Childhood & Early Life
He was born on September 3, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York City, US to Jonathan Baumbach and Georgia Brown. He has three siblings. His father, a Jew, is an American novelist, academic and film critic, while his mother a Protestant is a critic of the American news and culture paper ‘Village Voice’.
Baumbach attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and graduated in 1987. Thereafter he studied at the Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York and earned his BA in English in 1991.
Following studies he had a brief stint at The New Yorker magazine working as a messenger.
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Baumbach kick started his journey as film writer and director with the comedy film ‘Kicking and Screaming’ that released on October 4, 1995. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival and eventually made position in many "Top Ten" lists. Baumbach also essayed the character of Danny in it.
Kicking and Screaming’ had a long run on the Sundance Film Channel. It garnered Baumbach well deserved acclaim as debutant writer and director from critics. He was also selected among "Ten New Faces of 1996" by Newsweek.
The next film he wrote and directed was a romantic comedy ‘Mr. Jealousy’ which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 1997 and later had its theatrical release on June 5, 1998. He also produced the film and played the role of Arliss in it.
In 1997 he also gave direction, co-wrote and acted in the comedy of manners film ‘Highball’. However after he disowned the film, the names of director and writer were mentioned as Ernie Fusco and Jesse Carter respectively.
He then remained writer-director of the 2000 short film ‘Conrad & Butler Take a Vacation’.
He went on to co-write the American comedy-drama film ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ (2004) with American filmmaker, screenwriter and actor Wes Anderson.
The next collaboration of the duo emerged as one of the most remarkable films of Baumbach till present. It was a semi-autobiographical American independent art-house comedy-drama film ‘The Squid and the Whale’ that was inspired from Baumbach’s childhood days in Brooklyn, divorce of his parents and its effect on the family. The film was produced by Wes Anderson while Baumbach contributed as its writer-director.
‘The Squid and the Whale’ premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2005 and released in the US later on October 5, 2005. The film became a huge critical and commercial hit garnering widespread critical acclaim and grossing $11.2 million at box-office against a budget of $1.5 million thus taking Baumbach’s career to new heights.
Baumbach went on to win several awards for ‘The Squid and the Whale’ including best dramatic direction and screenwriting at the Sundance Film Festival; and Best Screenplay from Los Angeles Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Circle ,the National Board of Review and Toronto Film Critics Association. He also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film also fetched three Golden Globe nominations and six Independent Spirit Award nominations among others.
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Moving on he wrote and directed the family drama ‘Margot at the Wedding’ that had Nicole Kidman, Jack Black and John Turturro in starring roles apart from Baumbach’s then wife actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. The film premiered at the 34th Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2007 and was also screened at the New York Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival.
He co-wrote the American stop-motion animated comedy film ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009) with Wes Anderson that was based on a children's novel by Roald Dahl bearing same title. It marked the first animated film and first film adaptation directed by Anderson and had George Clooney and Meryl Streep among others in starring roles. The film became both a critical and commercial success.
In the ensuing years he worked on several films in different capacities. These included producing American drama ‘Alexander the Last’ (2009); writing and directing American comedy-drama ‘Greenberg’ (2010) that received Golden Bear nomination at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival; and co-writing the blockbuster hit American 3D computer-animated comedy ‘Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted’ (2012) with Eric Darnell.
His next notable film as director-producer was the critically and commercially successful American black-and-white comedy-drama ‘Frances Ha,’ that he co-wrote with American actress/writer/director Greta Gerwig who also starred in the film. The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2012 and was later screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival and had its theatrical release in the US on May 17, 2013.
His next film as writer-director-producer was the Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller, Amanda Seyfried, and Adam Driver starrer American comedy ‘While We're Young’. The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2014 and released theatrically in the US on March 27, 2015. It thrived critically and emerged as the most commercially successful film of Baumbach at the US box-office till such time.
One of the most notable films of Baumbach as writer-director-producer was the American comedy-drama ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ starring Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel. The world premiere of the film happened at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2017. It was chosen to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section and emerged winner of the Palm Dog that year. On October 13, 2017, it had its select theatrical release as also streaming by Netflix.
Other notable works of Baumbach includes directing, producing and writing American comedy film ‘Mistress America’ (2015) and co-directing American documentary film ‘De Palma’ (2015) with Jake Paltrow.
According to sources he has written and directed an untitled comedy film that is planned for a release by Netflix on November 30, 2018. The film stars Adam Driver, Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson among others.