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Chris Columbus

Chris Columbus is a major force in contemporary Hollywood filmmaking, from his anarchic, genre-bending 1980s classics Gremlins and The Goonies, to the blockbuster Harry Potter films, which are among the most successful book-to-screen adaptations of all time.

Columbus was born in Spangler, Pennsylvania, and grew up outside of Youngstown, Ohio. As a student, he aspired to become a commercial artist. He spent several years studying art and oil painting, eventually becoming interested in drawing Spider-Man for Marvel Comics. Columbus eventually made the connection between comic books and movie storyboards. In high school, he began making his own homegrown 8mm films and drawing his own storyboards, which he continues to this day. After high school, he enrolled in the Directors Program at New York University's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts.

Columbus first attained success as a screenwriter. While still in college, he sold his first script, Jocks, a semi-autobiographical comedy about a Catholic schoolboy who struggles with his religion and his inability to succeed on the high school football team. After graduating from NYU, Columbus wrote a small town drama entitled Reckless (1984), based on his experiences as a factory worker in Ohio. The film was directed by James Foley and starred Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah.

Columbus gained prominence in Hollywood writing several original scripts produced by Steven Spielberg. The back-to-back hits of the Joe Dante-directed Gremlins (1984) and The Goonies (1985), helmed by Richard Donner, were decade-defining films that intertwined high notes of offbeat, edgy, often outrageous humor against more classic adventure-thriller backdrops. He next wrote the fantasy adventure Young Sherlock Holmes, which was directed by Barry Levinson.

These screenwriting achievements led Columbus to directing his first feature, Adventures in Babysitting (1987), starring Elisabeth Shue. A meeting with John Hughes brought Columbus to the helm of Home Alone (1990), the first of three collaborations. Home Alone, and its hugely successful follow-up, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), were universal in appeal and launched the career of Macaulay Culkin. Only the Lonely (1991), a bittersweet comedy-drama directed by Columbus from his own screenplay, was praised for featuring one of the late John Candy's best performances, and for the return of legendary star Maureen O'Hara to the screen.

Columbus' smash hit comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), starring Robin Williams and Sally Field, bent genders as well as genres, to great critical and public success. Columbus directed another comedy, Nine Months (1995), with Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore, before turning to drama with Stepmom (1998), starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon.

Columbus faced a daunting task when he was called upon to direct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001), the first film based on J.K. Rowling's monumentally successful series of books. With millions of avid and sometimes fanatical readers -- both young and old -- in a high state of expectation and anticipation, Columbus cast newcomers Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in the leading roles as Harry Potter and his friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Once again, he demonstrated his facility for nurturing and cultivating young talent and turning them into natural screen performers.

The success of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was followed by Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), which once again met with huge box office success. He served as producer on the blockbuster Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and directed the film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical, Rent (2005). He was a producer on the hit Night at the Museum, with Ben Stiller and Robin Williams, in 2006, as well as this summer's follow-up, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

He is currently directing the fantasy-adventure Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lighting Thief for Fox 2000 Pictures, based on the best-selling novel.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2009.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Chris Columbus Facts

OccupationDirector, Screenwriter, Producer
BirthdaySeptember 10, 1958 (65)
BirthplaceSpangler, Pennsylvania, USA
Height5' 9" (1m75)  How tall is Chris Columbus compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection
Home Alone
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Continue » Find more details on the Chris Columbus Movies page