Kimberly Peirce

Kimberly Ane Peirce[1] (born September 8, 1967) is an American filmmaker best known for her debut feature film, Boys Don't Cry (1999), which won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Hilary Swank's performance. Her second feature, Stop-Loss, was released by Paramount Pictures in 2008. Her most recent feature film, Carrie, was released on October 18, 2013. She is a governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and a National Board member of the Director's Guild of America.[2][3]

Kimberly Peirce
Kimberly Ane Peirce

(1967-09-06) September 6, 1967
EducationUniversity of Chicago (BA)
Columbia University (MFA)
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
Years active1994–present

Early life

Peirce was born on September 8, 1967, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Sherry and Robert A. Peirce (originally Materazzi), who owned a construction company.[1] When Peirce was three, she moved to New York City, and at age eleven she moved to Miami, Florida where she eventually graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High School.[4]


Early career and films

While attending the University of Chicago, Peirce moved to Kobe, Japan for two years to work as a photographer and teach English,[5] and then to New York City to work as a photography intern for Time magazine under photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt. She then returned to the University of Chicago to graduate with a degree in English and Japanese Literature.[6]

Peirce then enrolled at Columbia University,[7] to pursue an MFA in film.[7] While at Columbia, Peirce completed The Last Good Breath, an experimental short film about two star-crossed lovers caught amidst a world war in which one lover always lives and the other always dies. The short screened as part of the Leopards of Tomorrow program at the Locarno International Film Festival.[8]

Boys Don't Cry

While at Columbia working on an idea for her thesis film about a female soldier in drag during the American Civil War,[9] Peirce read a Village Voice article[10] about the life and death of Brandon Teena, a transgender man from Nebraska who was brutally raped and murdered when his gender history was discovered. Switching from her original thesis project, Peirce traveled to Falls City, Nebraska where she conducted research, interviewed a number of people from the town including Lana Tisdale (Brandon's girlfriend) and Lana's mother, and attended the murder trial of the two homicide suspects. The subsequent film short she made for her thesis in 1995 was nominated by Columbia faculty for a Princess Grace Award, and received an Astrea Production Grant.[7]

After film producer Christine Vachon saw a version of the short, Vachon and Peirce began working on a feature film. In order to fund the writing and development of the feature, Peirce worked as a paralegal on the midnight shift, as a 35mm film projectionist, and received a New York Foundation for the Arts grant.[11] With help from the Sundance Institute's Filmmakers, Writers and Producers Labs in 1997, Peirce completed the feature film in 1999.

Upon its release, Boys Don't Cry became one of the most acclaimed and talked about films of the year, opening at the Venice, Toronto and New York Film Festivals and earning many honors, including the Best Actress Oscar, Golden Globe, Independent Spirit award and many other awards for the film's star, Hilary Swank. Chloë Sevigny was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe and won the Independent Spirit Award and many other awards for her role as Lana Tisdale.

The film received the International Critics prize for Best Film at both the London and Stockholm Film Festivals, the Satyajit Ray Foundation Award for Best First Feature at the London Film Festival, and was named "Best American Feature," by Janet Maslin. Peirce won honors as Best Debut Director from the National Board of Review and Best New Filmmaker from the Boston Society of Film Critics.[12][13]


In 2005, inspired by the real-life stories of American soldiers, including her own brother, fighting in Iraq and coming home, Peirce began work on Stop-Loss. Peirce traveled the country interviewing soldiers about their experiences and worked with novelist and screenwriter Mark Richard to turn the research into a screenplay.[14]

Released in 2008, Stop-Loss received positive reviews from critics. Peirce was honored with the Hamilton Behind the Camera True-Grit Directing Award as well as the Andrew Sarris Directing Awards for the film.[15][16] In association with the film, Peirce created a website called SoundOff and gave soldiers and their families cameras to record and share their stories and opinions. Shortly after the film's release, Peirce spoke before the National Press Club and members of Congress on behalf of Soldiers and the Stop-Loss Compensation Act, which financially compensated soldiers for multiple tours of duty served because of the stop-loss policy.[17] The measure subsequently passed.[18]

Much of the inspiration for her two films was said to come from her love of The Godfather:

It showed me that I can take that love of the gangster movie and I can screen it through a family drama. In both my movies family is really important, violence is really important. I’m really interested in the psychological and the authentic portrayal of violence—particularly violence that comes out of emotions. Before The Godfather, I don’t know that you could have such a violent psychological film that was that broadly entertaining.[19]


Peirce directed a remake of the 1976 horror film Carrie, which was released on October 18, 2013. It starred Chloë Grace Moretz in the lead role with Julianne Moore and Ansel Elgort in supporting roles. The film won the 2014 People's Choice Award for Favorite Horror Movie.[20]


Kimberly Peirce has directed episodes of John Ridley's American Crime, AMC's Halt and Catch Fire and Turn, WGN's Manhattan, Bill Broyle's A&E History Channel's Six, Jill Soloway's I Love Dick, and Justin Simien's Dear White People.

