November 30, 1969
New York City, New York, USA
Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Journalist
Heather Graham, Mercedes Martinez
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One half of a successful filmmaking partnership with his brother Paul, as well as a solo talent, Chris Weitz was a writer, producer and director whose string of hit films included "American Pie" (1999), "About a Boy" (2002), and "The Golden Compass" (2007). "Pie," with its mix of raucous comedy and heartfelt charm, put the brothers on the comedy map, but the gentler, more mature "Boy" established them as versatile talents. Weitz struggled with "Compass," which marked his debut as a director without Paul, but found his footing again as a producer of his brother's work, among others, and as director of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009), the hotly anticipated sequel to the tween sensation, "Twilight" (2007). Weitz's ability to bring a fresh outlook to a wide variety of genres made him one of Hollywood's most versatile and in-demand filmmakers.
Christopher John Weitz was born into a show business family on Nov. 30, 1969. The New York City native and his brother Paul (born 1965) were the sons of novelist and fashion designer John Weitz and actress Susan Kohner, an Academy Award nominee for 1960's "Imitation of Life." Kohner's own parents were Hollywood agent Paul Kohner, who represented Marlene Dietrich and Liv Ullman, among others, and Mexican actress Lupita Tovar, who starred in her country's first talking picture, "Santa" (1932). Both Weitz brothers pursued English and literature at college; Chris earned an English degree from Trinity College in Cambridge, England, where he was a classmate of actress Rachel Weisz, who was later his female lead in "About a Boy."
Weitz began his film career by writing the animated feature, "Antz" (1998). Despite an all-star cast that included Woody Allen, Sharon Stone and Sylvester Stallone, it was only a modest success for DreamWorks Animation, but for Weitz, it led to work as a writer, producer and director on several short-lived television series, including the revamped "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1998-99). His big break came the following year with "American Pie" (1999), a raunchy teen sex comedy in the vein of such '80s films as "Porky's" (1982) that he co-penned and directed with his brother. Where the film differed from its forerunners was in a healthy streak of sweetness, especially in the friendship between its four male leads, and between newcomer Jason Biggs - the most hormonally challenged of the quartet - and his mortified father, well played by comedy veteran, Eugene Levy. A colossal success at the box office, it led to a pair of lesser sequels - "American Pie 2" (2001) and "American Wedding" (2003) - and established the Weitz brothers as up-and-coming talents.
However, their immediate follow-ups to "Pie" failed to connect with audiences in the same manner. "Off Centre" (The WB, 2001-02), starring "Pie's" Eddie Kaye Thomas and John Cho, was a wan situation comedy about twenty-somethings on the make, while the "Pie" sequels saw diminishing returns with each subsequent effort. The brothers then contributed to the string of writers who signed their names to "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" (2000), which netted them another smash, but their next directorial effort, a remake of "Heaven Can Wait" (1978) called "Down to Earth" (2001) with Chris Rock, fizzled with viewers. Critical favor, which had tagged them as the go-to writers for raucous comedy, began to wane.
In 2002, the brothers sent ripples of dismay through the legion of fans devoted to author Nick Hornsby when it was announced that they would helm an adaptation of his novel, About a Boy to film. However, the end result, with a marvelously game Hugh Grant as a confirmed misanthrope who finds his connection to the outside world via a lonely boy (Nicholas Hoult), was a surprise hit, and even resulted in an Oscar nomination for the brothers and co-author Peter Hedges. After this success, the critical tide turned in their favor once again, with laurels hailing them as a new voice in mature, romantic comedies.
The Weitz brothers served as producers for "See This Movie" (2004), a slight comedy with John Cho and "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) star Seth Meyers as a pair of hapless filmmakers who enter a festival with a non-existent project; the film saw very few viewers, as did "Cracking Up" (Fox, 2004), a cultish sitcom about a student (Jason Schwartzman) who moves into the home of a deeply eccentric Beverly Hills family. Despite critical praise and indie favorite Mike White as creator, it lasted just nine episodes. Chris Weitz himself became embroiled in a protracted production nightmare in 2003 over an adaptation of "The Golden Compass" (2007), the film book in Philip Pullman's popular fantasy series His Dark Materials. New Line Cinema hired him to direct the production, and even arranged for him to travel to the New Zealand set of "King Kong" (2005) to observe Peter Jackson handling the day-to-day challenges of directing a massive fantasy film. But that same year, Weitz announced that he was removing himself from Materials, citing the considerable technical challenges required to bring the film to life, as well as negative response from the book's massive fan base. Anand Tucker was brought on board to replace Weitz, but in an ironic twist, he left the project in 2006, and Weitz was again brought on board to complete the film. The end result (2007) received mixed reviews from stateside critics and failed to yield ticket sales to justify its massive $180 million budget, but the picture was a major hit in Europe and in other territories.
While laboring over "Compass," Weitz also served as producer on several projects, most notably a pair of underrated films directed by his brother Paul - 2004's "In Good Company," with Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace, and the charmingly off-kilter "American Dreamz" (2006), with Quaid, Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore. With Paul, he also produced "Bickford Schmeckler's Cool Ideas" (2006), which failed to earn a theatrical release, and an adaptation of Rachel Cohn and David Levitan's novel, "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" (2008), directed by Peter Sollett. Weitz also earned a producer credit without his brother on "A Single Man" (2009), fashion designer Tom Ford's critically praised adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel about a gay educator (Colin Firth) who attempts to mourn the loss of his partner in 1960s Los Angeles.
In addition to his career as a writer, director and producer, Weitz occasionally dabbled in acting. His most prominent role was in Miguel Arteta's dark comedy "Chuck and Buck" (2000), an indie favorite about two men (Weitz and Mike White) who attempt - in very different ways - to deal with a sexual experience they had while adolescents. Weitz also turned up in Doug Liman's action-comedy "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (2005) as one half of a dull suburban couple who reside near Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's undercover assassins.
In 2008, Weitz returned to the fantasy realm with "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" (2009), the sequel to the wildly popular "Twilight" (2007), the first in a series of adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's series of Gothic vampire romances for teens. Weitz replaced Catherine Hardwicke who was unable to follow up her directorial work on "Twilight" due to time constraints. His appointment caused the expected level of concern among fans of the first film, as did his decision to replace actor Taylor Lautner, who played the film's shapeshifter, Jacob; the film's producing company, Summit Entertainment, eventually announced that the actor would return to the role after extensive weight training.