Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman
Charlie Kaufman

Kaufman at the Sarajevo Film Festival, August 2008
Born Charles Stuart Kaufman
November 19, 1958 (1958-11-19) (age 52)
New York City, New York

Charles Stuart "Charlie" Kaufman (born November 19, 1958) is an American screenwriter, producer, and director. His film work includes Being John Malkovich, Human Nature, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


Early career

Between 1983 and 1984, Kaufman wrote comedic articles and spoofs on spec for National Lampoon magazine, along with colleague and friend Paul Proch. His work included parodies of Kurt Vonnegut and the X-Men.[1] After moving to Los Angeles, Kaufman got his start in television by writing two episodes for Chris Elliott's Get a Life during the 1991-92 season.[2] During the 1993-94 season, Kaufman worked on Fox's sketch comedy show The Edge. He later worked as a writer for Ned and Stacey and The Dana Carvey Show.[3]


He first came to mainstream notice as the writer of Being John Malkovich (directed by Spike Jonze), earning an Oscar nomination for his effort and winning a BAFTA. He also wrote Human Nature, which was directed by Michel Gondry, and then worked with Jonze again as the screenwriter for Adaptation., which earned him another Oscar nomination and his second BAFTA. Adaptation. featured a "Charlie Kaufman" character who is a heavily fictionalized version of the screenwriter and who has an "identical twin brother", Donald, a sell-out screenwriter reflecting Kaufman's anxieties about Hollywood. The DVD edition of Adaptation. contains a filmography which lists Donald Kaufman as having written the screenplay for the movie. The credits of the film close with the words "in loving memory of Donald Kaufman".

Kaufman also penned the screenplay for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a biopic based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of Chuck Barris, the creator of such popular game shows as The Dating Game and host of The Gong Show. The film focuses on Barris's claim to have been a CIA hit man. It was George Clooney's directorial debut. Kaufman angrily criticized Clooney for making drastic alterations to the script without consulting him (instead, Clooney consulted Barris). Kaufman said in an interview with William Arnold: "The usual thing for a writer is to deliver a script and then disappear. That's not for me. I want to be involved from beginning to end. And these directors [Gondry and Jonze] know that, and respect it."[4]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, released in 2004, was Kaufman's second pairing with director Michel Gondry. Kaufman won his first Oscar for best original screenplay and third BAFTA for the film, which centered around a man enlisting the services of a doctor to erase the memories of a failed relationship from his brain. Kaufman also received the prestigious PEN American Center 2005 prize for screenplay for the film.[5] David Edelstein described the film in Slate as "The Awful Truth turned inside-out by Philip K. Dick, with nods to Samuel Beckett, Chris Marker, John Guare—the greatest dramatists of our modern fractured consciousness. But the weave is pure Kaufman."

Kaufman made his directorial debut with his next project, Synecdoche, New York. Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest and Michelle Williams star in the film, which tells "the story of an anguished playwright who is forced to deal with several women in his life."[6] It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008.

In late December 2010, several sources indicated that Kaufman would be reuniting with long time collaborator Spike Jonze.[7] Very little is known about the project except that it will be a political satire.[8]

He is also working on a film with a working title Frank or Francis. Few details have been confirmed about the plot except that it is a musical comedy about internet anger culture.[9]


Kaufman wrote and directed the audio play Hope Leaves the Theater, a segment of the sound-only production Theater of the New Ear.[10] The play starred Meryl Streep, Hope Davis and Peter Dinklage. In the world of the play, it was the last thing Charlie Kaufman (the character) wrote before committing suicide. The title actually refers to Hope Davis's character "leaving the theater."

Theater of the New Ear, including Hope Leaves the Theater, debuted in April 2005 at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, NY.[11]

Personal life

An article on alleges that Kaufman "avoids talking personally".[12] Kaufman was interviewed on the Colbert Report on December 9, 2008,[13] Charlie Rose,[14] and also by Mark Kermode for The Culture Show on BBC2 on 24 March 2009.[15] In an interview with David Poland, Kaufman said he was getting very annoyed with the "myth" that he "didn't do a lot of press". Kaufman stated that this was simply not true. He did a lot of interviews for all movies from Being John Malkovich onwards, but again and again interviewers would state at some point during an interview that "he didn't do a lot of press".[16]

He was born to a Jewish family in New York City, but they moved to Connecticut shortly after. Kaufman is a graduate of William H. Hall High School in West Hartford, Connecticut. He attended NYU Film School,[2] where one of his classmates was filmmaker Chris Columbus.[17]

Kaufman lived and worked for a time during the late 1980s in Minneapolis, answering calls about missing newspapers at the Star Tribune, before moving to Los Angeles.[2]

He currently lives in Pasadena, California, with his wife and their two children.[18]

Themes and influences

Kaufman's works explore such universal themes as identity crisis, mortality, and the meaning and purpose of life through a metaphysical or parapsychological framework. While his work resists labels, it is sometimes described as surrealist.[19] He sometimes includes fictionalized "facts" about his life in his work, notably Adaptation and Hope Leaves the Theater.

Apes recur in Kaufman's work: in Being John Malkovich Lotte has a pet chimp named Elijah, in Human Nature Puff was raised as an ape, in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Penny dreams about an ape, and in Adaptation the original deus ex machina was a swamp ape.[20]

Among Kaufman's favorite writers/directors and influences are Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Stanisław Lem, Philip K. Dick, Flannery O'Connor, Stephen Dixon, Shirley Jackson, David Lynch, Lars von Trier and Patricia Highsmith.[18] In Being John Malkovich one of the protagonist's puppet shows is called "Eloise and Abelard: A Love Story", based on the Alexander Pope poem Eloisa to Abelard. This poem is also referenced in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and is the source of the title.





  • Hope Leaves the Theater (2005; playwright, director)


  1. ^ Scans of said articles.
  2. ^ a b c [1]
  3. ^ " Interview by Michael Sragow.". Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  4. ^ "Kaufman interviewed by William Arnold.". Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  5. ^ "PEN Center USA: 2005 Literary Awards Winners". Archived from the original on 2006-11-25. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  6. ^ "Kaufman's Directorial Debut Lands Williams, Hoffman". Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  7. ^ "24 Frames". Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Creative Screenwriting Magazine on Hope Leaves the Theater". Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  11. ^ "The Body - Projects - Theater of the New Ear". Archived from the original on 2007-01-07. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  12. ^ " Interview by Michael Sragow.". Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  13. ^ " Interview by Stephen Colbert". Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  14. ^ Stein, Joel (Apr. 26, 2004). "Charlie Kaufman". Time Magazine.,9171,993996,00.html. Retrieved 14 March 2010. 
  15. ^ BBC
  16. ^ David Poland Interview with Charlie Kaufman, January 17, 2009
  17. ^ Box Office Prophets.
  18. ^ a b " Interview by Michael Sragow.". Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  19. ^ Indie Wire interview.
  20. ^ Adaptation (Draft 2)
  21. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (July 22, 2011). "Carell, Black and Cage eye Kaufman pic". Variety. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  22. ^

External links

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