Chris Columbus (born September 10, 1958) is an American film screenwriter, director, and producer. Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Champion, Ohio, Chris later attended New York University where he completed a degree in film.
Chris married in 1983 and has four children with his wife Monica: Eleanor, Violet, Brendan, and Isabella. His daughter, Eleanor appeared in the first two Potter films as Susan Bones and is among very few Americans to have appeared on-screen, as it was insisted the cast be British by Chris himself and J.K. Rowling, to give the movies as authentic a feel as possible.
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Start in Filmmaking
Start in Filmmaking
Chris’s career started as a screenwriter with an early association between himself and Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg’s production company.
When I was in college I wrote a script. I remember when I did this script, ‘on spec’ they call it – you don’t get paid to write it but I was just out of college and I wrote this script called Gremlins. It was sent to 50 producers and everyone rejected it. Literally 50 producers and studios, and nobody picked it up. But Steven Spielberg picked it up and read it. And I got a call in my loft in New York and my roommate said, [nerdy voice] ‘Steven Spielberg’s on the phone.’ And I said, ‘Who is this?’ And he said, ‘This is Steven Spielberg.’ And then he flew me out to L.A. That was my first big break…
Chris also credits his agent with his eventual success, stating, “I had an agent who really believed in me… He would get my material into people’s hands.”
Chris’s daughter Eleanor, who was a reluctant reader, read the first book in a day and a half. After reading the next two books, he could see that she was very enthused and he recalls her even suggesting that he make them into movies, long before talks were in place for that reality.
After reading the books himself, and once Spielberg was no longer attached to the project, Chris scheduled a meeting with Warner Bros. executives and was the last director (out of 25) to be seen/interviewed. For the interview, Chris had rewritten the copy of the script he had received with everything from camera directions to ideas jotted in the margins that would give the creative powers an idea of his vision for the movie.
I put the script on the table and said, ‘Well, err, I’ve rewritten the script free of charge,’ which never happens. Nobody does anything free in Hollywood and I said, ‘This is how passionate I am about the project. Even if you don’t want me to do the movie, I’d like you guys to know how insane I am for making this film.’ So they debated for a long time. It took about six weeks before I heard anything, but I got the call.
A lengthy article reflecting on Chris’s acquiring of the directorial role (including the above quote), as well as the process in making the first three Potter films (Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets as director, Prisoner of Azkaban as producer), can be found at Empire Online.
In 2013, Chris co-authored a children’s fantasy novel, titled House of Secrets. Co-written with young adult author Ned Vizzini (The Other Normals, It’s Kind of a Funny Story), House of Secrets released in hardcover on April 23, 2013. A quote from Potter author J.K. Rowling appears on the front and back covers of the book, calling it “A breakneck roller coaster of an adventure…”
From the Amazon description:
Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the portable electronic devices they could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff — a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.
By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they’re banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren’t alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver than they ever thought possible — and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection to the secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they’ll discover it’s not just their family that’s in danger… it’s the entire world.
At an event in Winnetka, IL on 4/21/13 (which MuggleNet attended), Chris revealed:
One of the reasons Ned and I wanted to write this book was that we designed it in a sort of cliffhanger sort of way. This is kind of like pulp fiction, back in the ’40s and ’50s they used to write these books – serialized novels – like Doc Savage, and The Avenger, and they would end with a cliffhanger. Each chapter would end with a cliffhanger and you would be forced to read more… kids ate them up. So we thought that if we could end each chapter with a cliffhanger and have kids not be able to put this down, when they finished the book they’d say ‘I really liked that book; I want to read something else.’ And maybe they’d pick up Ray Bradbury short stories or H.P. Lovecraft, or even the person who originated the idea of a serialized novel which is Charles Dickens. So we’re trying to create a love of reading. My wife and I spend a lot of our time in book stores, it’s a big part of our lives. And so, to now have this in book stores is really a grand achievement.
The book, which spans nearly 80 chapters and 490 pages, is the first of a planned trilogy.
Connect with Chris Columbus
Connect with Chris Columbus
Fan Mail Address:
William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
9601 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210-5213