Jake Kasdan

Jake Kasdan

Jake Kasdan was born in Detroit, MI to writers Meg Goldman and Lawrence Kasdan. A love of film seemed only natural for the youngster, who went on to spend a great deal of time on film sets once his father began the second phase of his Hollywood career as a director. As an added bonus, Jake also enjoyed making small cameos in several of his father's productions, among them "The Big Chill" (1983), "Silverado" (1985) and "The Accidental Tourist" (1988). Having written and directed a number of plays while still in high school, Kasdan had the additional benefit of receiving an invaluable hands-on education, first as a production assistant on his father's drama "Grand Canyon" (1991) and then as an archivist on "Wyatt Earp" (1994). His first professional writing credit came with the publication of a book about the latter production entitled Wyatt Earp: The Film and the Filmmakers, co-authored by his father. Although there were stints at both Massachusetts' Hampshire College and U.C. Santa Cruz, neither resulted in a degree, as Kasdan ultimately made the decision to take the experience he had already gained and devote his energies to writing and filmmaking.Having returned to Los Angeles, Kasdan wrote and directed the play "The Behavioral Patterns of Funnyman Tyler Hudson," which was staged at the Hollywood Playhouse in 1996. Not long after, the aspiring filmmaker had found representation and financial backing for what would be his feature film debut as a writer-director-producer. Inspired by the works of authors Rex Stout and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the crime-comedy "Zero Effect" (1998) starred Bill Pullman as the brilliant, albeit socially inept, private detective Daryl Zero and Ben Stiller as Steve Arlo, his assistant and attorney. Although it was only given a limited theatrical release, Kasdan's smart, sardonic mystery - which screened at the Cannes Film Festival later that year - received high marks from critics who touted the young writer-director as one of the more promising new talents to keep an eye on.Soon after, Kasdan entered the world of television for the first of many collaborations with future comedy guru Judd Apatow, who saw Kasdan's youthful, wry wit as a good fit for the teen comedy series he was developing. Kasdan signed on as a consulting producer and frequent director for the criminally short-lived "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000), a nostalgic spot-on look at the cultural divide within high school society during the early 1980s. While the ahead-of-its-time show was canceled during its first season, "Freaks & Geeks" went on to be regarded as one of the best school-theme series of all time, in addition to having launched the careers of such future stars as James Franco, Jason Segel and Seth Rogen. Kasdan went on to direct episodes of the teen satire "Grosse Pointe" (The WB 2000-01) before he rejoined Apatow to direct episodes of the college sitcom, "Undeclared" (Fox, 2000-02) which, like "Freaks & Geeks," fell prey to a network schedule juggling act that resulted in failed ratings.Kasdan's sophomore feature film effort, "Orange County" (2002), was written by Mike White and starred Colin Hanks as an aspiring writer trying to get into Stanford University with the help of his scheming pothead brother, Jack Black. While not the critical darling "Zero Effect" had been, "Orange County" nonetheless demonstrated Kasdan's burgeoning facility behind the camera, even when directing less-than-inspired material. He returned with a vengeance as the writer-director-producer of "The TV Set" (2006), a blistering indictment of the television industry that starred David Duchovny as an idealistic writer suffering one Kafkaesque humiliation after the other as he attempts to get his show to pilot while staying true to his artistic vision. While the film barely made it beyond the festival circuit before being released on DVD, the majority of reviewers saw "The TV Set" as a welcome return to form for Kasdan.A no-hold-barred spoof of several recent musical biopics, "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007), was directed by Kasdan and co-written with Apatow. It starred John C. Reilly as the titular music legend, whose journey from dirt poor farmer to country-folk singer to rock legend borrowed liberally from the likes of Ray Charles, Brian Wilson and in particular, Johnny Cash, with hilarious results. However, despite an all-star cast and positive critical notices, "Walk Hard" failed to find the larger audience Kasdan had been actively courting with the broad lampoon. He returned as a director-for-hire on the raunchy comedy "Bad Teacher" (2011), featuring Cameron Diaz as a foul-mouthed, gold-digging educator out to seduce a wealthy substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) after her rich fiancé dumps her. Coming in at No. 2 at the box office in its opening weekend, just behind the Disney-Pixar behemoth "Cars 2" (2011), "Bad Teacher" finally gave Kasdan the commercial hit he had been working toward. Ironically, it was also the most negatively reviewed film of the young director's oeuvre. As he pondered his next feature projects, Kasdan kept busy with television, directing episodes of several popular comedies, including "Californication" (Showtime, 2007-14), "Ben and Kate" (Fox, 2012-13) and "New Girl" (Fox, 2011-), the latter of which Kasdan also executive produced.By Bryce Coleman