson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Violet "Vi" (née Krichinsky) and Irvin Levinson, who worked in the furniture and appliance business.[ citation needed ] He is of Russian-Jewish descent. [6] [7] [8] [9] 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, writer and performed comedy routines. Levinson at one time shared an apartment with would-be drug smuggler (and basis for the movie Blow ) George Jung. [1] [10] [11] [12] [13]


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 director with Diner (1982), for which he had also written the script and which 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 in a cameo as a doctor. 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. [14]

Levinson directed the popular period baseball drama The Natural (1984), starring Robert Redford. Redford would later direct Quiz Show (1994), and cast Levinson as television personality Dave Garroway. Levinson also directed the classic war comedy Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), starring Robin Williams (as Adrian Cronauer), with whom he later collaborated on the fantasy 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 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. [15]

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.

He has a television production company with Tom Fontana (The Levinson/Fontana Company) and 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. Like several of his films, it is semi-autobiographical and set in Baltimore in the 1960s. In 2004 he directed the two webisodes of the American Express ads "The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman". In 2004, Levinson was 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. [16] 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 is said to be the "true story of Billy Bulger, Whitey Bulger, FBI agent John Connelly and the FBI's witness protection program that was created by J. Edgar Hoover." [17] 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. [18] 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.

In 2010 Levinson received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement, which is the lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of America.



YearTitle Director Producer Writer Notes
1975 Street Girls Yes
1976 Silent Movie Yes
1977 High Anxiety Yes
1979 ...And Justice for All. YesNominated- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
1980 Inside Moves Yes
1982 Tootsie uncredited
Best Friends Yes
Diner YesExecutiveYes Directorial Debut;
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
1984 Unfaithfully Yours Yes
The Natural Yes
1985 Young Sherlock Holmes Yes
1987 Tin Men YesYes
Good Morning, Vietnam Yes
1988 Rain Man Yes Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
1990 Avalon YesYesYesNominated- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
1991 Bugsy YesYes Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
1992 Toys YesYesYesNominated- Razzie Award for Worst Director
1994 Jimmy Hollywood YesYes
Disclosure YesYes
1996 Sleepers YesYesYes
1997 Wag the Dog YesYesNominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
1998 Sphere YesYes
Home Fries Yes
1999 Liberty Heights YesYesYes
2000 An Everlasting Piece YesYes
2001 Bandits YesYes
2002 Possession Yes
2004 Envy YesYes
2006 Man of the Year YesYes
2008 What Just Happened YesYes
2009 PoliWood YesDocumentary
The Band That Wouldn't Die YesCreator
2012 The Bay YesYesStory
2014 The Humbling YesYes
2015 Rock the Kasbah Yes
2021 The Survivor Yes

Executive producer only

Acting roles

1976 Silent Movie Executive
1977 High Anxiety Bellboy
1981 History of the World, Part I Column Salesman
1988 Rain Man DoctorUncredited
1994 Jimmy Hollywood Director of Life Story
Quiz Show Dave Garroway
1999Original Diner GuysHimselfDocumentary
2007 Bee Movie Martin BensonVoice role
2013 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight Justice Potter Stewart TV movie
2021 Here Today Himself


1970 The Tim Conway Show Yes
The Tim Conway Comedy Hour Yes1 episode
1971–1972 The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine Yes
1973–1976 The Carol Burnett Show Yes72 episodes
1975 Hot l Baltimore YesEpisode: "Millie's Beau"
1976The Rich Little ShowYesEpisode: "#1.1"
1978 Peeping Times YesYesComedy special
1984The InvestigatorsYesExecutiveYes
1985 American Playhouse YesEpisode: "Displaced Person"
1987HarryYesYes7 episodes
1990 The Earth Day Special YesSegment: "Dustin Hoffman – Robin Williams"
1993–1999 Homicide: Life on the Streets YesExecutiveStoryDeveloper;
122 episodes
1999–2000 The Hoop Life Yes12 episodes
2000 The Beat YesExecutive6 episodes
2004 The Jury YesExecutiveStoryCreator
2010 You Don't Know Jack YesExecutiveTV movie
2016 Shades of Blue YesExecutive12 episodes
2017 The Wizard of Lies YesExecutiveTV movie
2018 Paterno YesExecutive
2022 Dopesick YesExecutive
TBAOne Giant LeapYes

Executive producer only

1997 The Second Civil War TV movie
1997–2003 Oz 56 episodes
2000 Homicide: The Movie TV movie
Falcone 9 episodes
2001 Shot in the Heart TV movie
2004 Strip Search
2006 The Bedford Diaries 4 episodes
2009 The Philanthropist 8 episodes
2013 Phil Spector TV movie
2011–2014 Borgia 38 episodes
2012–2013 Copper 12 episodes
2016 Killing Fields 4 episodes

Acting roles

1971–1972 The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine Various
1993 The Larry Sanders Show HimselfEpisode: "Larry's Agent"
1993–1999 Homicide: Life on the Streets Himself
2004 The Jury Judge Horatio Hawthorne
2021 The Kominsky Method HimselfEpisodes: "Near, far, wherever you are" and "The fundamental things apply" [sic]

Other works

1986 Armed Response Composer;
Additional music only
2003 The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman Advertisement campaign promoting American Express

Awards received by Levinson movies

YearFilmAcademy AwardsBAFTA AwardsGolden Globe Awards
1976 Silent Movie 4
1977 High Anxiety 2
1979 ...And Justice for All 211
1980 Inside Moves 1
1982 Best Friends 11
Diner 11
1984 The Natural 41
1985 Young Sherlock Holmes 1
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam 1211
1988 Rain Man 84342
1990 Avalon 43
1991 Bugsy 10281
1992 Toys 2
1996 Sleepers 1
1997 Wag the Dog 213
2001 Bandits 2

The director also received the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema at the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2018. [19]

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