A neophyte director who scored a hit with his first released feature, "Swingers" (1996), Doug Liman emerged as a true auteur who balanced a high-energy visual style with richly drawn characters. After "Swingers," a low-budget indie hit made for $250,000 that managed to capture the cultural zeitgeist, Liman parlayed that film's popularity into a fruitful career as a top-shelf Hollywood director and executive producer. No less successful was his sophomore effort, "Go" (1999), which solidified his reputation as a go-to director for character-driven, youth-oriented films. But he vaulted into the mainstream limelight with his next film, "The Bourne Identity" (2001), a high-octane espionage thriller that was equal parts action and character, all the while helping to redefine the spy film. While serving as the executive producer on the ensuing films in the "Bourne" franchise, Liman had his biggest box office hit to date, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (2005), a huge commercial hit that was partly driven by stars Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie engaging in a tabloid-friendly affair during and after production. He took a step back with the critically-maligned "Jumper" (2009), while also venturing into television as both a director and producer on shows like "The O.C." (Fox, 2003-07) and "Covert Affairs" (USA Network, 2010-14). The Palme d'Or-nominated political drama "Fair Game" (2010) added to Liman's already impressive résumé, and although the science fiction action thriller "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014) was a box office disappointment, it was among the best-reviewed films of Liman's career. Following the smaller-scale Iraq War drama "The Wall" (2017), Liman reteamed with "Edge of Tomorrow" star Tom Cruise for "American Made" (2017), an action comedy-drama based on real political events in 1980s Central America, maintaining Liman's reputation as a director who balanced serious themes with grand entertainment.
Born on July 24, 1965 in New York, NY, Doug Liman was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan by his father, Arthur L. Liman, an attorney who once served as counsel for the State of New York during the investigation of the 1971 Attica prison riots, as well as general counsel for the Senate during the Iran-Contra hearings in the 1980s. Meanwhile, his mother, Ellen, was a writer and a painter. When he was just six years old, Liman's father gave him a Super-8 camera, which the young boy promptly used to film dogs in Central Park. Throughout the years, he made numerous films with friends and family, even casting his father as The Mummy for a 25-minute film he made in the fifth grade. While still in high school, Liman studied still photography at the International Center of Photography in New York City, before moving on to Brown University, where he helped co-found the student-run cable television station, BTV, while serving as its first station manager.
Following his graduation from Brown in 1988, Liman attended the graduate program at the University of Southern California, where he helmed his first feature-length film, "Getting In/Student Body" (1993), a darkly comic thriller that attempted to satirize the admissions process to medical school. The little seen, direct-to-video release featured a cast of up and coming players, including Calista Flockhart, Matthew Perry, Christine Baranski and Dave Chappelle. Liman had also cast another pre-"Friends" star, Jennifer Aniston, but was forced to fire her after the studio, Trimark Pictures, wanted a post-"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992) Kristy Swanson instead. Looking for his next picture, Liman became attached to direct "Swingers" when Jon Favreau, the screenwriter, had been turned down by everyone in town. Centered around a group of friends (Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston and Patrick Van Horne) trying to snap a heartbroken buddy (Favreau) out of his lovesick funk, the film featured a swaggering hipness and self-conscious posturing that was nonetheless strongly grounded in genuine sweetness. Made on an ultra-low budget of $250,000, the dialogue-fueled "Swingers" was often filmed on locations in several popular clubs around Los Angeles, and even included a trip to Vegas, shot without permits in a pseudo-documentary style. The result was a film filled with energy and charm that captivated audiences and critics, while establishing a cult following that jump-started the careers of the featured actors, most notably the unique motor-mouth Vaughn.
Liman's rapid-paced next effort "Go" (1999) more than lived up to the legacy of its acclaimed predecessor. A refreshingly optimistic and affirming take on John August's script about young Los Angelinos on the fast track, "Go" was comprised of three separate but related sections, each focusing on different members of the film's talented ensemble of up and comers (Sarah Polley, Timothy Olyphant, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, Taye Diggs). Liman showed a rare filmmaker's economy, bringing the elaborate and energetic ride in at well under two hours. Doing double duty as cinematographer, Liman created a look for the film that stylistically captured both the script's vivid spirit and somewhat dark subject matter. He shot some visually arresting scenes, including an Ecstasy-fueled hallucination set in a supermarket, a terrifying neon lit Las Vegas strip car chase, and a hazy rave dance floor scene. The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews, but box office returns were comparably lackluster due in part to misguided marketing as a teen flick that ignored the film's darker elements. Following "Go," Liman produced the Sarah Thorp film "See Jane Run" (2001), starring Clea DuVall and Kevin Corrigan, and as producer he helped bring the indie comedy "Kissing Jessica Stein" (2001) to the big screen.
