Jay Russell – Bio
Best known for Directing critically acclaimed, audience-pleasing fare, filmmaker Jay Russell has an impressive track record of telling compelling stories with emotional resonance.
Russell began his journey as a writer/director at Columbia University in New York City, where he studied under the tutelage of Academy Award-winning director Milos Forman.
After receiving his MFA in Screenwriting and Directing, Russell was invited to attend the famed Sundance Institute Film Workshop, working alongside Academy Award winner Robert Redford.
It was there that Russell began development on what would become his first film, “End of the Line,” a tale of two down‐and-out railway workers played by Levon Helm and Wilford Brimley. The cast also included Kevin Bacon and Academy Award winners Mary Steenburgen and Holly Hunter. “End of the Line” was well-received at Sundance and won a theatrical release by Sony Classics.
After “End of the Line” Russell developed projects for Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, as well as TriStar Pictures. Russell also found success at that time in the world of reality television and documentaries.
In the mid 1990’s, Russell produced a number of documentary series and specials for NBC, CBS, The Learning Channel, and the Discovery Channel.
In 1997, PBS approached Russell to write, produce, and direct a five‐hour miniseries on America’s most famous highways. It was during the filming of the PBS series that Russell met Pulitzer nominated author, Willie Morris.
At the time, Morris was working on an autobiographical memoir about his childhood. When “My Dog Skip”, became a national bestseller, Russell – who had stayed in regular contact with Morris ‐ secured the movie rights to the book.
In 2000, Warner Bros. released the Russell Produced and Directed film adaptation of “My Dog Skip”, which starred Kevin Bacon, Frankie Muniz, Luke Wilson and Diane Lane. The film was a hit with critics and audiences alike and eventually went on to score numerous awards, including the 2001 Critic’s Choice Award for Best Family Film.
Russell followed up with Disney’s “Tuck Everlasting” – starring Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls. Handmaid’s Tale) along with Academy Award winners, Sir Ben Kingsley, William Hurt and Sissy Spacek. The well-received fantasy was also nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award in 2002.
In 2004, Russell tackled his most commercial project yet with Disney/Touchstone Pictures “Ladder 49.” The film, an ode to the heroism of firefighters, starred Academy Award nominee John Travolta and Oscar winner, Joaquin Phoenix, as a pair of Baltimore firemen who share a father-son relationship that forges the backbone of this emotionally satisfying film. “Ladder 49” remains as one of the top October weekend openers of all time and went on to make over $100 + million in worldwide box office.
Next, Sony Picture’s “Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,” was one of the best-reviewed family films of 2008. Starring Alex Etel (Millions) and Academy Award winner Emily Watson, the film was also nominated by the Visual Effects Society for the groundbreaking digital work of the world-famous New Zealand FX company, Weta Workshop.
Worldwide, “The Water Horse,” became Russell’s second $100 + million dollar money maker in a row.
In 2014, Russell directed Hallmark Hall of Fame’s “One Christmas Eve” for television, and in 2015 Produced the Hartford Stage Production of “Rear Window”, which starred Kevin Bacon and was directed by Tony winner, Darko Tresnjak.
Currently, Russell is developing the thriller, “You’re Not Real,” as well as the true story of Nashville singer/songwriter, Doug Seegers, with Kevin Bacon, and is having his first graphic novel, “Black Sparrow,” published by John Carpenter’s Storm-King Productions.
Critic’s Choice Award – 2000 – MY DOG SKIP
Giffoni Film Festival – Silver Medal – MY DOG SKIP
Christopher Award Winner 2000 – MY DOG SKIP
Critic’s Choice Awards – Nomination – 2002 – TUCK EVERLASTING
Heartland Film Festival – 2002 – TUCK EVERLASTING
Andrew Sarris Achievement Award for Directing 2005
Movie Guide Award – 2005 – LADDER 49
Teen Choice Award – Best Drama 2005 – LADDER 49
Visual Effects Society Awards – 2008 – THE WATER HORSE
Golden Tomato Award – Best Reviewed Family Film of 2008 for THE WATER HORSE
Diamond Career Award -Roger Ebert Film Festival