Charlie Kaufman Biography

Charlie Kaufman
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Quick Facts

Birthday: November 19, 1958

Nationality: American

Age: 62 Years, 62 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Also Known As: Charles Stuart Kaufman

Born Country: United States

Born in: New York, New York, United States

Famous as: Screenwriter

Directors Screenplay Writers

Height: 5'4" (163 cm), 5'4" Males

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Denise Kaufman

father: Myron Kaufman

mother: Helen Kaufman

children: Anna Kaufman

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Boston University, New York University

awards: Academy Award for Writing (Original Screenplay)
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Screenplay
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay

National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay
BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Grand Jury Prize
Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature
Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award
Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay
National Board of Review Award for Best Original Screenplay
Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay
London Film Critics' Circle Award for Screenwriter of the Year
Toronto Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay

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Who is Charlie Kaufman?

Charlie Kaufman is an American screenwriter, director, producer and a novelist, best known for writing Academy Award-nominated screenplays of films such as Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Born in New York, Charlie was interested in performing arts ever since he was a kid. Following his high school graduation, he enrolled in the New York University’s film programme and after some initial struggle, he found his footing into the industry in the early 1990s, working in television. His debut feature film as a screenwriter was the 1999 film, titled Being John Malkovich, which was well received by the critics and the audiences. He followed it with more critically acclaimed films such as Human Nature and Adaptation. It was 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that won him his first Academy Award and earned cult classic status. Charlie ventured into direction with the 2008’s critically acclaimed film Synecdoche, New York and later directed the film titled I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which was released in 2020. He has also written an acclaimed novel titled Antkind. Charlie is currently one of the most unique and critically acclaimed screenwriters in Hollywood.

Childhood & Early Life

Charlie Kaufman was born Charles Stuart Kaufman, on November 19, 1958, in New York City, to Jewish parents Helen and Myron Kaufman. He was born as the younger child of the two and had an older sister growing up. His father worked as an engineer in a local company, in Massapequa, where Charlie spent his childhood years.

Since his childhood years, Charlie was deeply interested in performing arts and he used to stage plays at home for his parents and also made several short films, using his family and friends as actors.

His family later moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, from where Charlie resumed his education. He was good in academics but was not an outstanding student by any means. He also grew up as a shy teenager who found it very difficult to gel with other children his age.

In high school, Charlie spent most of his time at the drama club and doing theatrical plays. He actively took participation in school and community theatrical productions. His big early breakthrough came during his senior year of high school when he appeared playing a key role in the high school production of filmmaker Woody Allen’s play Play it Again, Sam.

Following his high school graduation in his late teen years, he enrolled into the Boston University. However, he did not like it there and transferred to New York University to study filmmaking. In college, Charlie began writing screenplays and short stories and got a big breakthrough when he got published in the National Lampoon magazine. His writing partner in college was Paul Proch.

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Career

Charlie and Paul Proch began writing screenplays and plays together; one of their early screenplays was titled Purely Coincidental. The screenplay was based on coincidences that shape our lives and Charlie sent it to several biggies of Hollywood, including Steven Spielberg, but he received no response. While he struggled as a screenwriter, following his college graduation, Charlie did some odd jobs to support himself financially.

Throughout the late 1980s, he wrote several spec scripts for shows such as The Simpsons and Newhart, but never got any encouraging response. Eventually, in the early 1990s, he did get a call back from a talent agent who had read a few of his spec scripts. He asked Charlie to move to Los Angeles. It was 1991 and Charlie moved to LA, only to struggle for a few weeks more.

One of the first writing gigs he got was for a Comedy Central show. The show was to be shot in Minneapolis, and Charlie had almost taken the job when he received a call from the producers of the sitcom titled Get a Life. He was offered to write for the sitcom. He wrote two episodes for the show before it got cancelled in 1992. However short the gig was, his work was appreciated by other writers on the writing staff.

In the early 1990s, Charlie further struggled to get better work as a screenwriter but instead, all he got were shows such as The Edge and Ned and Stacey, which did not fall under his preferred comedic genre. However, writing for the show titled The Dana Carvey Show brought him some recognition.

He got his big career breakthrough in the late 1990s when his feature film screenplay titled Being John Malkovich got approved for funding, to be directed by Spike Jonze. The fantasy comedy-drama film was released in 1999 to immense critical success, earning Charlie his first Academy Award nomination. The film was known for its surrealist flavour and original humour and has since earned cult classic status.

Following the critical acclaim for his debut feature film, he found his way into the industry. His second film, titled Human Nature, was released in 2001 to another critical acclaim. The film was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival and turned out to be a moderate critical success and a commercial failure.

Spike Jonze returned in 2002 to direct another one of Charlie’s screenplays, titled Adaptation. The film, which starred Nicolas Cage in the lead role as a fictional version of Charlie himself, turned out to be a critical and commercial success. Once again, Charlie maintained his brand of ‘surrealist screwball humour’ to a successful result. The film got Charlie his second Academy Award nomination.

The 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind turned out to be a special film for Charlie Kaufman, as it bagged him his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet starrer film was centred around the themes of memory and romantic love, wrapped in a psychological thriller package. The film is widely acclaimed as one of the most unique, original and well-made American films of all times.

After directing an audio play titled Hope Leaves the Theater, Charlie made his debut as a film director for the 2008 film titled Synecdoche, New York. Spike Jonze was again set to direct the film written by Charlie, but he skipped it in favour of another film. The film received rave reviews and was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. However, many critics found the film to be pretentious and it also failed miserably at the box office.

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The financial debacle of the film also harmed the prospect of acquiring funding for his next projects, such as the musical titled Frank or Francis. Facing financial distress, Charlie then worked as a writer for hire and reworked the scripts of films such as Kung-Fu Panda 2 and Ad Astra.

In 2015, he wrote and directed a stop-motion animated film titled Anomalisa, the funding for which was partly gathered through crowdfunding. The film was heavily critically acclaimed and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, along with a nomination at the Oscar Awards. Despite universal critical acclaim, the film failed at the box office.

In 2018, it was announced that Charlie was working on a screen adaptation of the psychological thriller book I’m Thinking of Ending Things. The film could not secure a theatrical release owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and was released on Netflix, in September 2020. The film received highly positive reviews.

Currently, Charlie is working on the TV adaptation of his story I.Q. 83 and is writing a film for Ryan Gosling’s production house.

In July 2020, he also released his debut novel titled Antkind. The book was received well by the critics and the readers.

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Personal Life

Charlie Kaufman married Denise Kaufman before he began his professional career and has one child with her.

Charlie said that he has been interested in themes such as the nature of reality and existentialism since his childhood years, and hence, these themes find their place into his screenplays often.

He currently lives with his wife in Manhattan.

Charlie is extremely shy of media and rarely makes any public appearance.

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