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J.J. Abrams Biography

Home > Actors > A > Abrams, J.J. > Biography

Birth Name: J.J. Abrams
Born: 06/27/1966
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA

Born on June 27, 1966 in New York, NY, Abrams was raised by his father, Gerald, a prolific television movie producer, and his mother, Carol, both a lawyer and law professor. Since he was born into a show business home, it was only naturally for the young Abrams to at least experiment in that arena as a child, making Super 8mm movies when he was eight years old. After meeting future collaborator Matt Reeves when he was 13, Abrams took his first serious steps toward a professional career in entertainment when he wrote the music for director Don Dohler's cult horror flick, "Nightbeast" (1982). Abrams was 16 at the time. Meanwhile, he studied liberal arts at Sarah Lawrence College in nearby Yonkers, though he spent his junior year studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. Once he was finished with college, Abrams went about breaking into the business as a screenwriter and collaborated with Jill Mazursky - daughter of famed director and actor Paul Mazursky - on the script for "Taking Care of Business" (1990), a comedy starring Jim Belushi as an executive whose Filofax is stolen by an ex-convict. Directed by Arthur Hiller, Abram's first stab at Hollywood met with mixed reviews.

Abrams' next screenplay was Mike Nichols' "Regarding Henry" (1991), which marked his debut as a co-producer. The mawkish drama starred Harrison Ford as a selfish yuppie lawyer who becomes a better person after suffering gunshot-induced amnesia. Though it did fairly good business, the unlikely plot drew critical fire. A much bigger hit for Abrams was "Forever Young" (1992), a romantic comedy that he wrote and executive produced, starring Mel Gibson as a pilot frozen during WWII who tries to reclaim his now-elderly lost love once he is thawed by a young boy (Elijah Wood). Meanwhile, he formed Abrams/Katims/Webster Productions with writer Jason Katims and producer Paul Webster. In 1996, the company produced the romantic comedy "The Pallbearer," which received heavy press for being the first mid-"Friends" feature of actor David Schwimmer. Abrams' script combined dark humor with an effective light comedy touch and was helmed by longtime friend Matt Reeves. Following the abysmal comedy "Gone Fishin'" (1997), starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover, Abrams faired a little better as the co-writer of the romantic comedy "Picture Perfect" (1997) starring another "Friends" co-star, Jennifer Aniston, which he followed by receiving screen credit for Michael Bay's "Armageddon" (1998).

Turning to television, Abrams collaborated with Reeves to create and executive produce the highly-touted series "Felicity" (The WB, 1998-2002), a drama centering on the trials and tribulations of a sheltered college student (Keri Russell) trying to make it in the Big Apple over the objections of her parents. On for four seasons, the show generated a strange bit of controversy when Russell, urged by producers, cut her famously long, curly locks. A ratings decline followed, but observers were unsure if the hair or a time slot move was the culprit. While still on "Felicity," Abrams penned the script for "Joy Ride" (2001), a revenge thriller about two brothers (Steve Zahn and Paul Walker) on a road trip who play a practical joke, only to become hunted down by a mentally deranged trucker. After "Felicity" went off the air, Abrams - who hungered to for a show full of action and bad guys - created "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06), which centered on Sydney Bristow, who works as a double agent for the CIA and tries to subvert a counter-government agency called SD-6, all the while keeping her occupation secret from family and friends. The show became a big hit, turning Garner into an award-winning star and Abrams into a popular hit-maker.

While "Alias" eventually suffered from ratings withdrawal due to frequent time slot shifts and Garner's burgeoning film career, Abrams was well on his way to creating his next series, which turned out to be the sci-fi adventure phenomenon, "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010). The show's genesis came about when Abrams was approached by then-chairman of ABC, Lloyd Braun, with the idea of putting on a show about a group of people stranded on an island after a plane crash. At first, Abrams felt the idea was not right for a series, but later convinced Braun that the island "[couldn't] be a normal island." Braun agreed and gave him a week to come up with something. Abrams started work on a Monday, handed in an outline by Friday, and had a greenlit show on Saturday. With $12 million and 12 weeks to prep and shoot a pilot, Abrams cobbled together the necessary elements and began work. What resulted was a show that received three times the audience expected; the floundering network had a hit and Abrams cemented his reputation as television's golden boy.

Focusing on a motley crew of survivors struggling to find the reasons for their landing on an ever-increasingly mysterious island with a long, complicated mythology, "Lost" spent six seasons keeping viewers guessing from week to week with seemingly random occurrences, disconnected events and duplicitous characters. Meanwhile, the main characters were shown in flashbacks, flashforwards and flash-sideways in their other lives, revealing them to be more than purported. While it made for popular water cooler, the show was decorated with numerous awards, including an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2005. Despite the show's rabid success, Abrams took a backseat in 2007 and allowed executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse take the reigns while he went back to making features. Though Abrams was inexperienced in directing movies, star Tom Cruise rallied to his side and hired him to direct "Mission Impossible: III" (2006), which pitted IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) against a notorious weapons dealer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who kidnaps Hunt's fiancée (Michelle Monaghan).

As that film opened to solid reviews and a healthy box office, it was announced that Abrams was set to reinvigorate the "Star Trek" film franchise that was long considered dead by Paramount Pictures. With Trekkie fans sent over the moon, Abrams was embraced as being the best choice to direct the film. But while that production was years away from completion, he served as an executive producer on "What About Brian" (ABC, 2006-07) and the short-lived drama "Six Degrees"(2006-07), both of which were produced under his banner, Bad Robot, which had been his production company since "Felicity." After joining Rick Orci and Alex Kurtzman as an executive producer on the sci-fi procedural, "Fringe" (Fox, 2008- ), he returned to features to produce the low-budget monster thriller, "Cloverfield" (2008), which turned into a surprise box office hit after being released under a veil of secrecy. Finally, Abrams directed "Star Trek" (2009), a reboot of the franchise that depicted James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) as a rambunctious youth who fights, drinks and chases women in Starfleet Academy, yet somehow manages to save the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise despite an initially heated rivalry with the logic-based Spock (Zachary Quinto). The film was loved by fans and critics on its way to becoming an enormous box office hit.

With "Lost" coming to a close in mid-2010, he created the action thriller "Undercovers" (NBC, 2010), which depicted a husband & wife spy team (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw) being pulled back into the espionage world after one of their friends goes missing. But ratings were poor and the network canceled the show in November 2010 after airing just 11 episodes. Meanwhile, Abrams bounced back with his third feature directing effort, "Super 8" (2011), an ode to Steven Spielberg's "The Goonies" (1985) and the films of Abrams' youth, which told the story of a group of 1970s-era kids shooting a Super 8 movie who witness a train derailment that unleashes a mysterious presence in their small town. Abrams' film was made in collaboration with Spielberg, who served as a producer, and was hailed by critics for its inventive and emotionally gripping tale. "Super 8" went on to box office success, recouping well over its $50 million budget in just the first few weeks of release. Stepping back into a producer role, he worked with director Brad Bird and star Tom Cruise on "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" (2011), a massively successful hit that was highly praised by critics and audiences. Meanwhile, Abrams directed the anticipated sequel, "Star Trek into Darkness" (2013), which focused on the Enterprise crew battling an unstoppable force that has attacked Starfleet and left Earth in chaos. As he was doing post-production on "Star Trek," it was announced that Abrams landed the coveted director's job on "Star Wars: Episode VII" (2015), a movie many rabid fans thought would never be made, but finally became a reality after George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company in October 2012. Though details of the story and cast were under wraps, rumors swirled that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were open to reprising their famed roles.