Making the jump from low budget indies to major studio films in an instant, Liman enjoyed his most potent commercial and creative success when he helmed the action thriller "The Bourne Identity" (2002), an adaptation of author Robert Ludlum's potboiler. Demonstrating his visual flair in numerous action sequences that were a far cry from the talky scenes of his previous two efforts, Liman ably showed that he was capable of making a highly entertaining film regardless of budget or genre. The film spawned a franchise which saw Liman serve as executive producer on two sequels, "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007). Building on his success, he served as an executive producer and directed the pilot episode of the popular melodrama "The O.C." (Fox 2003-07), which followed the turbulent relationships of a group of Orange County teens and their parents, and made stars out of newcomers Mischa Barton, Benjamin McKenzie, Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson.
Liman's momentum continued when he directed "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (2005), a comedic thriller about an increasingly distant married couple (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), both of whom discover that the other is a secretly high-caliber assassin after being assigned to kill one another, reigniting their ardor for one another. In addition to Liman's characteristically innovative action staging, the film benefitted greatly from the chemistry between Pitt and Jolie, who developed a controversial, high-profile relationship off-screen while making the film. It became one of Liman's biggest box office successes, taking in well over $400 million in worldwide receipts. Turning back to television amidst a highly successful feature career, Liman directed the pilot episode for "Heist" (NBC, 2006), an action drama about a season-long attempt to rob three jewelry stores on Beverly Hills' swanky Rodeo Drive. Despite several positive reviews, the show completed only seven episodes, airing just five before being canceled. Liman returned to features with "Jumper" (2008), a sci-fi action flick centered on a group of underground teleporters able to jump from one location to another. Starring Hayden Christiansen, Rachel Bilson and Samuel L. Jackson, "Jumper" produced some of the worst reviews of Liman's career.
Liman went back to television to serve as the executive producer on "Covert Affairs" (USA Network, 2010-14), a savvy action drama that centered on Annie Walker (Piper Perabo), a young CIA trainee, who is mysteriously sent into the field as an operative for reasons unknown. Staying inside the covert world of the CIA with his next feature, Liman directed "Fair Game" (2010), a fictional accounting of the scandal surrounding Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), an undercover operative who was publicly exposed by former presidential advisor Karl Rove as political retribution against her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn). Liman followed this docudrama with the science fiction thriller "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014), starring Tom Cruise as an inexperienced military man fighting an alien invasion. The film quickly gained a cult following, but it was a rare box office disappointment for megastar Cruise despite strong critical reactions. Liman returned with "The Wall" (2017), a smaller-scale thriller set during the Iraq War starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena as American soldiers pinned down by a sniper. Reuniting with Cruise, Liman directed "American Made" (2017), an action comedy-drama set in 1980s Central America concerning the nexus between drug cartels and the CIA.
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Made film directing debut with the direct-to-video release "Getting In/Student Body"
First major feature released, "Swingers"; also served as director of photography
Helmed second feature "Go"; also served as director of photography; premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
Produced the indie film "See Jane Run" starring Clea DuVall and Kevin Corrigan
Directed (also produced) Matt Damon in the hit political thriller "The Bourne Identity"; adapted from a Robert Ludlum novel
Directed the pilot episode of "The O.C." (Fox)
Directed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the dark comedy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"
Served as executive producer for "The Bourne Supremacy"
Produced the third "Bourne" film, "The Bourne Ultimatum"
Returned to directing with "Jumper" starring Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed "Fair Game," which is based on the true story of former CIA officer Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts)
Directed Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in sci-fi hit "Edge of Tomorrow"
Re-teamed with Cruise for "American Made"
Directed military drama "The Wall"