Ross, Gary 1956-
Ross, Gary 1956-
Born November 3, 1956, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Arthur A. Ross (a writer); married Allison Thomas; children: Claudia and Jack. Education: Attended the University of Pennsylvania.
Office—Larger Than Life Productions, 100 Universal City Plaza, Bldg. 5138, Universal City, CA 91608.
Writer, screenwriter, producer, and director. Larger Than Life Productions, founder. Appeared in the movies Dave as policeman #2, 1993; The Misery Brothers as Redwood Stump, 1995; and Seabiscuit as Pimlico track announcer, 2003. Appeared as himself in television shows and specials, including episodes ofThe Directors and HBO First Look, 2003, and in The True Story of Seabiscuit, 2003; Seabiscuit: The Making of a Legend, 2003; AFI's 100 Years … 100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies, 2006, andDreams on Spec, 2006. Also appeared as himself in the video releases, Seabiscuit: Racing through History,2003, and The Making of "Seabiscuit," 2003. Producer of the film Trial and Error, 1997.
Also, as a teenager, worked for a Congressman, 1972; participated in Ted Kennedy's 1980 campaign for president; wrote speeches and jokes for politicians, including Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton; and taught a course on film and social history at theUniversity of Pennsylvania.
Academy Award nomination for best writing, original screenplay, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1989, for Big; Saturn Award, 1990, for Big; Academy Award nomination for best writing, screenplay written directly for the screen, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1994, and Paul Selvin Award for the script that "best embodies the spirit of the Constitution's call for civil rightsand liberties," Writers Guild of America, both forDave; Nova Award for most promising producer in theatrical motion pictures, and Golden Satellite Award for best motion picture screenplay—original, both 1999, both for Pleasantville; Academy Award nomination for best writing and for best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 2004, for Seabiscuit;Hochi Film Award for best foreign language film and USC Scripter Award, both 2004, both forSeabiscuit.
(And producer and director) Pleasantville, New Line Cinema, 1998.
(And producer and director of film) Seabiscuit: The Screenplay (based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author or coauthor of screenplays for the moviesBig (with Anne Spielberg, and coproducer), 1988;Dave, 1993; Lassie, 1994; Creature from the Black Lagoon (and producer), 2006; and The Tale of Despereaux(and producer), 2007; also author of a novel.
Gary Ross began his career by writing a novel but soon turned to writing for Hollywood and the movies. His first success was the screenplay for the film Big, which he wrote with Anne Spielberg. The story revolves around Josh Baskin, a young boy who plunks some money into a carnival wishing machine and asks to be big so he can impress a sophisticated girl. When he wakes up the next day, he finds that he now has the body of a man while retaining his young identity. He ends up getting a job at a toy company, where he attracts the attention of a jaded coworker who is drawn to Josh's innocence. Gerald Clarke, writing in Time, referred to the plot as "beguiling" and called the story "predictable but daffy and delightful nonetheless." Clarke also noted that, except for the movie's ending, Ross and Spielberg "always steered in the right direction, avoiding the wrong turns that are so easy to make in such an insubstantial fantasy."
Ross also worked on refining scripts for various films such as Mr. Baseball. His next big hit, however, was the movie Dave. In the film, a man named Dave looks exactly like the President of the United States and is hired to make appearances as the President at minor events and occasions. When the real President suffers a stroke, the President's nefarious chief-of-staff convinces Dave to impersonate the President full time. Before long, the President's wife begins to suspect that Dave is an imposter because he appears to be a kind and caring man, something the real President is not.New Republic contributor Stanley Kauffmann noted that "the plot twists are what matter here. Once the premise is set in place, the next question is: How is the script going to run the gamut of the obstacles that lie ahead and still end up o.k. for the man we care about?" Kauffmann added: "The answer is: pretty deftly." Writing in Time, Richard Schickel commented that Ross and the film's director "have fashioned a dear and funny movie."
Ross also wrote and directed the film Pleasantville, a fantasy about two children, David and Jennifer, who magically find themselves living in an old black-and-white family television series from the 1950s as they take the place of the characters Mary Sue and Bud. David and Jennifer, however, bring modern sensibilities to their new world, including sex, reading books, and other passions. When the characters in the show begin to experience life similar to David and Jennifer, their black-and-white world soon turns to full color. Eventually, a schism occurs between the town's conservative members who want to keep their world as they've always known it and the adventurous who want to experience the new multicolored world. "Ingeniously conceived and impressively executed,Pleasantville is a provocative, complex and surprisingly anti-nostalgic parable wrapped in the beguiling guise of a commercial high-concept comedy," wrote Joe Leydon in Variety. In a review in Time, Richard Corliss referred to the film as "an epic-size, largely entertaining parable of repression and awakening." Tim Wynne-Jones, writing in Horn Book, commented that "this is an exceptional film, thoughtfully realized." In her review in the Humanist, Lucia K.B. Hall called the film "absorbing, thought-provoking, technically stunning, and delightfully humanistic," adding: "There's a real story being told here."
