Born: January 30, 1953
Date of Birth: January 30, 1953
Born in Fresno, California, Steve Zaillian graduated from San Francisco State University in 1975 with a degree in Cinema. His first job was editing movies such as Breaker! Breaker! (1977), Kingdom of the Spiders (1977), Starhops (1978) and Below the Belt (1980).
Zaillian didn't find the work challenging or creative enough, so he began writing screenplays. In 1985, his hard work finally paid off when The Falcon and the Snowman was produced, starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton. The political drama was based on the book by Robert Lindsey, which in turn was based on a true story.
His next screenplay was the critically-acclaimed Awakenings (1990), based on the book by Oliver Sacks. The film starred Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. Zaillian received his first Oscar nomination, as well as a Writers Guild of America nod. He shared a USC Scriper Award with Sacks.
Zaillian decided to make his directing debut with his screenplay Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993). As with his previous scripts, the film was a hit with audiences and won numerous awards, including a Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo Film Festival and an MTV Movie Award citing Zaillian as Best New Filmmaker.
Produced the same year (but directed by Steven Spielberg), Zaillian's screenplay Schindler's List starring Liam Neeson was his biggest hit yet. The film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay based on material from another medium for Zaillian and seven BAFTAs, including Best Screenplay - Adapted. Zaillian also won a Best Screenplay Golden Globe, a Humanitas Prize, a Writers Guild of America Award and another USC Scripter Award, to name only a few. The year after the film was released, Zaillian was named Screenwriter of the Year at the ShoWest Convention.
After penning Clear and Present Danger (1994) and Mission: Impossible (1996), both of which were huge box office hits, Zaillian decided to return to the director's chair with his screenplay A Civil Action (1998). Starring John Travolta and Robert Duvall, the film won Zaillian his third USC Scripter Award.
Continuing to prove an extremely prolific writer, Zaillian wrote Hannibal (2001), Gangs of New York (2002, for which he received Oscar and BAFTA nominations) and The Interpreter (2005) before stepping behind the camera again to helm All the King's Men (2005), basing his screenplay on the Robert Penn Warren novel.
Zaillian, whose background is Armenian, lives in Los Angeles with his wife Elizabeth and their two children.