James Gray

Producer / Writer / Director

Birthdate – April 14, 1969 (55 Years Old)

Birthplace – New York City, New York, USA

James Gray (birthname: James Gray) is one of the most critically revered American independent filmmakers of the past twenty years, and holds a special place in the pantheon for French cinema: Except for two films since his feature debut at the Venice Film Festival (1994’s Little Odessa), all of Gray’s films have been in the Cannes Film Festival’s official competition for the Palme d’Or, an extremely rare honor for an American director.

The subject of an already considerable body of critical analysis, Gray’s movies are usually imbued with deeply personal and sometimes autobiographical concerns, such as his 2022 drama, Armageddon Time, starring Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Banks Repeta, and Anthony Hopkins.

After making a successful student film, Cowboys and Angels, in 1991 at USC, Gray gained an agent and a producer, Paul Webster, who backed Gray’s highly acclaimed first feature, Little Odessa (1994), starring Tim Roth, Edward Furlong, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximillian Schell, and Moira Kelly, and remarkably winning Gray the Best Director Silver Lion in its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

After a six-year absence from the screen, Gray returned with the strong New York crime drama, The Yards (2000, but filmed in 1998), which he directed and co-wrote (with Matt Reeves), leading an ensemble including Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, and James Caan, premiering at the Cannes Film Festival and winning the Best Supporting Actor prize from the National Society of Film Critics for Phoenix.

Seven more years passed until James Gray’s next movie, the fine NYPD drama, We Own the Night (2007), again starring Wahlberg and Phoenix (who both also served as producers), with Eva Mendes and Robert Duvall in support, and earning over $54 million worldwide theatrically and an additional $54 million in home video sales and rentals.

Gray pivoted from crime dramas to a love story in the observant Brighton Beach-set drama and perhaps his best-reviewed film to date, Two Lovers (2008), the first film to be produced by Gray and again starring Phoenix, playing opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, with Isabella Rossellini and Elias Koteas.

Gray once again collaborated with co-writer Richard Menello for the highly atmospheric period drama, The Immigrant (premiering in Cannes in 2013 but not released theatrically until 2014), again starring Phoenix, with Marion Cotillard (who won Best Actress from the New York Film Critics Circle) and Jeremy Renner.

James Gray continued working in a period and even grander setting for his engrossing and majestic adventure movie, The Lost City of Z (2016), based on David Grann’s book and starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, and Tom Holland, and premiering at the opening slot of the New York Film Festival.

For his second collaboration with Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company, Gray directed Pitt as a star in the science-fact drama, Ad Astra (2019), with Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland, premiering at the Venice Film Festival and earning $135 million globally.

Three years later, Gray returned to his New York roots for his most personal story to date in Armageddon Time, which marked Gray’s first return to the Cannes red carpet since 2013.

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Personal Details

Born and raised in the New York City area, James Gray grew up in the community of Flushing, with a father who was an electronics contractor. Gray’s family is of Ukrainian-Russian Jewish descent, with an original family name of either “Grayevsky” or “Greyerstein.” Gray attended and graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he made his student film, Cowboy and Angels, in 1991. Gray has been married to Alexandra Dickson since 2005; the couple has three children.


Ad Astra

Director(directed by) (2019)

Armageddon Time


The Lost City of Z

Director(directed by) (2017)

Some Facts About James Gray

First Love: Moviemaking wasn’t James Gray’s original passion; instead, Gray desired to be a painter.

French Love: Highly regarded in French cinema circles, Gray has commented that “apparently I’m the dramatic version of Jerry Lewis. Someone wrote that I’m the object of a Gallic fetish.”

Film Guy: Without exception, every feature that James Gray has directed has been filmed on 35mm film.


Selected, Top 10 Film Award (5th place), Cahiers du Cinema (2008); Five-time Nominee, Palme d’Or, Cannes Film Festival (2000, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2022); Two-time Nominee, Best Foreign Film, Cesar Awards (2008, 2009); Winner, Critics Award, Deauville Film Festival (1994); Three-time Nominee, Best First Feature/Best First Screenplay/Best Director, Independent Spirit Awards (1996, 2010); Nominee, Best Screenplay, USC Scripter Award (2018); Winner, Silver Lion--Best Director, Venice Film Festival (1994).