Ross also adapted for film Laura Hillenbrand's bookSeabiscuit: An American Legend. Author of the screenplay and director of the film titled Seabiscuit,Ross tells the story of the legendary horse who began its career as an "also ran" but captured the imagination of the entire United States in the late 1930s as an underdog who won some of horse racing's most prestigious events. The story revolves around the horse's owner, a successful car dealer who lost a son in an accident, the trainer, a crusty, living anachronism, and the jockey, who is battling his own inner demons. In the end, the three combine to develop the under-achieving Seabiscuit into a champion who goes on to take several impressive victories over other favored horses, including War Admiral, winner of racing's Triple Crown. In a review in Film Journal International,Kevin Lally noted that the author's "film strives to put the story of Seabiscuit … [in] a social context and give contemporary audiences a mini-lesson on the impact of the Great Depression." Writing in the New York Times, A.O. Scott noted that the author "has done his best to preserve both the sweep of her [Hillenbrand's] narrative and its meticulousness." Sports Illustratedcontributor William Nack wrote: "The movie vividly captures The Biscuit's appeal, and the visceral appeal of racing." In a review in Newsweek, David Ansen commented that the movie "may be too air-brushed for its own good, but in the end nothing can stop this story from putting a lump in your throat." Ansen added: "You can say about Ross's epic what you can say about the horse it celebrates: it comes through in the stretch." Dailey Variety contributor Stuart Levine, commenting on the film's screenplay, wrote that the author "could be given strong consideration in the [Academy Awards] adapted screenplay category, having taken Hillenbrand's fact-filled book and shaped it into a feature that even racing novices could understand."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christian Century, August 23, 2003, Steve Vineberg, review of Seabiscuit, p. 42.
Daily Variety, November 11, 2003, Stuart Levine, review of Seabiscuit, p. S28.
Entertainment Weekly, August 5, 1994, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Lassie, p. 60; October 30, 1998, review of Pleasantville, p. 77.
Esquire, March, 1999, Greil Marcus, review of Pleasantville,p. 76.
Film Journal International, September, 2003, Kevin Lally, review of Seabiscuit, p. 39.
Hollywood Reporter, July 16, 2003, Kirk Honeycutt, review of Seabiscuit, p. 2.
Horn Book, January, 2000, Tim Wynne-Jones, review of Pleasantville, p. 30.
Humanist, January, 1999, Lucia K.B. Hall, review ofPleasantville, p. 45.
Interview, August, 2003, Henry Cabot Beck, review ofSeabiscuit, p. 62.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March, 1999, Kathi Maio, review of Pleasantville, p. 88.
Nation, November 23, 1998, Stuart Klawans, review of Pleasantville, p. 30; August 18, 2003, Stuart Klawans, review of Seabiscuit, p. 51.
National Catholic Reporter, November 20, 1998, Joseph Cunneen, review of Pleasantville, p. 16.
National Review, December 21, 1998, John Simon, review of Pleasantville, p. 67.
New Republic, May 31, 1993, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Dave, p. 30; August 18, 2003, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Seabiscuit, p. 22.
New Statesman, November 3, 2003, Philip Kerr, review of Seabiscuit, p. 46.
New York Times, October 23, 1998, Janet Maslin, review of Pleasantville; July 25, 2003, A.O. Scott, review of Seabiscuit.
New Yorker, August 4, 2003, David Denby, review ofSeabiscuit, p. 084.
Newsweek, July 21, 2003, David Ansen, review ofSeabiscuit, p. 54; July 28, 2003, Sean Smith, "Off to the Races with Seabiscuit, p. 50.
People, October 19, 1992, Ralph Novak, review ofMr. Baseball, p. 18; May 17, 1993, Tom Gliatto, review of Dave, p. 22.
Sports Illustrated, August 4, 2003, William Nack, review of Seabiscuit, p. 58.
Time, June 6, 1988, Gerald Clarke, review of Big,p. 78; May 10, 1993, Richard Schickel, review ofDave, p. 65; October 26, 1998, Richard Corliss, review of Pleasantville, p. 92; August 4, 2003, Richard Schickel, review of Seabiscuit, p. 67.
Variety, September 21, 1998, Joe Leydon, review ofPleasantville, p. 104; July 21, 2003, Todd McCarthy, review of Seabiscuit, p. 26.
Video Business, December 15, 2003, Cyril Pearl, review of Seabiscuit, p. 15.
Internet Movie Databse,http://www.imdb.com/ (July 18, 2006), information on author's career.
New York Times Online,http://movies2.nytimes.com/(July 18, 2006), biography of author.
NNDB,http://www.nndb.com/(July 18, 2006), biographical information on author.
[Sketch reviewed by assistant.]