Edward Zwick is well-known for his heroic movies that include Glory (1989), and the breathtaking works of art that include Legends of the Fall (1994). Zwick has also been known for his thoughtfulness as a director, and for his record of working with television series and other films as a producer.
Born in 1952, in the city of Chicago. After graduating from the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles, California, Zwick worked as a journalist with the magazine “Rolling Stone”. He found work on television in 1976 as a producer, writer and director.
Zwick eventually moved on to higher grounds, though. He made three films released for television in two years: the fashion drama Paper Dolls (1982), the more comedic-based Having It All (1982) and Special Bulletin (1983) which is about a reporter and his cameraman held hostage by terrorists. Zwick followed up with his first theatrical release; About Last Night (1986) starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. The film concerns a man and a woman attempting to enter a love affair with each other, despite their differences and the opinions of others. It was based on a theatrical production and was a success for Zwick’s rising star. He raised the bar for himself with his second film three years later: bringing back a story of great heroism, Glory (1989) was a Civil War film about the first black regiment raised for the Northern army. It starred Matthew Broderick as the idealistic abolitionist “Colonel Shaw, Cary Elwes as his friend and second-in-command, Denzel Washington as an angry ex-slave who questions the point of the war, and Morgan Freeman as the wise father figure towards the other soldiers in the regiment.
Glory (1989) was a massive success commercially and critically. At the Academy Awards, the film did not gain any nominations for Zwick, but it won three Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Supporting Actor (Denzel Washington). Zwick pursued television again before coming back with a light-hearted drama Leaving Normal (1992). The film was not the success that Glory (1989) had been, though, but Zwick bounced back immediately with Legends of the Fall (1994). The film was about a family of a father and his three sons as they live in the wilderness of Montana. The film starred Brad Pitt as the wayward middle son who cannot settle down, Anthony Hopkins as the stern father and former soldier, Aidan Quinn as the oldest brother who tries to be good and do the right thing, and Julia Ormond as the beautiful woman that is engaged to the youngest brother, played by Henry Thomas. The movie (which had been filmed in Canada) won an Oscar for Cinematography, showing massive landscapes and beautiful skies. Zwick drew wonderful performances from all of the actors, particularly Quinn, Pitt and Hopkins.
Zwick produced the television show Relativity (1996) starring Kimberly Williams-Paisley the same year as he directed the Gulf War film Courage Under Fire (1996) starring Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan and Lou Diamond Phillips. The film was a success, and helped advance a then-unknown Matt Damon’s career forward. Zwick produced a couple of movies in 1998, winning his first Oscar for the film Shakespeare in Love (1998). He had produced this film and, while he did not direct it, he helmed the action thriller The Siege (1998) instead. The film once again starred Denzel Washington in the role of an FBI agent that must combat terrorists in New York City, who are taking hostages and threatening to set off bombs in the city. Also starring in this film is Bruce Willis who plays a military officer who takes extreme measures against the city. The film was not a major success for Zwick, and he would not direct another film for five years.
Instead, Zwick turned to producing again. He received his second (and thus far, last) Oscar nomination for producing the crime film Traffic (2000) which won an Oscar for Benicio Del Toro and director Steven Soderbergh. He also produced the emotional film I Am Sam (2001) starring Sean Penn and the thriller Abandon (2002) starring Katie Holmes. It was at this time that Zwick returned to the director’s chair with the epic film The Last Samurai (2003) starring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe. The film (which was about a U.S. military officer training soldiers in Japan how to fight against the samurai) was a success critically and commercially, earning four Oscar nominations for Acting (Watanabe), Art Direction, Sound, and Costume.
Three years after this film, Zwick filmed what is now one of his most well-known pieces of work: the powerfully emotional drama Blood Diamond (2006) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou. The film focuses on the war in Sierra Leone, and the issues of child soldiers, diamond mining, and smuggling are discussed while the story unfolds. DiCaprio plays a mercenary-like character that becomes interested in hearing of a man (Hounsou) that has found a very large diamond and hidden it. Hounsou’s character is a father who has lost his son to the rebels, and is desperately seeking for his boy in the maelstrom that Sierra Leone has become. The two are thrown together reluctantly initially, but decide that they would be worse off without each other.
This was another success for Zwick, and it earned five Oscar nominations at the Academy Awards: two for the lead actors, two for sound and sound editing, and one for editing. Zwick once again did not receive any nominations for directing. In 2008, his latest film, Defiance (2008) finished filming and was set for a December release. It starred Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Liev Schreiber as three Jewish brothers outrunning Nazi forces occupying Poland and protecting hundreds of Jewish refugees. The film underperformed critically and commercially, but Zwick was already moving on to other things. He reunited with longtime collaborator Marshall Herskovitz to produce Herskovitz’s TV made movie A Marriage (2009).
Zwick’s latest film is the drama-comedy Love & Other Drugs (2010). The film is set for a November 2010 release and also stars Hank Azaria, Judy Greer, and Oliver Platt.
Edward Zwick is an accomplished film maker in American cinema, but he is also a veteran of television series, and frequently juggles movies with series as he works.
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