A stockbroker's son, James Toback holds degrees from both Harvard and Columbia. While an English instructor at CCNY, Toback began submitting articles to various publications, with special emphasis on sports magazines. Assigned to interview football star-turned-actor Jim Brown, Toback became close friends with his subject, spending several years as Brown's houseguest. Their relationship was crystallized into Toback's 1971 book Jim: The Author's Self-Centered Memoir of the Great Jim Brown. This work brought Toback to the attention of Hollywood producers, culminating in his first screenplay credit for 1974's The Gambler. In 1977, Toback turned director with Fingers, a succes d'estime starring-who else?--Jim Brown. Critical opinion was sharply divided over Toback's directorial bow: Pauline Kael was underwhelmed by the film, citing "self-promotion" as Toback's biggest talent, while David Thomson was so bowled over by Fingers that he wrote a essay-length love letter of a review. Since that time, James Toback has functioned as producer, director, and actor; he wrote himself a juicy part as Gus Greenbaum in his Oscar-nominated screenplay for Bugsy (1991), and essayed the small role of The Professor in Woody Allen's Alice (1990).