Norman Jewison has been a vibrant force in the motion picture industry for over 50 years. The filmmaker has been personally nominated for seven Oscars. Those nominations include three for Best Director—IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Moonstruck (1987)—and four for Best Picture—The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), A Soldier’s Story (1984), Moonstruck (1987). His films have received a total of 46 nominations and 12 Academy Awards. In 1999, Jewison was honored with the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award at the Academy Awards.
Jewison has received the Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival, the Moscow Film Festival and Camerimage from Poland. He received the Donatello Award from Italy and the Genie Award from the Canadian Academy.
In January 2010, he was presented with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America. The Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a retrospective in Jewison’s honor in May 2011. The Toronto International Film Festival presented a retrospective for Jewison in August 2011.
Over the past several years, he has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Turkish Festival, The Sarasota Film Festival, the Argentina Film Festival and The King Vidor Award at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival.
His homeland of Canada has made Jewison an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982, a member of the Order of Ontario in 1989, and in 1992 decorated him with the Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award. Jewison was presented with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2004.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Jewison made his professional debut on the stage at the age of five. He began staging and performing in both dramas and musical comedies at Malvern Collegiate Institute. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1946 he enrolled at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in General Arts in 1949.
While driving a cab for a living, Jewison found occasional work as an actor on the stage and in radio for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After a two-year work/study program with the BBC in London, Jewison returned to Canada and wrote, directed and produced some of Canada’s most popular musicals, dramas, comedy-variety shows and specials for a period of seven years with the CBC.
In 1958, Jewison accepted an invitation from CBS in New York to direct the memorable series Your Hit Parade. He followed with The Andy Williams Show, two Harry Belafonte specials, The Fabulous Fifties, Danny Kaye’s television debut, The Broadway of Lerner and Loewe and the award-winning Judy Garland specials. Along the way, he collected three Emmy Awards.
His film debut as a director came with the 1962 comedy 40 Pounds of Trouble, starring Tony Curtis. After three more romantic comedies for Universal—The Thrill of it All (1963), Send Me No Flowers (1964) and The Art of Love (1965)—Jewison became an independent filmmaker. This was a move that brought success with his first effort, The Cincinnati Kid (1965). Now acknowledged as a classic, it was co-written and directed by Jewison and starred Steve McQueen. Since then, Jewison’s films have covered a wide range of subjects and styles, from the sharp pre-glasnost (by 20 years) political satire of The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming and the stylish gamesmanship of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) to the sultry mystery of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture) and the angry irony of …And Justice For All (1979).
Jewison also directed the hit screen version of Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof, the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), the futuristic Rollerball (1975) and the sweeping political drama F.I.S.T. (1978). In 1984, he directed and co-produced the critically acclaimed A Soldier’s Story, adapted from Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which was nominated for three Academy Awards. That same year, Jewison produced Iceman (1984), which was directed by Fred Schepisi on remote Canadian locations. Agnes of God (1985), directed by Jewison the following year, marked the first feature he directed in his native country. It was honored with three Oscar nominations, including Best Supporting Actress nominations for Meg Tilly and Anne Bancroft.
In November 1986, Jewison established the Canadian Film Centre, akin to the American Film Institute in the United States. The CFC offers selected filmmakers’ opportunity to hone their skills to a state-of-the-art level. The CFC honored Jewison with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jewison’s Moonstruck, released in 1987, was a smash success and another multiple Oscar winner, with star Cher winning for Best Actress, Olympia Dukakis for Best Supporting Actress and John Patrick Shanley for Best Original Screenplay. In 1989, Jewison produced The January Man, written by John Patrick Shanley and starring Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon.
In 1989, Jewison directed Bruce Willis and Emily Lloyd in In Country, a film that dealt with the painful legacy of the Vietnam War in the American heartland. Other People’s Money (1991), starring Danny DeVito and Penelope Ann Miller became Jewison’s 25th film in 28 years.
In 1994, Jewison directed Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. in Only You, a romantic comedy about a woman who travels to Italy in search of her one true love. He also was the executive-producer on Geronimo (1993), a true tale of the last and most feared Apache War Chief’s dramatic early years. Geronimo was one in a series of original dramas portraying historical events in Native American History filmed for TNT and was cast with all Native American actors.
In 1999, Jewison produced and directed Funny is Money, a two-hour documentary for Showtime’s Millennium Series. This documentary reflects on the importance of humor and entertainment in America during the last 100 years.
That same year, Universal Pictures released Jewison’s film The Hurricane, based on the life of prizefighter Rubin “Hurricane” Carter starring Denzel Washington.
Over the last decade Jewison has been both director and producer. In 1994, Jewison executive produced the Sundance favorite Dance Me Outside for director Bruce McDonald. Also that year, he and his Yorktown Productions produced the dramatic Showtime series Picture Windows, which included segments directed by Jewison, John Boorman, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and Jonathan Kaplan. Bogus, which was directed and produced by Jewison, starred Gerard Depardieu and Whoopi Goldberg and was released in 1996. In 1997, Yorktown Productions produced the romantic comedy titled For Richer or Poorer starring Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley for Universal.
In October 1999, Jewison was honored with the George Eastman Kodak Award from the National Association of Theater Owners at the annual ShowEast Convention in Atlantic City.
In 2001, Norman Jewison executive produced Walter & Henry for Showtime. Jewison later directed Dinner with Friends that same year, a movie for HBO starring Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid, Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear, which was nominated for the 2002 Emmy Awards.
Norman Jewison’s feature film, The Statement, based on Brian Moore’s novel was released in 2003. The film’s stellar cast includes Michael Caine, Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Northam, Charlotte Rampling, Alan Bates, and John Neville, as well as screenwriter Ronald Harwood. This project was produced by Robert Lantos of Serendipity Point Films and Norman Jewison.