Other projects

On February 16, 2011, it was announced that Peirce would direct the crime thriller The Knife,[21] about two men from opposite sides of the law who must overcome their mistrust of one another and risk their lives in order to infiltrate the organization of a ruthless gang leader threatening to spread armed violence across Los Angeles and the urban centers of America.[22] Peirce was also in negotiations to direct and executive-produce The Enclave, a limited series for USA Network written by Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton (Mad Men).[23]

Peirce co-wrote the script for Silent Star, a murder mystery about the 1922 death of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor and the scandals that nearly destroyed the film industry. However, the project stalled.[14]


Peirce is a founding member of ReFrame, an industry-wide effort to end discrimination against women and people of color in Hollywood as well as the head of the Diversity Committee for Directors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She gave the 2014 Yale Transgender Week keynote, the 2015 Outfest keynote, and the 2016 AFI Keynotes, and spoke at the 2017 Women's March in Park City. She received the GLAAD Media, Lambda Legal Defense, People for the American Way, Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, and the 2013 OUTFEST Career Achievement Awards. In 2018, she was honored with a Women in Film award for her activism.

Personal life

Peirce is openly lesbian.[24]


Year Title Role Awards and Nominations
1994 The Last Good Breath Director and writer Leopard of Tomorrow Program at 1994 Locarno International Film Festival[7]
1999 Boys Don't Cry Director and writer Academy Award for Best Actress (Hilary Swank)

Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Chloe Sevigny)

2008 Stop-Loss Director and writer Hamilton Behind the Camera True-Grit

Andrew Sarris Directing Awards

2013 Carrie Director and writer 2014 People's Choice Award for Favorite Horror Movie


    • This Film Is Not Yet Rated – Peirce talks about the trouble Boys Don't Cry had with the MPAA, particularly the censoring of the sex scenes. Peirce was frustrated over the fact that the MPAA wanted the sex scene between Brandon and Lana removed but were satisfied with the overall brutality and violence in the murder scene.[25]
    • Raging Bull – 30th Anniversary Release, Special Features[26]
    • Chinatown – Centennial Collection DVD, Special Features[27]
    • The Godfather – The Coppola Restoration, Special Features, "The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't"[28]

    Awards and honors

    See also


    1. "Robert Peirce Obituary - Lake Worth, FL - The Palm Beach Post". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
    2. "Leaders". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
    3. "Board of Governors". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2014-09-01. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
    4. "Miami Sunset Senior High School Profile". 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    5. "index magazine interview". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    6. "Chicago Life". Archived from the original on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    7. Stop-Loss press notes, Paramount Pictures
    8. "filmbug". filmbug. 2008-07-12. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    9. "Kimberly Peirce / The Kimberly Peirce Story | MovieMaker Magazine". 1999-11-15. Archived from the original on 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    10. "Arts". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    11. Hugh Hart (2009-06-28). " 'Reel Truth' Gets to the Bottom of Indies ". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    12. Jimen, Oscar S. (7 June 2018). "National Board of Review 1999". freehostia. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
    13. Hoffs, Benjamin (12 December 1999). "BSFC Winners 1999". Boston Film Critics. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
    14. Valby, Karen (2008-03-28). "'War and Peirce' by Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly, March 28, 2008". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    15. The 2008 Behind the Camera Awards Archived December 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
    16. N'neka Hite (2008-04-29). "Kimberly Peirce set for Sarris Award". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    17. "Director campaigns for stop-loss payments – Air Force News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq". Air Force Times. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    18. Williams, Tom (10 July 2008). "Stop-Loss Compensation Act". Getty Images. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
    19. Peirce, Kimberly. Interview by Robert K. Elder. The Film That Changed My Life. By Robert K. Elder. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. N. p105. Print.
    20. "People's Choice Awards 2014: List of winners". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
    21. "'Inside Man' by Guy Lawson". Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    22. Fleming Jr, Mike (February 16, 2011). "Universal Sets Kim Peirce For Los Angeles Gang Informant Drama 'The Knife'". Deadline Hollywood.
    23. Andreeva, Nellie. "USA Unveils Development Slate Of 7 Dramas & 5 Comedies, Eyes Daily Talk Show". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    24. Michael Musto (1999-09-28). "Real Fiction – Page 1 – Movies – New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    25. Dick, Kirby (director). (2006). This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Motion Picture (DVD). IFC Films
    26. Maltin, Leonard (January 12, 2011). "dvd review: STILL RAGING". IndieWire.
    27. "Chinatown (Centennial Collection) Exclusive – Chinatown (Centennial Collection) Movie Exclusive – Exclusive for Chinatown (Centennial Collection) – Exclusive DVD Clip: The Film". 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    28. "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration – Bonus Material". 2008-09-23. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    29. "Young Hollywood Award". Retrieved 4 May 2015.
    30. "Award listings". Archived from the original on 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    31. "The Satyajit Ray Foundation – Previous winners". Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    32. "The Kimberly Peirce Picture Pages". Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    33. "Movie Archive – Boys Don't Cry". Archived from the original on 2012-03-19. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    34. "Top Story". Gay Today. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
    35. Chow, Andrew R. (December 11, 2019). "See the 25 New Additions to the National Film Registry, From Purple Rain to Clerks". Time. New York, NY. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
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