Kenneth Lonergan

Active - 1999 - 2016  |   Born - Oct 16, 1962 in Bronx, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Some may say that Kenneth Lonergan is carrying on the tradition of such directors as John Cassavetes with his affection for small, character-driven dramas. With a successful career as a playwright preceding his turn as a screenwriter and director, Lonergan seems to have come from the perfect background in creating sympathetic characters in universal, recognizable situations, a key component in what he terms the "salvation of the ordinary."

A native of the Bronx, Lonergan began to develop his writing skills in high school, later graduating from the NYU Playwriting Program and penning stories that, though not necessarily autobiographical, reflected situations he had experienced that affected his life. Lonergan was inspired early on to pen Waverly Gallery, based on his grandmother's Greenwich Village Gallery. More success came with his next youth-inspired off-Broadway play This is Your Youth.

Lonergan's film career began with his screenplay for the gangland comedy Analyze This (1999). He was subsequently offered a job writing The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), a script that he enjoyed writing but wasn't quite what he had in mind as a career direction. Stepping into the director's chair, Lonergan brought his screenplay for You Can Count on Me to celluloid with much acclaim, earning him the Grand Jury Prize at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. You Can Count on Me was produced in part by Martin Scorsese, and Lonergan continued his relationship with the director by contributing a rewrite to the screenplay for the director's Gangs of New York, a task for which Lonergan found himself Oscar nominated.

While fans of You Can Count on Me were undoubtedly curious to see how Longergan would follow-up that film, their patience would be severely tested when they were forced to wait six years for his sophomore directorial effort; the intensely emotional drama Margaret. A harrowing look at the manner in which one teenager's idealistic outlook in life is challenged by the unforgiving realities of the real world, Margaret told the tale of a New York City high school student (Anna Paquin) who becomes convinced that she caused a bus accident that ultimately claimed the life of an innocent woman.

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  • First began writing at the suggestion of his high school drama teacher.
  • Attended high school with Matthew Broderick, who later starred in his 1999 off-Broadway hit The Starry Messenger.
  • His first play, The Rennings Children, was chosen for the Stephen Sondheim-founded Young Playwright's Inc in 1982, while he was still an undergraduate.
  • Joined off-Broadway troupe The Naked Angels and wrote speeches for the Environment Protection Agency and Weight Watchers and comedy sketches for Fuji Films to support himself after graduation.
  • Wrote the script for Analyze This (1999) based on a story told by his stepfather, a psychiatrist.
  • Penned the 2000 play Waverley Gallery based on his experience with his grandmother's battle with Alzheimer's disease.
  • Had to battle for the release of his movie Margaret, which spent over five years in post-production.