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Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach

Born on Sept. 3, 1969 and raised in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, NY, Baumbach was exposed to writing and film at an early age, thanks to parents, Georgia Brown, longtime film critic for the Village Voice, and Jonathan Baumbach, author of local renown and onetime film critic for the Parisian Review. After attending St. Ann's and Midwood High School, he left the city and journeyed to Poughkeepsie, NY to attend Vassar College, where he majored in English and wrote and directed his own plays. Baumbach spent the summer after graduation working as a messenger for The New Yorker and writing the script for "Kicking and Screaming." With finished script in hand, the aspiring writer journeyed to Chicago in 1991 where he became acquainted with Carlos Jacott, the future star of the film, and spent the next four years trying to get his first movie made."Kicking and Screaming" told the story of four twenty-something ne'er-do-wells whose lack of motivation, inability to sustain meaningful romantic relationships and obsession for pop culture had paralyzed them into doing nothing with their lives. Baumbach's talky, intellectual film effectively delved into the anxiety and uncertainty any group of young friends - regardless of generation - feel when suddenly thrust out on their own. Though vaguely autobiographical - he admitted drawing from his life and basing some characters on friends - Baumbach maintained that his film was more personal in tone and feeling than a rehash of true events. A promising entry at the 1995 New York Film Festival, "Kicking and Screaming" received distribution in Los Angeles and New York, but failed to crack six figures at the box office. It did, however, receive a fair amount of critical acclaim, making it an art house hit.While finishing "Kicking," Baumbach began writing his next film, "Mr. Jealousy" (1995), a comedy-of-manners about a former journalist-turned-substitute teacher (Eric Stoltz) who falls in love with an art historian (Annabella Sciorra) and becomes so jealous of her past romances, that he joins the same therapy group as her ex-boyfriend (Chris Eigeman). Baumbach was again accused of mining his life for art, but he was steadfast in his denial. His sophomore feature was again hailed by critics and did well on the festival circuit - it traveled through Toronto, Seattle and Los Angeles - but failed to capture more than art house attention at the box office. Nonetheless, Baumbach had begun to make a name for himself as a sharp-witted filmmaker to rival those who were once his inspiration.Only three weeks after wrapping the "Mr. Jealousy" shoot, Baumbach began filming his third feature, "Highball"- an ultra-low-budget experiment using much of the same cast and crew. Shot over a murderous six days that resulted in a falling out with a producer, "Highball" depicted the comic antics occurring between friends during three parties over the course of a year. Baumbach divorced himself from the project, feeling that it was never properly finished. Lions Gate later picked it up for straight-to-video distribution, but by then Baumbach had moved on. For the better part of the next decade, the director remained quiet. He wrote and shot a sitcom pilot for ABC about three guys in their 30s, but like most pilots, it died a quiet death without having aired.It was during this down time that Baumbach developed an important friendship with NY-based writer-director Wes Anderson. The kindred spirits collaborated on the script for Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (2004) and Baumbach broached Anderson with the idea for his fourth feature, "The Squid and the Whale." A bleak comedy about the divorce of two intellectual and emotionally distant parents (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) and the effect joint custody has on their two sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline), the autobiographical nature of this film could not be overlooked. Baumbach's parents had divorced and shuffled him and his brother back and forth as children - an arrangement the director realized was absurd while making the film. But that was where similarities ended - the characterizations and specific events in "The Squid and the Whale" were entirely fictional. Meanwhile, Baumbach received his usual critical kudos while winning several important honors, including the Waldo Salt Award for Writing at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay. He was also nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar and Independent Spirit Awards for his directing and screenplay.After marrying his longtime girlfriend, actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, Baumbach cast her as a free-spirited woman who reunites with her uptight sister (Nicole Kidman) on the eve of her nuptials in "Margot at the Wedding" (2007). Baumbach again proved his mettle with character-driven family dramas, though despite top notch performances, the overly talky film did not generate nearly the buzz of his earlier outings. He next teamed with buddy Wes Anderson to co-script Anderson's first animated feature, an adaptation of children's author Roald Dahl's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009). Both men were back in critics' good graces for the clever, charming, and unusual looking stop-motion film, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Film. Baumbach was back behind the camera for "Greenberg" (2010), co-scripting with wife Leigh the studio comedy about a middle-aged man (Ben Stiller) at a crossroads. After another detour into animation, co-writing the family sequel "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (2012), Baumbach teamed with "Greenberg" co-star Greta Gerwig to co-write the comedy-drama "Frances Ha" (2012), starring Gerwig. (The pair had begun dating in 2011; they had their first child in 2019.) This was followed by another comedy about middle age, "While We're Young" (2014) and a second collaboration with Gerwig, "Mistress America" (2015). After co-directing the documentary "De Palma" (2015) with Jake Paltrow, Baumbach returned to features with "The Meyerowitz Stories" (2017), a dysfunctional family comedy-drama starring Dustin Hoffman as an aging author with difficult relationships with his adult children.
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