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Mark Rydell is an Academy Award-nominated director, a classically trained actor, and an accomplished jazz pianist.
As a film director, Rydell immerses himself in every stage of the filmmaking process: from the beginning stages of script development to the final touches of post production. Rydell's commitment to the craft of filmmaking is evidenced by the twenty-six Oscar nominations garnered by his films. Rydell is especially known for his rapport with actors and his ability to cultivate strong, sensitive, colorful performances. Bette Midler, Marsha Mason, Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn and Sissy Spacek have all received Oscar nominations under his direction, as well as Golden Globe nominations for both Stephen Rea and Isabella Rossellini.
Rydell was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. After graduating from high-school, he entered the Army and spent two years in Far East Japan developing entertainment for military personnel before beginning studies at the University of Chicago and the Chicago Musical College. Rydell went on to major in English and philosophy at New York University and study at the Juilliard School of Music. Fresh from Julliard, it was as jazz pianist that Rydell first made his mark on showbiz, working the nightclubs of both New York and Chicago.
His foray into acting began when Rydell won a scholarship to Sanford Meisner's renowned Neighborhood Playhouse. After joining the Actors Studio to which he is still an active member, he acted in numerous live television shows before landing a continuing role in the CBS daytime drama As The World Turns. His talents, not limited to the small screen, were apparent in both his Broadway stage debut in Seagulls Over Sorrento with Rod Steiger, and his feature film debut with John Cassavetes and Sal Mineo in Don Siegel's 1956 youth gang drama Crime In The Streets.
Although Rydell would ultimately change his focus to directing, he made memorable cameo appearances such as Marty Augustine, the sadistic hoodlum in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973), and Romeo, the sleazy nightclub owner in David Seltzer's Punchline (1988) and the mobster, Meyer Lansky, in Sydney Pollack's Havana (1990). He also co-starred as Jack Warner in James Dean (2001) which he produced and directed and had a co-starring role as Al Hack in Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending (2002).
His career as a director started on the Ben Casey series, followed by the first episode of I Spy starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp, with Rydell eventually directing more than fifty episodes of dramatic television including an award winning episode of Gunsmoke. Having made his mark on television, the director shifted his focus to the big screen, making his directorial debut in feature films with The Fox starring Sandy Dennis, Anne Heywood and Keir Dullea. Based on the D.H. Lawrence novella, The Fox won the Golden Globe Award for Best English Language Foreign Film.
The great reception of The Fox only hinted at the heights Rydell's tenure as director would achieve. For only his second film, the director seized the opportunity to work with Steve McQueen in bringing William Faulkner's final novel The Rievers (1969) to the screen, a film that received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Film Score by John Williams. Soon after, in 1971 Rydell and a partner formed their own production company, Sanford Productions, which went on to produced such films as Jeremiah Johnson (1972), starring Robert Redford, and Scarecrow (1973) starring Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. Scarecrow won the Cannes Film Festival's top honor - The Palme D'Or.
Rydell himself produced and directed The Cowboys (1972), starring John Wayne, Cinderella Liberty (1973) starring James Caan and Marsha Mason, who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress, and Harry and Walter Go To New York (1976) starring Elliott Gould, James Caan, Michael Caine and Diane Keaton. In 1979, the director introduced Bette Midler to moviegoers in The Rose. Her powerful performance as a declining rock singer brought her an Oscar nomination as Best Actress, and a nomination for Freddie Forrest as Best Supporting Actor.
It was in 1981, however, that Rydell reached monumental heights as a filmmaker, directing Henry Fonda, Katherine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda in the critically and popularly acclaimed film, On Golden Pond (1981). This film, about a family rediscovering their love for one another, received ten Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Rydell as Best Director. The film won Oscars for Henry Fonda (his first), Katherine Hepburn, and writer Ernest Thompson.
Though On Golden Pond was a tough act to follow, Rydell managed to find great success once again with his next film, The River (1984), starring Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson as a farming family struggling to save their land. The picture received five Oscar nominations. Soon after, his reputation as an actor's director brought together two stars, both of whom received previous critical acclaim under Rydell's direction, in For The Boys (1991): Bette Midler and James Caan as a song and dance team who entertained American troops through half a century. Once again Midler received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
The director's filmography went on to include Intersection (1993) starring Richard Gere, Sharon Stone and Lolita Davidovich; and Crime of the Century (1996) for HBO starring Stephen Rea and Isabella Rossellini, which earned five Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor. Rydell also directed and produced TNT's critically acclaimed James Dean (2001), directing himself in the role of studio mogul Jack Warner in the film opposite James Franco's Golden Globe-winning portrayal of James Dean. Rydell was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for his work on the project, and in all James Dean (2001) received 11 Emmy nominations including Best Picture Made-For-Television and Best Director. As an actor, Rydell had a co-starring role in the Woody Allen comedy Hollywood Ending released by DreamWorks Pictures.
Rydell directed and produced Even Money, starring Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Kelsey Grammer, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Nick Cannon, Tim Roth, Jay Mohr, Carla Gugino and Grant Sullivan. Even Money is an edgy mosaic of nine individuals whose lives are inescapably intertwined amongst the dark addictions and tragic failures they share. The film offers an emotionally-charged portrait of an American landscape that is plagued by addiction and gambling, the painful consequences of which do not discriminate against any one person-and instead, affect all of us. Even Money has been produced with Bob Yari Productions and was released in May 2007.
With an interest in continuing to develop compelling cinema, Rydell heads the Los Angeles based production company, Concourse Productions, known for producing, amongst many others, The Man In The Moon (1991) starring Sam Waterston and Tess Harper, a film that also introduced the world to future Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon. In addition to all of this, Rydell is a Board Member of the Actors Studio and an Artistic Director of the Actors Studio West. He shares from his filmmaking experience at universities and seminars all over the country.