Mimi Leder

Miriam Leder (born January 26, 1952) is an American film and television director and producer noted for her action films and use of special effects.[1] She was the first female graduate of the AFI Conservatory, in 1973.

Mimi Leder
Leder at the 75th Annual Peabody Awards
Miriam Leder

(1952-01-26) January 26, 1952
EducationAFI Conservatory
OccupationFilm director, film producer, script supervisor
Years active1976–present
Spouse(s)Gary Werntz
ChildrenHannah Leder

Early life

Leder was born in New York City in 1952, the daughter of Etyl, a classical pianist, and Paul Leder, a director, producer, actor, writer, and editor of such films as My Friends Need Killing, Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla, and Dismember Mama.[2][3] Leder was raised in Los Angeles in a Jewish home. Her mother is a Holocaust survivor from Brussels, Belgium, who was interned at Auschwitz.[4] During childhood, her father, a low-budget independent filmmaker, introduced Mimi and her siblings to film production. Her father often dropped her off at the cinema to watch the latest films. Leder states that one of the early films that had an impact on her was Federico Fellini's .[2] She was the first woman accepted into the AFI Conservatory, where she studied cinematography.

Film career

Leder began her career as a script supervisor on a string of films, including Spawn of the Slithis (1978), Dummy (1979), The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980), and A Long Way Home (1980), and then moved to the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981). After making the short film Short Order Dreams, written and funded by her father Paul,[5] she screened it for Steven Bochco, creator of Hill Street Blues, and his friend Gregory Hoblit who hired her to direct an episode of L.A. Law.

In 1988, Leder directed episodes of Crime Story, The Bronx Zoo, Midnight Caller, then directed several episodes of China Beach (1988–91) for which she was nominated for four Emmys. She made the made-for-TV films Woman with a Past (1992), House of Secrets (1993), and Baby Brokers (1994), then became one of the core directors for ER (1994–2009). The show earned her Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series in 1995 and 1996. She returned to direct an episode of the series during its final season in 2009. She soon received a job offer from Steven Spielberg to direct the film The Peacemaker (1997).

Continuing to work for DreamWorks, she directed Deep Impact (1998) and Pay It Forward (2000) while simultaneously creating Sentimental Journey (1999), a personal love story about her parents. Leder went through a period after making Pay It Forward where she wasn't hired to direct any feature films. Leder felt as though she had been put into a "movie jail" by Hollywood for the lack of success of Pay It Forward.  Leder also attributed this reaction from the industry to her being a female.[6]

Leder's dry spell of feature films after the release of Pay It Forward drove her to other pursuits in television and film. She shot nine pilots and produced six series, including The Beast (2001), John Doe (2002), Johnny Zero (2005), and Vanished (2006). Leder also made many made-for-TV movies such as Thick as Thieves (2009), U.S. Attorney (2009), and Heavenly (2011).[7] In 2015, Leder was brought by HBO to direct a first-season episode of The Leftovers and later hired as a co-showrunner.

Leder's feature film On the Basis of Sex, the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's path to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, was released in December 2018. It is Leder's first theatrical feature in 18 years.

Personal life

Leder has one daughter, Hannah, with her husband actor Gary Werntz.[8] Leder states she "was raised a feminist" and "was an anti-war protester all during the Vietnam War".[9]


Feature films

Year Title
1997 The Peacemaker
1998 Deep Impact
1999 Sentimental Journey
2000 Pay It Forward
2009 Thick as Thieves
2018 On the Basis of Sex


Year Title Credited as Notes
Director Producer
1987 L.A. Law Yes
1988 A Year in the Life Yes
Crime Story Yes
The Bronx Zoo Yes
Nightingales Yes 1988 TV movie pilot for the 1989 TV series
Midnight Caller Yes "After It Happened" (Season 1, Episode 3)
1990 Sisters Yes 1990 TV movie pilot for the 1991 TV series
1988–1991 China Beach Yes Yes Director (13 episodes, 1988–1991)
Producer (22 episodes, 1989–1990)
Supervising producer (16 episodes, 1990–1991)
1991 A Little Piece of Heaven Yes TV movie
1992 Woman with a Past Yes TV movie
1993 Marked for Murder Yes TV movie
There Was a Little Boy Yes TV movie
Rio Shannon Yes TV movie
House of Secrets Yes TV movie
1994 Baby Brokers Yes TV movie
The Innocent Yes TV movie
2001 The Beast Yes Yes Executive producer
2002–2003 John Doe Yes Yes Executive producer
2005 Jonny Zero Yes Yes Executive producer
2006 The West Wing Yes
Related Yes
Vanished Yes Yes Executive producer
1994–2009 ER Yes Yes Director (11 episodes, 1994–2009)
Supervising producer (14 episodes, 1994–1995)
Co-executive producer (11 episodes, 1995)
2009 U.S. Attorney Yes Yes TV movie, Executive producer
2010 The Quinn-tuplets Yes TV movie
Human Target Yes "The Wife's Tale" (Season 2, Episode 2)
2011 Heavenly Yes TV movie
2011–2012 Shameless Yes
2012 Smash Yes
Luck Yes
2014–2017 The Leftovers Yes Yes Executive Producer
2019 The Morning Show Yes Yes Executive Producer

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1990 Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series China Beach Nominated
1991 American Film Institute Franklin J. Schaffner Award Won
Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series China Beach Nominated
Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
1992 Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Nominated
1995 ER Won
Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Nominated
1996 Nominated
Emmy Award Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Nominated
1997 Directors Guild of America Award Nominated
2000 Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards Dorothy Arzner Award Won
2006 Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series The West Wing Nominated


Scott, Tobias. “Veteran TV Director Still Tries to Scale Film Barriers.” New York Times (10/13/2015): C2. Accessed November 13, 2018

Brodesser, Claude. “Helmer: Leder Among Men.” Daily Variety (6/9/2000): A4. Accessed November 13, 2018

Goldman, Michael. “Mimi Leger: Director.” Millimeter (Nov 1998) Accessed November 13, 2018

Rochlin, Margy. “For Mimi Leder, Persistence Pays Off.” Directors Guild of America Quarterly (Spring 2018) Accessed November 14, 2018


  1. Hurd, Mary G. Women Directors and Their Films. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.
  2. Brodesser, Claude (June 2000). "Helmer: Leder Among Men". Daily Variety: A4 via JSTOR.
  3. "Mimi Leder Biography". filmreference.com. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  4. "Healing the World". Jewish Journal. October 26, 2000.
  5. Gregory, Mollie. Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood. New York: St. Martin's, 2002.
  6. Scott, Tobias (October 2015). "Veteran TV Director Still Tries to Scale Film Barriers". New York Times: C2 via JSTOR.
  7. "Mimi Leder: Television Director, Producer." The Paley Center for Media: She Made It. Curator Ron Simon. The Paley Center for Media. Web. May 5, 2012.
  8. Sperling, Nicole (September 7, 2018). "The Long Road from Pay It Forward to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Inside Director Mimi Leder's Return to the Big Screen". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  9. Rochlin, Margy (Spring 2018). "For Mimi Leder, Persistence Pays Off". Directors Guild of America Quarterly.
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