Mimi Leder

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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)
Education AFI Conservatory
OccupationFilm director, film producer, script supervisor
Years active1976–present
Spouse(s)Gary Werntz
Children Hannah Leder

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.

AFI Conservatory American graduate film school

The AFI Conservatory is a private not-for-profit graduate film school in the Hollywood Hills district of Los Angeles. Students learn from the masters in a collaborative, hands-on production environment with an emphasis on storytelling. The Conservatory is a program of the American Film Institute founded in 1969.


Early life

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.

Paul Leder American actor and film director

Paul Leder was an American film director, writer and producer. He is most famous today for his films A*P*E and I Dismember Mama. With wife Etyl Leder, he is the father of modern-day producer and director Mimi Leder, writer Reuben Leder, and casting director Geraldine Leder. Paul Leder died of lung cancer on April 8, 1996 at age 70.

Brussels Capital region of Belgium

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 161 km2 (62 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Film career

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 .

<i>Hill Street Blues</i> American serial police drama (1981-1987)

Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that aired on NBC in primetime from 1981 to 1987 for 146 episodes. The show chronicled the lives of the staff of a single police station located on the fictional Hill Street, in an unnamed large city, with "blues" being a slang term for police officers for their blue uniforms. The show received critical acclaim, and its production innovations influenced many subsequent dramatic television series produced in the United States and Canada. Its debut season was rewarded with eight Emmy Awards, a debut season record surpassed only by The West Wing. The show received 98 Emmy nominations during its run.

Steven Bochco Television producer and writer

Steven Ronald Bochco was a television producer and writer. He developed a number of television series, including Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D., and NYPD Blue.

Gregory King Hoblit is an American film director, television director and television producer. He is best known for directing the films Primal Fear, Fallen, Frequency, Hart's War, Fracture. He has won nine Primetime Emmy Awards for directing and producing Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Hooperman and the television film Roe vs. Wade.

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]

The Bronx Zoo is a 1987 NBC drama series directed by Allan Arkush and Paul Lynch. It lasted two seasons before cancellation.

<i>Midnight Caller</i> television program

Midnight Caller is a dramatic NBC television series created by Richard DiLello, which ran from 1988 to 1991. It was one of the first television series to address the dramatic possibilities of the then-growing phenomenon of talk radio.

<i>China Beach</i> television series

China Beach is an American dramatic television series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. The title refers to My Khe beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, nicknamed "China Beach" in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The ABC TV drama aired for four seasons, from 1988 to 1991.

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]

DreamWorks Pictures is an American film production label of Amblin Partners. It was founded in 1994 as a film studio by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, of which they owned 72%. The studio was formerly distributing its own and third-party films by itself. It has produced or distributed more than ten films with box-office grosses of more than $100 million each.

<i>Deep Impact</i> (film) 1998 science fiction film directed by Mimi Leder

Deep Impact is a 1998 American science-fiction disaster film directed by Mimi Leder, written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, and starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, and Morgan Freeman. Steven Spielberg served as an executive producer of this film. It was released by Paramount Pictures in North America and by DreamWorks Pictures internationally on May 8, 1998. The film depicts the attempts to prepare for and destroy a 7-mile (11 km) wide comet set to collide with Earth and cause a mass extinction.

<i>Pay It Forward</i> (film) 2000 American drama film directed by Mimi Leder

Pay It Forward is a 2000 American romantic drama film directed by Mimi Leder. The film is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It is set in Las Vegas, and it chronicles 12-year-old Trevor McKinney's launch of a goodwill movement known as "pay it forward". It stars Haley Joel Osment as Trevor, Helen Hunt as his alcoholic single mother Arlene McKinney, and Kevin Spacey as his physically and emotionally scarred social studies teacher Eugene Simonet.

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.

<i>John Doe</i> (TV series) American science fiction drama television series

John Doe is an American science fiction drama television series that aired on Fox during the 2002–2003 TV season.

<i>Jonny Zero</i> television program

Jonny Zero is an American television action-crime drama series, created and written by R. Scott Gemmill and executive produced by John Wells, that premiered on Fox on January 14, 2005. The series principally stars Franky G as Jonny Calvo, an ex-con approached to be an FBI informant following his imprisonment for murder. The series co-stars GQ and Brennan Hesser.

<i>Vanished</i> American television series

Vanished is an American serial drama television series produced by 20th Century Fox. The series premiered on August 21, 2006 on Fox and its last episode aired on November 10, 2006. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the series begins with the sudden disappearance of the wife of a Georgia senator, which is quickly revealed to be part of a wider conspiracy. The family of the missing woman, a pair of FBI agents, a journalist and her lover/cameraman, are all drawn into an evolving mystery with political and religious undertones. The show was created by CSI writer Josh Berman, and executive produced by Mimi Leder, who also directed the show, and Paul Redford.

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 life

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 films

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


YearTitleCredited asNotes
1987 L.A. Law Yes
1988 A Year in the Life Yes
Crime Story Yes
The Bronx Zoo Yes
Nightingales Yes1988 TV movie pilot for the 1989 TV series
Midnight Caller Yes"After It Happened" (Season 1, Episode 3)
1990 Sisters Yes1990 TV movie pilot for the 1991 TV series
1988–1991 China Beach YesYesDirector (13 episodes, 1988–1991)
Producer (22 episodes, 1989–1990)
Supervising producer (16 episodes, 1990–1991)
1991 A Little Piece of Heaven YesTV movie
1992Woman with a PastYesTV movie
1993Marked for MurderYesTV movie
There Was a Little BoyYesTV movie
Rio ShannonYesTV movie
House of SecretsYesTV movie
1994 Baby Brokers YesTV movie
The Innocent YesTV movie
2001 The Beast YesYesExecutive producer
2002–2003 John Doe YesYesExecutive producer
2005 Jonny Zero YesYesExecutive producer
2006 The West Wing Yes
Related Yes
Vanished YesYesExecutive producer
1994–2009 ER YesYesDirector (11 episodes, 1994–2009)
Supervising producer (14 episodes, 1994–1995)
Co-executive producer (11 episodes, 1995)
2009U.S. AttorneyYesYesTV movie, Executive producer
2010The Quinn-tupletsYesTV movie
Human Target Yes"The Wife's Tale" (Season 2, Episode 2)
2011HeavenlyYesTV movie
2011–2012 Shameless Yes
2012 Smash Yes
Luck Yes
2014–2017 The Leftovers YesYesExecutive Producer
2019 The Morning Show YesYesExecutive Producer

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResult
1990 Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series China Beach Nominated
1991 American Film Institute Franklin J. Schaffner Award Won
Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series China Beach Nominated
Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series China Beach Nominated
1992 Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series China Beach Nominated
1995 Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series ER Won
Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series ER Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series ER Nominated
1996 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series ER Nominated
Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series ER Won
Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series ER Nominated
1997 Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series ER Nominated
2000 Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards Dorothy Arzner Award Won
2006 Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series The West Wing Nominated


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

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  1. 1 2 Hurd, Mary G. Women Directors and Their Films. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 Brodesser, Claude (June 2000). "Helmer: Leder Among Men". Daily Variety: A4 via JSTOR.
  3. "Mimi Leder Biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  4. https://jewishjournal.com/culture/arts/3481/
  5. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 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.