Phil Alden Robinson

Phil Alden Robinson

Robinson honed his directorial skills steering two episodes of the CBS variety series "The George Burns Comedy Week" in the mid-1980s before eventually making his feature debut with "In the Mood" (1987), a pleasant if lightweight comedy-drama based on the real-life "Woo Woo Kid," a teenager who made headlines in the 1940s by running off with older women. By settling on the essential sweetness of those involved, Robinson made the film palatable, and his decision to recount the tale in semi-documentary style was also an intriguing choice. Two years later, he made what perhaps is his best-known feature film, "Field of Dreams" (1989), adapted from the novel "Shoeless Joe" by W.P. Kinsella. The film's combination of baseball, fantasy and nostalgia proved irresistible to American audiences and critics alike, generating over $60 million at the box-office and netting an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Robinson was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, a Writers Guild Award and a Directors Guild Award. Deliberately taking time off from Hollywood, several years passed before he returned to features with "Sneakers" (1992), a mild and amusing tale of intrigue in the world of high security, for which he received less critical acclaim but a generally favorable and popular audience reception.Again moving away from the limelight, Robinson accompanied the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as an observer on humanitarian missions to Bosnia and Somalia in the early 90s. Those trips rekindled his journalistic spirit and served as the basis of a series of five documentaries, some of which were aired on the ABC News program "Nightline." Having previously spent time researching the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Robinson wrote and directed the acclaimed TV-movie "Freedom Song" (TNT, 2000). Like "Field of Dreams," the central relationship of "Freedom Song" revolved around a father-son bond, although it did not overshadow the historical importance of the Civil Rights Movement. Robinson subsequently helmed an episode of the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" (2001) before returning to the big screen as director of "The Sum of All Fears" (lensed 2001), based on Tom Clancy's novel, with Ben Affleck assuming the role of Jack Ryan.