James Mangold

James Mangold

Born in New York, NY, Mangold grew up an outcast in his blue collar hometown. Both his parents were painters - his father, Robert, was an abstract minimalist and his mother, Sylvia, painted landscapes. Meanwhile, the neighboring parents were cops or firefighters; a reality that made Mangold feel like an outsider at a very young age. When he was 12, his dad bought the family a Super-8 camera, which the young Mangold used to make short films. He even directed a short in high school starring the jocks that picked on him and the cheerleaders who would not give him the time of day. Called "Growing Up," the short gave Mangold unusual control over elements from his life where he previously had none. After high school, he attended the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, earning his bachelor's degree in film and video in 1985. On graduation day, Mangold was chosen by Cal Arts' president to sit at a table of trustees that included Michael Eisner, Barry Diller and agent Jeff Berg. The sit-down gained Mangold his first entrée into Hollywood, resulting in representation from Berg and a contract from Eisner.But just as quickly, Mangold was tossed out the same door he entered. He helped write a moderately successful animated feature, "Oliver & Company" (1988), a revamping of Charles Dickens' classic story starring a kitten taken in by a pack of pickpocket dogs. Though the movie took in over $50 million at the box office, Disney was no longer interested in working with Mangold. They fired him three days into his first directing gig and cast him aside once his contract expired. He retired to a North Hollywood apartment to write a novel, but soon realized that the same frustrations existed in the publishing world as they did in Hollywood. After a good talking-to from a writer friend, Mangold entered Columbia University with renewed vigor and earned his master's degree in film under the tutelage of Oscar-winning director Milos Foreman, who oversaw an advanced writing and directing workshop. And it was at Columbia that Mangold began writing the script for "Heavy" (1995), the film that ultimately launched his Hollywood career.Mangold raised a few hundred thousand dollars and cast then-unknown Liv Tyler for his low-budget drama about a college dropout-turned-waitress (Tyler) who starts work at a roadside diner in upstate New York, arousing a shy, overweight pizza chef (Pruitt Taylor-Vince) from his mind-numbing drudgery. Though not a box office smash by any stretch of the imagination, "Heavy" toured the festival circuit at Cannes, Sundance, and Toronto, and earned him a good deal of recognition. Most importantly, Mangold had taken his first important step towards reviving his failed career. His next film, "Cop Land" (1997), further increased his esteem in the eyes of critics and earned a hefty sum at the box office, as well. Set in a fictional New Jersey town, "Cop Land" starred a beefed-up Sylvester Stallone - who gained 40 pounds a la Robert De Niro for the role - as a partially deaf, small-town sheriff dragged into an internal affairs investigation of corrupt cops living in his town. Co-starring De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta, "Cop Land" offered Mangold the rare opportunity to direct his dream cast. The results were widely appreciated by critics and audiences alike.For his next feature, "Girl, Interrupted" (1999), Mangold was responsible for creating a star and Oscar winner out of Angelina Jolie. Adapted from Susana Kaysen's best-selling memoir and starring Winona Ryder as the semi-fictionalized narrator who lands in a mental institution after a suicide attempt, "Girl, Interrupted" ended up a showcase for Jolie's stunning portrayal of a charismatic sociopath who befriends Ryder's character. While avoiding the trappings of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), the film nonetheless proved to be mediocre at best, both with critics and at the box office. His next project, "Kate & Leopold" (2001), left critics scratching their heads wondering what became of the moody independent filmmaker of "Heavy" and "Cop Land." A mainstream romantic comedy between a 21st-century woman (Meg Ryan) and a 19th-century bachelor (Hugh Jackman), "Kate & Leopold" did respectable business, despite Mangold earning criticism for his rapid descent into mediocrity. With "Identity" (2003), an ensemble thriller about 10 strangers brought to an isolated motel during a rainstorm by forces unknown, Mangold churned out a traditional thriller while regaining his independent spirit. Shot almost exclusively on a back lot, "Identity" boasted strong performances from John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Amanda Peet, as well as a moody atmosphere reminiscent of "Psycho."Mangold shifted genres again for his next project, "Walk the Line" (2005), a biopic about the early years of outlaw country singer, Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix). Though the subject matter was built on a familiar story - poor but gifted social misfit's talents make him a star but, still empty inside, he almost loses all to substance abuse - Mangold boldly chose to use stars Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon's voices instead of the original vocals of Cash and June Carter. Carefully crafted around Cash and Carter's protracted love story, the film made tremendous use of Mangold's skilled headliners, both of whom earned numerous award nominations and Witherspoon her first Academy Award for Best Actress. Mangold's acclaimed film also won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. In yet another genre shift, he directed "3:10 to Yuma" (2007), an excellent remake of the 1957 Western that starred Christian Bale as a struggling rancher who takes a job escorting a notorious but charming bandit (Russell Crowe) to a prison train while the outlaw's murderous gang tries to free him. Though not a box-office hit, "3:10 to Yuma" gave a fresh and exciting look to a well-worn genre.Mangold next directed "Knight and Day" (2010), a comedic action thriller about a wholesome Midwestern woman (Cameron Diaz) who becomes accidentally entangled with an international spy (Tom Cruise) trying to flee the country. Unfortunately, the film tanked at the box office - due more to Cruise's career slump and less to do with the film itself or Mangold's effort. He subsequently took over for a departed Darren Aronofsky to helm "The Wolverine" (2013), the well-received second solo outing for the clawed Marvel superhero, which reunited Mangold with "Kate & Leopold" star Jackman in a considerably edgier and less lighthearted setting. Mangold followed this with the violent, R-rated "Logan" (2017), Jackman's farewell to the character.