Ronald F. Maxwell Biography

Ronald F. Maxwell photo

Born: January 01, 1947


Date of Birth: 1947

The son of a World War II veteran and a French war bride, Ron Maxwell grew up in New Jersey. In high school, he formed a theater group called the Garden State Players, which gave him the opportunity to write, produce and direct dozens of plays and musicals. He furthered his studies at the New York University College of Arts & Sciences, followed by the NYU School of Arts, Institute of Film, where he scripted and directed his first film, The Guest, a 40-minute adaptation of a short story by Albert Camus. Maxwell began his professional directorial career in 1972 when he was working as Charlton Heston's assistant during the filming of Antony & Cleopatra (1973) in Spain. Heston was making his directorial debut, and gave Maxwell the opportunity to direct a scene with the second unit, earning him a second assistant director credit. Not long after, Maxwell was hired as a producer/director for the PBS program Theater-in-America. His first TV movie was Sea Marks (1976), adapted from the Gardner McKay play. He earned an Emmy nomination for his next TV movie, Verna: USO Girl (1978), starring Sissy Spacek and William Hurt.

Maxwell's feature film debut came with Little Darlings (1980), starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O'Neal. Although classified as a "teen flick," the movie had a surprisingly mature theme and was well-received by both critics and the movie-going public, opening at No. 1 on Variety's Top 100 grossing films. His next film paired him again with Kristy McNichol, and added Dennis Quaid as well as Mark Hamill, fresh from his success in Star Wars to the mix, but unfortunately, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981) fared poorly both at the box office and with critics. Kidco (1984) was also largely ignored, so Maxwell returned to television for Parent Trap II (1986), a TV movie that brought back Hayley Mills as twins Sharon and Susan in a sequel to the original 1961 Disney movie.

Maxwell decided to do a complete about face with his next film -- leaving behind child stars and ex-child stars for In the Land of Poets (1987), a feature-length documentary about the Nicaraguan Civil War. He then directed and wrote the American Civil War production, Gettysburg (1993), starring Martin Sheen, which won plaudits in America and abroad. When the four-hour film was broadcast on TNT the following year, it won the highest ratings ever for a dramatic film on cable TV.

He ran into a snag with his screenplay Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior (2000), starring Mira Sorvino, putting it on hold when the CBS mini-series Joan of Arc starring Leelee Sobieski and the feature film The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) beat him to the punch. Sure enough, when Maxwell's film finally came out, it was barely noticed. He returned to the Civil War battlegrounds with Gods and Generals (2003), a prequel to Gettysburg, starring Robert Duvall and Jeff Daniels.

Maxwell is a member of the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He holds an honorary Doctor of Letters from Concordia College. He has a daughter Olivia, a son Jonathan, and two Westies named Tibbie and Willie. Maxwell divides his time between homes in Los Angeles and Rappahannock County, Virginia.


Gods and Generals (2003)
Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior (2000)
Gettysburg (1993)
In the Land of the Poets (1987)
Kidco (1984)
Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, The (1981)
Little Darlings (1980)

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