May 12, 1966
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
PhotosView All (1)
John Lesher displayed a particular knack for shepherding high-quality projects and talent in a variety of showcases, from talent agent to studio chief at Paramount and finally, as an Oscar-winning producer of such films as "Birdman" (2014). Born May 12, 1966 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lesher graduated from Harvard University in 1988 before launching his career as an agent at the Bauer-Benedek Agency. From there, Lesher moved to the United Talent Agency (UTA), where he become a partner and earned a reputation for cultivating and nurturing the careers of top and up-and-coming filmmakers. After 15 years at UTA - five of which as a partner in the firm - Lesher left UTA for Endeavor, where he counted among his clients such directors as Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alejandro Iñárritu and Judd Apatow. In 2005, he was made head of Paramount Vantage, a new brand derived from Paramount Classics that produced and distributed arthouse-oriented titles. Under Lesher's aegis, the company produced such Oscar-winning pictures as Inarritu's "Babel" (2006), the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men" (2007) and Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" (2007). The success of these and other features led to Lesher's appointment in 2008 as President of Paramount Pictures, where he oversaw a slew of major features, including J.J. Abrams' reboot of the "Star Trek" (2008) franchise and David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008). Unfortunately, "Star Trek" was his only blockbuster - other hit titles released under the Paramount shingle during his tenure, like "Iron Man" (2008), were distribution titles made at other companies - while other projects, like the Mike Myers comedy "Love Guru" (2008) and "Imagine That" (2009) were dismal failures. Lesher was dismissed as Paramount president in the summer of 2009, but he rebounded quickly, forming his own production company, Le Grisbi, which released a slew of critical and box office hits between 2012 and 2014. Among their most popular efforts was "Birdman," which earned Lesher an Oscar for Best Picture in 2015. That same year, he became a partner in the production company LBI Entertainment.