The son of blacklisted screenwriter Arthur Ross, creator of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), Gary Ross was born in Los Angeles in 1956 and received an Ivy League education at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught a course on Film and Social History. However, intending to gain real-life experience, Ross dropped out before graduation to work on a fishing boat. He also studied acting under the legendary Stella Adler, but his attention ultimately turned to filmmaking and writing.
Initially, Ross concentrated on writing novels. His first was not a financial success. After spending his advance for a second novel without completing it, Ross appeared as a contestant on the TV game show Tic Tac Dough and won $50,000, enabling him to live while he completed the project.
His brief career as a novelist led Ross to Paramount Pictures, where he was hired to write a treatment and made the acquaintance of producer Leonard Goldberg, who hired him to pen a script. That screenplay and two others were never produced.
Ross' fourth screenplay would end up earning Oscar and Writer's Guild nominations. He wrote the script for the blockbuster hit Big (1988) with a neighbor, Anne Spielberg, sister of director Steven Spielberg. The film's success transformed Ross into an A-list screenwriter.
Ross subsequently took assignments as a rewriter and polisher on several high-profile productions including Short Time (1990), Mr. Baseball (1992), Beethoven (1992), Little Big League (1994), The Flintstones (1994), and Lassie (1994). He also produced the comedy Trial and Error (1997) and formed his own company, Larger Than Life Productions.
However, Ross' most significant project in subsequent years was his next original script, Dave (1993), a story steeped in the writer's passion for politics. His political resumé is impressive: Ross spent a summer as a teenager working for a Congressman in 1972, participated in Ted Kennedy's 1980 campaign for president, and wrote speeches and jokes for Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, among other prominent Democrats.
Finally getting a shot behind the camera, Ross' next project was writing and directing the comedy-drama Pleasantville (1998), a seriously underrated effort that was unfortunately hamstrung by its similarity to that year's creepier, more Twilight Zone-vibed The Truman Show.
Ross is the father of twins, Claudia and Jack, born May 26, 1995. His wife is Allison Thomas, a one-time Carter Administration employee. Ross has been awarded for his philanthropic efforts to strengthen the Los Angeles Board of Library Commissioners, which he has served as president. For Dave, Ross won the Paul Selvin Award from the Writers Guild of America, an annual award given to the WGA member whose script "best embodies the spirit of the Constitution's call for civil rights and liberties."