Rob Cohen

Rob L. Cohen (born March 12, 1949) is an American director, producer, and screenwriter of film and television. Beginning his career as an executive producer at 20th Century Fox, Cohen produced and developed numerous high-profile film and television programs, including The Wiz, The Witches of Eastwick, and Light of Day, before concentrating full-time on directing in the 1990s. His directorial credits include action films such as xXx and the first The Fast and the Furious, along with fantasy films like Dragonheart and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Rob Cohen
Cohen on the bridge of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in June 2004
Rob L. Cohen

(1949-03-12) March 12, 1949
ResidenceBali, Indonesia
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationFilm director, producer, actor, screenwriter
Years active1975–present
Diane Mitzner
(m. 1986; div. 1987)

Barbara Cohen (m. 2006)

Early life and career

Cohen was born in Cornwall, New York. He attended Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude in the class of 1971, after transferring from Amherst College after two years[1] concentrating in a cross major between anthropology and visual studies. His first endeavor in filmmaking was a commissioned recruiting film for Harvard's Admissions Office in 1970, which became his senior thesis. He is Jewish. He is 5' 7" tall.[2]

Upon graduation, Cohen immediately headed to Los Angeles to work as a screenwriter for Martin Jurow but soon found himself unemployed when the producer moved out of state.

After a six-month stint as a kennel boy at the Harvey Animal Hospital in West Hollywood to make ends meet, Cohen landed a job as a reader for then-agent Mike Medavoy. Six weeks into his tenure at International Famous Agency (now part of ICM), he distinguished himself by discovering an unheralded script he found in a slush pile of neglected screenplays. Recognizing its quality, commerciality and uniqueness, Cohen wrote in his coverage that it was "the great American screenplay and this will make an award-winning, major-cast, major-director film."[1] He championed the piece relentlessly, with his own job at stake, as Medavoy said that he would try to sell it on that recommendation, but promising to fire Cohen if he could not. Universal bought it that afternoon for a record price, and it became the Academy Award winning movie The Sting (1973). Cohen still keeps the coverage framed on the wall of his office, as this gave him his first identity in Hollywood: "the kid who found The Sting."[3]

Film career


With a career in film and television spanning more than 40 years, Cohen has distinguished himself as a celebrated screenwriter, producer and director. In 1973, 20th Century Fox Television hired Cohen as ‘Head of Current Programming’ helping out with, among other shows, the first year of the epic hit, M*A*S*H. Eager to push Fox into ‘long form’, Cohen cold called the head of ABC and introduced himself as ‘the head of television movies at Fox’. Barry Diller gave him a meeting where he sold two TV films on the spot, properties he had found in the voluminous books of Fox's unproduced properties. A week later, he duplicated the feat at CBS under Philip Barry. Fox president, William Edwin Self, was not happy that a junior employee had garnered these commitments without permission but grudgingly gave Cohen the title Vice President of TV Movies.[4]

Diller recommended Cohen to his friend impresario, songwriter, producer and record label founder Berry Gordy who was looking to bring his company Motown into the film business. He and Gordy connected and he was hired to be the Executive Vice President and head of Motown's motion picture division.[5]

Cohen went to work and developed the first Motown movie from his own idea about the burgeoning phenomenon of African American Super Models he felt was perfect for Motown star Diana Ross. He sold the package to Paramount and in 1974, the cameras rolled on Mahogany in Chicago and Rome. At the same time, he developed a unique film from the Bill Brashler novel The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976) starring Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor. To direct, he hired a then unknown TV director John Badham to make his feature debut, a critical hit set in the 1930s Negro National League (1920–31) (twenty years later, he and Badham would partner again to make a number of successful films at Universal Studios).

Departing Motown in 1978, Cohen went on to produce and direct films and television series, including Miami Vice, Light of Day,[6] The Witches of Eastwick, Ironweed, and The Wiz.


From 1990 onwards, Cohen moved into directing full-time. Much success followed with early 1990s films such as Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Dragonheart, Daylight and the Golden Globe award-winning film The Rat Pack.

At 52, Cohen had become an action director, directing the 2001 film, The Fast and The Furious. The film was a hit, opening with $40 million its first weekend,[7] starring relative unknowns Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

With the success of The Fast and the Furious, Cohen partnered up with Vin Diesel again the following year to direct XXX.

In 2008, he directed the third installment of The Mummy, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, grossing $401 million worldwide,[8] and he directed Blumhouse Productions' The Boy Next Door starring Jennifer Lopez in 2015.

Cohen is also a director of commercials, housed at Original Film, having made over 150 television commercials for products such Disney's Star Wars, Verizon, Ford, GM, Mercedes, Chevy, Saab and Burger King among many others.

Sexual abuse allegations

On February 21, 2019, Cohen's transgender daughter, Valkyrie Weather, accused Cohen of sexually assaulting her as a child, as well as sexually assaulting another woman.[9] Weather further claimed that Cohen had taken her to visit sex workers in Thailand and the Czech Republic when she was 13, supposedly in an attempt to "turn [her] straight". Although Cohen categorically denied these claims in a later statement, Dianna Mitzner, Cohen's first wife and Weather's mother, confirmed that she had witnessed at least one incident of sexual assault against Weather as a child.[10] Another allegation of sexual assault was published by HuffPost on September 28, 2019. Cohen's lawyer denied any wrongdoing.[11]



Year Title Director Writer Notes
1980 A Small Circle of Friends Yes No
1984 Scandalous Yes Yes
1993 Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story Yes Yes
1996 Dragonheart Yes No Nominated - Sitges Maria Award for Best Film
Daylight Yes No
1998 The Rat Pack Yes No Nominated - DGA Award for Outstanding Directing
2000 The Skulls Yes No
2001 The Fast and the Furious Yes No
2002 xXx Yes No
Tales from the Crypt: Ritual No Yes
2005 Stealth Yes No
2008 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Yes No
2012 Alex Cross Yes No
2015 The Boy Next Door Yes No
2018 The Hurricane Heist Yes No


Year Title Director Notes
1975 Mahogany Berry Gordy
1976 The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings John Badham
1978 Thank God It's Friday Robert Klane
Almost Summer Martin Davidson
The Wiz Sidney Lumet
1985 The Legend of Billie Jean Matthew Robbins Also 2nd unit director
1987 Light of Day Paul Schrader
1990 Bird on a Wire John Badham Also 2nd unit director
1991 The Hard Way

Executive producer

Year Title Director Notes
1977 Scott Joplin Jeremy Kagan
1984 The Razor's Edge John Byrum
1987 The Witches of Eastwick George Miller
The Monster Squad Fred Dekker
Ironweed Héctor Babenco
The Running Man Paul Michael Glaser
1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow Wes Craven Also 2nd unit director
1989 Disorganized Crime Jim Kouf
2005 XXX: State of the Union Lee Tamahori
2015 Ghoul Petr Jákl


Year Title Director Writer Executive
1979 Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill No No Yes
1984 Miami Vice Yes No No 3 episodes
1987 Hooperman Yes No No Episode: "Look Homeward, Dirtbag"
Private Eye Yes No No 4 episodes
A Year in the Life Yes No No Episode: "While Someone Else Is Eating or Opening a Window"
Thirtysomething Yes No No 2 episodes
1988 Almost Grown Yes No No 4 episodes
1990 Nasty Boys Yes No No Episode: "Fire and Ice"
1991 The Antagonists Yes No No Episode: "Pilot"
Eddie Dodd Yes No No Episode: "Love and Death"
1994 Vanishing Son No Yes Yes Creator
2005 The Last Ride No Story Yes
2014 Topless Prophet No Yes Yes

Music videos


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