Donald Petrie

Donald Petrie

At the urging of his father, Petrie attended the American Film Institute, where he made "The Expert," an award-winning student short about a day in the life of a doctor who must supervise a gas-chamber execution. He next moved on to TV and began helming first-season episodes of "MacGyver" (1985), "The Equalizer" (1986) and "L.A. Law" (his 1986 episode earned him Emmy and Director's Guild nominations). Petrie also got to direct venerable TV icon Sid Caesar in the "Mr. Magic" episode of Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories." In 1986 Petrie earned another Emmy nomination for directing "Have You Tried Talking to Patty?," a CBS Schoolbreak Special about a troubled hearing-impaired teen. Petrie shifted to features with "Mystic Pizza" (1988), a modest effort that flirted with sentimentality but was buoyed by fine performances from Julia Roberts, Lili Taylor and Vincent D'Onofrio. His lackluster follow-up was the Dana Carvey vehicle "Opportunity Knocks" (1990). Petrie fared somewhat better with "Grumpy Old Men" (1993) if only due to enjoyable contributions from a trio of old pros: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret (he did not, however, direct the film's 1995 sequel). His romantic comedy "The Favor" (with then-unknown Brad Pitt) was filmed in the early 90s and released in 1994 after Pitt became a star, followed by the children's comedy "Richie Rich" (1994). In "The Associate" (1996), Petrie directed Whoopi Goldberg and Tim Daly in another light comedy in which Goldberg fights the glass ceiling by disguising herself as a white man. Petrie's follow-ups did little to distinguish him beyond "Grumpy Old Men" and he soon returned to television, directing series such as "Chicago Hope" to bolster his resume. His 1999 return to features, with the big-screen adaptation of the '60s TV sitcom "My Favorite Martian," failed to produce many laughs or box office dollars, but his next outing teamed him with A-list star Sandra Bullock in "Miss Congeniality" (2000), a comedy in which tough FBI agent Bullock goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant. The result was a light-as-a-feather comedy that pleased crowds and raked up an impressive box office tally. Proving that he fared better with a lighter touch and more romantic tone, Petrie next helmed the comedy "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (2003), in which stars Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey fall in love despite their calculated attempts to get the other to call off their budding relationship.