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Philip Kaufman
Born October 23, 1936 (1936-10-23) (age 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation director, screenwriter, producer, actor
Years active 1965 - present
Spouse(s) Rose Kaufman (1958-her death)

Philip Kaufman (born October 23, 1936) is an American film director and screenwriter. Although not noted for directing a large number of films, the films he has worked on have been done with recognizable intelligence and independence. He is noted for directing films of eclectic subjects, ranging from realism to fantasy, and often incorporating satire or subtle humor as part of his “artistic signature.” He was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Kaufman has been considered a “risk taker.” He has successfully adapted novels of widely different types – from Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being to Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun; from Tom Wolfe’s heroic epic The Right Stuff to the erotic writings of Anais Nin’s Henry & June. According to film historian James Welsh, his candid treatment of adult relationships in Henry & June was considered an “artistic breakthrough by an unconventional filmmaker who was willing to take a chance and put his career on the line.”

His greatest success was the blockbuster film The Right Stuff, where he directed and wrote the screenplay. It earned eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. And his best films have always had his personal imprint, “stressing values of individualism and integrity,” and always being "clearly American."[1]




Early life

He attended the University of Chicago and later Harvard Law School. After spending some time backpacking in Europe with his wife, Kaufman relocated back to the United States. His time in Europe heavily influenced Kaufman's decision to become a filmmaker, when he and his wife would wander into small movie theaters showcasing the works of John Cassavetes among others. He held some odd jobs including mailman. During his frequent travels he met Anaïs Nin, lover of writer Henry Miller. The relationship between Miller and Nin was the inspiration for Kaufman's film Henry and June.


As chronicled on his website,, Kaufman relocated back to his native Chicago, ready to make a feature film. With his wife behind him, he proceeded to go around town looking for funding for his film, which became his directorial debut, Goldstein, co-written an co-directed with Benjamin Manaster. With that film in 1965, they were awarded the Prix de la Nouvelle Critique at the Cannes Film Festival. Acclaimed French director Jean Renoir called it the best American film in 20 years. Two years later, Kaufman went on to direct Fearless Frank which marked the debut of Jon Voight. While the movie didn't gain as much attention as Goldstein, it did help Kaufman land a contract in Universal Studios' Young Directors Program.

In 1972, Kaufman wrote and directed The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid starring Robert Duvall in a terrific performance as Jesse James.

In 1974, Kaufman directed the film The White Dawn, a drama based on the novel of the same name by James Houston. It is set in the Arctic and stars Warren Oates.

In 1978 Kaufman directed the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which would become his first hit.

In 1979, he directed The Wanderers, based on the novel by Richard Price. Opposite of Price, who was very fond of the film, many critics accused Kaufman of doing the novel a disservice.

In 1981, Kaufman became involved with the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, for which he received story credit. While the character of Indiana Jones was created by George Lucas, it was Kaufman who came up with the story and the pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant.

In 1983, Kaufman directed the critically acclaimed film, The Right Stuff, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Tom Wolfe. The Right Stuff was nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture. The film won 4 Oscars.

In 1988, Kaufman was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, based on the novel by Milan Kundera.

In 1990 he wrote and directed Henry & June, which was the first film to be given and NC-17 rating MPAA rating, NC-17.

In 1993 he directed Rising Sun, an adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel which removed the anti-Japanese bias of the book. The film starred Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.

In 1995, he narrated China: The Wild East a documentary directed by his son, Peter Kaufman.

In 2000 Kaufman directed Quills, a satirical thriller film about the increasingly desperate efforts of the Marquis de Sade's jailers to censor his licentious works, starring Geoffrey Rush, Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Winslet and Michael Caine.

In 2003 he directed Twisted, a thriller about a young policewoman whose casual sex partners are murdered while she herself suffers alcoholic blackouts. It starred Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson and Andy Garcia.

Kaufman's wife Rose, who has a cameo appearance in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, co-wrote the screenplays of The Wanderers and Henry & June. Their son, Peter Kaufman, was the producer of Henry and June, Rising Sun and Quills, and co-producer of Twisted.

Kaufman is based in San Francisco alongside other such luminaries as Francis Ford Coppola, Chris Columbus and nearby neighbor George Lucas, where he runs his production company Walrus and Associates with his family.


Year Film Credited as
Director (Co-)Writer
1972 The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid Yes Yes
1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers Yes
1979 The Wanderers Yes Yes
1983 The Right Stuff Yes Yes
1988 The Unbearable Lightness of Being Yes Yes
1990 Henry & June Yes Yes
1993 Rising Sun Yes Yes
2000 Quills Yes
2003 Twisted Yes


  1. ^ Welsch, James M., International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers - Directors, 3rd Ed. (1997) St. James Press

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