Barry Levinson

Barry Levinson (born April 6, 1942) is an American filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor. Levinson's best-known works are mid-budget[1] comedy-drama and drama films such as Diner (1982); The Natural (1984); Good Morning, Vietnam (1987); Bugsy (1991); and Wag the Dog (1997). He won the Academy Award for Best Director for Rain Man (1988), which also won the Academy Award for Best Picture.[2][3][4]

Barry Levinson
Levinson at the 2009 premiere of Poliwood
Born (1942-04-06) April 6, 1942
Alma materAmerican University
  • Director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
  • actor
Years active1970–present
Known for
Valerie Curtin
(m. 1975; div. 1982)

Diana Rhodes
(m. 1983)
Children3; including Sam Levinson

Early life

Levinson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Violet "Vi" (née Krichinsky) and Irvin Levinson, who worked in the furniture and appliance business.[5] He is of Jewish background.[6]


Levinson's first writing work was for variety shows such as The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, The Lohman and Barkley Show, The Tim Conway Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. After some success as a screenwriter – notably the Mel Brooks comedies Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977) (in which he played a bellboy) and the Oscar-nominated script (co-written by then-wife Valerie Curtin) ...And Justice for All (1979) – Levinson began his career as a director with Diner (1982), for which he had also written the script and which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Diner was the first of four films set in the Baltimore of Levinson's youth. The other three were Tin Men (1987), a story of aluminum-siding salesmen in the 1960s starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito; the immigrant family saga Avalon (1990) featuring Elijah Wood in one of his earliest screen appearances, and Liberty Heights (1999).

His biggest hit, both critically and financially, was Rain Man (1988), a sibling drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise (Levinson appeared in a cameo as a doctor). The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also won the Golden Bear at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival.[7]

Levinson directed the popular period baseball drama The Natural (1984), starring Robert Redford. Redford would later direct Quiz Show (1994), and cast Levinson as television personality Dave Garroway. Levinson also directed the classic war comedy Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), starring Robin Williams, with whom he later collaborated on the fantasy Toys (1992) and the political comedy Man of the Year (2006). Levinson also directed the critically acclaimed historical crime drama Bugsy (1991), which starred Warren Beatty and was nominated for ten Academy Awards.

He directed Dustin Hoffman again in Wag the Dog (1997), a political comedy co-starring Robert De Niro about a war staged in a film studio (Levinson had been an uncredited co-writer on Hoffman's 1982 hit comedy Tootsie). The film won the Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival.[8]

Levinson partnered with producer Mark Johnson to form the film production company Baltimore Pictures, with 1990's Avalon as the company's first production. Johnson departed the firm in 1994. Levinson has been a producer or executive producer for such major productions as The Perfect Storm (2000), directed by Wolfgang Petersen; Analyze That (2002), starring De Niro as a neurotic mob boss and Billy Crystal as his therapist, and Possession (2002), based on the best-selling novel by A. S. Byatt.

He has a television production company with Tom Fontana (The Levinson/Fontana Company) and served as executive producer for a number of series, including Homicide: Life on the Street (which ran on NBC from 1993 to 1999) and the HBO prison drama Oz. Levinson also played an uncredited main role as a judge in the short-lived TV series The Jury.

Levinson published his first novel, Sixty-Six (ISBN 0-7679-1533-X), in 2003. Like several of his films, it is semi-autobiographical and set in Baltimore in the 1960s. In 2004 he directed the two webisodes of the American Express ads "The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman". In 2004, Levinson was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Levinson directed a documentary PoliWood about the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. The documentary, produced by Tim Daly, Robin Bronk and Robert E. Baruc, had its premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

Levinson is developing a film based on Whitey Bulger, the Boston crime boss.[9] The film Black Mass (script by Jim Sheridan, Jez Butterworth, and Russell Gewirtz) is based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, and is said to be the "true story of Billy Bulger, Whitey Bulger, FBI agent John Connelly and the FBI's witness protection program that was created by J. Edgar Hoover."[10]

Levinson finished production on The Humbling (2014), starring Al Pacino. Levinson also directed Rock the Kasbah (2015), written by Mitch Glazer.[11] The film starred Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Kelly Lynch, Arian Moayed, Taylor Kinney, and Beejan Land.

In 2010 Levinson received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement, which is the lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of America.



Film Year Director Producer Writer Notes
Street Girls 1975 Yes
Silent Movie 1976 Yes
High Anxiety 1977 Yes
...And Justice for All 1979 Yes Nominated- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Inside Moves 1980 Yes
Tootsie 1982 uncredited
Best Friends Yes
Diner Yes Executive Yes Directorial Debut;
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Unfaithfully Yours 1984 Yes
The Natural Yes
Young Sherlock Holmes 1985 Yes
Tin Men 1987 Yes Yes
Good Morning, Vietnam Yes
Rain Man 1988 Yes Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Avalon 1990 Yes Yes Yes Nominated- Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
Bugsy 1991 Yes Yes Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Toys 1992 Yes Yes Yes Nominated- Razzie Award for Worst Director
Jimmy Hollywood 1994 Yes Yes
Disclosure Yes Yes
Sleepers 1996 Yes Yes Yes
Wag the Dog 1997 Yes Yes Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Sphere 1998 Yes Yes
Home Fries Yes
Liberty Heights 1999 Yes Yes Yes
An Everlasting Piece 2000 Yes Yes
Bandits 2001 Yes Yes
Possession 2002 Yes
Envy 2004 Yes Yes
Man of the Year 2006 Yes Yes
What Just Happened 2008 Yes Yes
PoliWood 2009 Yes Documentary
The Band That Wouldn't Die Yes Creator;
The Bay 2012 Yes Yes Story
The Humbling 2014 Yes Yes
Rock the Kasbah 2015 Yes
Harry Haft TBA Yes Post-production

