Gary Ross

Gary Ross

Born in Castro Valley, CA, Gary Ross was the son of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Arthur A. Ross, whose credits included "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954) and "Brubaker" (1980). He attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught a course on film and social history, but dropped out prior to graduation in order to gain some real-life experience by working on a fishing boat. He was also deeply committed to politics, and worked on Ted Kennedy's 1980 bid for president before serving as a speechwriter for Michael Dukakis. Ross' writing career began with novels, but his initial efforts were not met with success. However, his brief stint as a novelist brought him to Paramount Pictures, where a treatment he wrote caught the attention of producer Leonard Goldberg. Ross was subsequently hired to write several screenplays, though none were ever brought to fruition.Ross finally struck pay dirt with his fourth effort, "Big" (1988), which he co-wrote with his neighbor, Anne Spielberg, sister of acclaimed director Steven Spielberg. The youth fantasy-drama earned unanimously excellent reviews, and netted Ross shared Oscar and Writers Guild nominations for Best Original Screenplay. He subsequently became an in-demand polisher for such high-profile studio projects as "Mr. Baseball" (1992) and "The Flintstones" (1994) while retaining his political interest by penning speeches for Bill Clinton's race for the White House in 1992. The following year, Ross knocked it out of the park again with "Dave" (1993), a charming fantasy about a mild-mannered teacher (Kevin Kline) whose resemblance to the President of the United States earned him a stint as the Commander in Chief's double. Another box office hit, it brought Ross his second Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, as well as the Writers Guild's Paul Selvin award for scripts that embody the spirit of the Constitution. In 1997, he made his debut as producer on the comedy "Larger Than Life," a vehicle intended to parlay actor Michael Richards' popularity on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998) into a big-screen career. The following year, he segued into directing with "Pleasantville" (1998), a comedy-fantasy about a pair of modern-day teens - a pre-fame Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon - who are transported into a '50s-era sitcom. Despite critical praise and Oscar nominations for Best Score and Art Design, the film was overshadowed by "The Truman Show" (1998), which shared similar plot elements but benefited from a high-profile cast led by Jim Carrey.Three years would pass before Ross returned to filmmaking with "Seabiscuit" (2003), a spirited biopic of the famed eponymous racehorse and the men who owned, trained and rode him. Though only modestly successful at the box office, it netted seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. In 2008, he served as writer and producer on "The Tale of Despereaux," a computer-animated fantasy based on Kate DiCamillo's story of a brave mouse's quest to save a human princess. The production was marred by infighting between its multi-national production team, which resulted in an uneven film that drew mixed reviews.Two years later, Ross was selected to direct and co-write the much-anticipated film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' dystopian youth fantasy "The Hunger Games" (2012). A fan of the source material, he penned a script and sent it to Collins for her approval and contributions. The author, who shared screenplay credit for the film, gave her blessing to Ross, who enlisted his friend and "Pleasantville" producer Steven Soderbergh to serve as his second unit director on the six-month location shoot in North Carolina. Completed for a budget of nearly $100 million, the all-star feature, led by rising star Jennifer Lawrence - an Oscar nominee for "Winter's Bone" (2010) - and featuring Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci, received near-universal praise upon its release in March of that year, and returned Ross to A-list status. His post-production duties on "Hunger Games" prevented him from writing the second film in the series, "Catching Fire" (2013), which was subsequently scripted by Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy of "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008) fame. However, Ross remained attached as director while also serving as producer on a long-gestating remake of his father's classic "Creature from the Black Lagoon."By Paul Gaita