Best known for his work in the action, drama, and sci-fi film genres, J.J. Abrams’ directorial work includes Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Mission: Impossible III (2006), and Super 8 (2011). He also directed and co-wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), the first film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and his highest-grossing film, as well as the third highest-grossing of all time.
Jeffrey Jacob Abrams was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, the son of television producer Gerald W. Abrams (born 1939) and executive producer Carol Ann Abrams (née Kelvin; 1942–2012).
Abrams’s first job in the movie business started at 15 when he wrote the music for Don Dohler’s 1982 film Nightbeast. During his senior year at college, he teamed with Jill Mazursky to write a feature film treatment. Purchased by Touchstone Pictures, the treatment was the basis for Taking Care of Business, Abrams’s first produced film, which starred Charles Grodin and James Belushi. He followed with Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford, and Forever Young, starring Mel Gibson. He also co-wrote with Mazursky the script for the comedy Gone Fishin’ starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover.
In 1994, he was part of the “Propellerheads” with Rob Letterman, Loren Soman, and Andy Waisler, a group of Sarah Lawrence alums experimenting with computer animation technology who were contracted by Jeffrey Katzenberg to develop animation for the film Shrek.
Abrams worked on the screenplay for the 1998 film Armageddon with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay. That same year, he made his first foray into television with Felicity, which ran for four seasons on The WB Network, serving as the series’ co-creator (with Matt Reeves) and executive producer. He also composed its opening theme music.
In 2008, Abrams produced the monster movie Cloverfield. In 2009, he directed the science fiction film Star Trek, which he produced with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. While it was speculated that they would be writing and producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of novels, they publicly stated in November 2009 that they were no longer looking to take on that project. In 2008, Abrams co-created, executive produced, and co-wrote (along with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) the FOX science fiction series Fringe, for which he also composed the theme music. He was featured in the 2009 MTV Movie Awards 1980s-style digital short “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions”, with Andy Samberg and Will Ferrell, in which he plays a keyboard solo. NBC picked up Abrams’s Undercovers as its first new drama series for the 2010–11 season, but it was cancelled by the network in November 2010.
In 2008, it was reported that Abrams purchased the rights to a New York Times article “Mystery on Fifth Avenue” about the renovation of an 8.5 million dollar co-op, a division of property originally owned by E. F. Hutton & Co. and Marjorie Merriweather Post, for six figures and was developing a film titled Mystery on Fifth Avenue, with Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot Productions.
He wrote and directed the Paramount science fiction thriller Super 8, while co-producing with Steven Spielberg and Bryan Burk; it was released in June, 2011.
Following the news that he would direct The Force Awakens, speculation arose as to Abrams’s future with Paramount Pictures, with whom he had released all of his previously directed work, and which had a first-look deal with his Bad Robot Productions. Paramount said that Abrams would continue to have a hand in the highly successful Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises going forward.
Abrams is married to PR executive Katie McGrath and has three children.
“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) is probably the most influential film of my generation. It’s the personification of good and evil and the way it opened up the world to space adventure, the way westerns had to our parents’ generations, left an indelible imprint. So, in a way, everything that any of us does is somehow directly or indirectly affected by the experience of seeing those first three films.”
“I’ve always liked working on stories that combine people who are relatable with something insane. The most exciting thing for me is crossing that bridge between something we know is real and something that is extraordinary. The thing for me has always been how you cross that bridge.”
[on Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)] “The thing that the great genre filmmaking has always done is taken issues of now and told them through allegory and made them palatable for larger audiences. But, you know, there are themes in the movie that were important to us: the idea of questioning authority, the idea that when the task you’re given is morally questionable, what do you do? When protecting others, especially family, means making the ultimate sacrifice, what do you do? When you feel that desperate need for revenge and blood lust, what do you do?”
“I try to push ideas away, and the ones that will not leave me alone are the ones that ultimately end up happening.”
“All I know is that I’ve made some big screw-ups, and I’ve done some things that have done all right. I just keep trying to learn from the mistakes I’ve made.”
“When I was a little kid — and even still — I loved magic tricks. When I saw how movies got made — at least had a glimpse when I went on the Universal Studios tour with my grandfather, I remember feeling like this was another means by which I could do magic.”
He gave Alias (2001) star Jennifer Garner a pink bicycle for her birthday. She would often greet the production crew by ringing the bells on the bike’s handlebars.
He says he got the job directing Mission: Impossible III (2006) after Tom Cruise watched early episodes of Alias (2001) on DVD and loved them. The two started hanging out together and Cruise offered him the job.
While he was writing scripts in college, he used the Alvin Sargent screenplay to Ordinary People (1980) as a guide.
He is best friends with Greg Grunberg. They have known each other since they were children and he frequently casts Grunberg in his films and television series.
He is an avid fan of Downton Abbey (2010) and has visited the set in Ealing Studios.
He has had the visual effects studio Industrial Light & Magic fix his overuse of lens flares, by removing them in post-production.
J.J. Abrams’ directing credits include…
|2006||Mission: Impossible III|
|2013||Star Trek Into Darkness|
|2015||Star Wars: The Force Awakens|