Executive producer only

Acting roles

Film Year Role Note
Silent Movie 1976 Executive
High Anxiety 1977 Bellboy
History of the World, Part I 1981 Column Salesman
Rain Man 1988 Doctor Uncredited
Jimmy Hollywood 1994 Director of Life Story
Quiz Show Dave Garroway
Original Diner Guys 1999 Himself Documentary
Bee Movie 2007 Martin Benson Voice role
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight 2013 Justice Potter Stewart TV movie


Title Year Director Producer Writer Notes
The Tim Conway Show 1970 Yes
The Tim Conway Comedy Hour Yes 1 episode
The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine 1971–1972 Yes
The Carol Burnett Show 1973–1976 Yes 72 episodes
Hot l Baltimore 1975 Yes Episode: "Millie's Beau"
The Rich Little Show 1976 Yes Episode: "#1.1"
Peeping Times 1978 Yes Yes Comedy special
The Investigators 1984 Yes Executive Yes
American Playhouse 1985 Yes Episode: "Displaced Person"
Harry 1987 Yes Yes 7 episodes
The Earth Day Special 1990 Yes Segment: "Dustin Hoffman – Robin Williams"
Homicide: Life on the Streets 1993–1999 Yes Executive Story Developer;
122 episodes
The Hoop Life 1999–2000 Yes 12 episodes
The Beat 2000 Yes Executive 6 episodes
The Jury 2004 Yes Executive Story Creator
You Don't Know Jack 2010 Yes Executive TV movie
Shades of Blue 2016 Yes Executive 12 episodes
The Wizard of Lies 2017 Yes Executive TV movie
Paterno 2018 Yes Executive

Executive producer only

Title Year Notes
The Second Civil War 1997 TV movie
Oz 1997–2003 56 episodes
Homicide: The Movie 2000 TV movie
Falcone 9 episodes
Shot in the Heart 2001 TV movie
Strip Search 2004
The Bedford Diaries 2006 4 episodes
The Philanthropist 2009 8 episodes
Phil Spector 2013 TV movie
Borgia 2011–2014 38 episodes
Copper 2012–2013 12 episodes
Killing Fields 2016 4 episodes
The Wizard of Lies 2017 TV movie
Paterno 2018

Acting roles

Title Year Role Note
The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine 1971–1972 Various
The Larry Sanders Show 1993 Himself Episode: "Larry's Agent"
Homicide: Life on the Streets 1993–1999 Himself
The Jury 2004 Judge Horatio Hawthorne

Other works

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
Armed Response 1986 Composer;
Additional music only
The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman 2003 Yes Advertisement campaign promoting American Express

Awards received by Levinson movies

Year Film Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1976 Silent Movie 4
1977 High Anxiety 2
1979 ...And Justice for All 2 1 1
1980 Inside Moves 1
1982 Best Friends 1 1
Diner 1 1
1984 The Natural 4 1
1985 Young Sherlock Holmes 1
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam 1 2 1 1
1988 Rain Man 8 4 3 4 2
1990 Avalon 4 3
1991 Bugsy 10 2 8 1
1992 Toys 2
1996 Sleepers 1
1997 Wag the Dog 2 1 3
2001 Bandits 2
Total 38 6 6 0 32 5


  1. O'Falt, Chris (2018-07-06). "Barry Levinson: The Oscar-Winning Director Who Decades Ago Saw TV's Peak Potential and Trump-like Danger". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  2. Erickson, Hal. "Barry Levinson". Rovi / All Movie Guide via The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 21, 2010. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  3. Canby, Vincent (1988-12-16). "Review/Film; Brotherly Love, of Sorts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  4. Barnes, Brooks (December 14, 2009). "Al Pacino, Barry Levinson and Buck Henry Team Up on a Roth Tale". The New York Times.
  5. "". Retrieved 2017-02-16.
  7. "Berlinale: 1989 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2011-03-13.
  8. "Berlinale: 1998 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2012-01-23.
  9. Rottenberg, Josh (February 22, 2013). "Hollywood Insider: What's Going on Behind the Scenes: Boston's Bulger is Now Hollywood's It Gangster". Entertainment Weekly. New York: Time Inc.: 27.
  10. Cappadona, Bryanna (June 20, 2013). "Who Should Play Whitey Bulger in Black Mass?". Boston. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  11. Fleming Jr, Mike (3 September 2013). "QED Sets Bill Murray For Barry Levinson-Directed 'Rock The Kasbah'". Retrieved 6 February 2014.
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