Screenwriter, director, and producer
Born Nancy Jane Meyers, December 8, 1949, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Irving (a businessman) and Patricia (an interior designer; maiden name, Lemisch) Meyers; married Charles Shyer (a screenwriter, producer, and director), July 28, 1995 (divorced); children: Annie, Hallie. Religion: Jewish. Education: American University, B.A. (journ- alism), 1971.
Addresses: Contact —Sony Pictures Entertainment, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. Home —Los Angeles, CA.
Screenwriter for film and television, including: Private Benjamin, 1980; Private Benjamin (television series), CBS, 1981; Irreconcilable Differences, 1984; Protocol, 1984; Baby Boom, 1987; Baby Boom (television series), 1988; Father of the Bride, 1991; Once Upon a Crime, 1992; I Love Trouble, 1994; Father of the Bride Part II, 1995; The Parent Trap, 1998; Something's Gotta Give, 2003. Director of films, including: The Parent Trap, 1998; What Women Want, 2000; Something's Gotta Give, 2003. Producer credits include: Private Benjamin, 1980; Baby Boom, 1987; Father of the Bride, 1991; I Love Trouble, 1994; Father of the Bride Part II, 1995; What Women Want, 2000; Something's Gotta Give, 2003. Also was a production assistant for The Price is Right, 1972-74; became a story editor for producer Ray Stark, 1974; launched cheesecake business and worked on scripts, c. 1975-76; began writing with Charles Shyer, c. 1976.
Member: American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Writers Guild of America.
Awards: Writers Guild of America award for best comedy written directly for the screen, for Private Benjamin, 1981; ShoWest Director of the Year for Something's Gotta Give, 2004.
For more than two decades writer/director Nancy Meyers has been at the forefront of those women seeking to break through the "celluloid ceiling." As of the mid-2000s, just five percent of all films were directed by women, with Meyers leading the fray. On her own, or with former husband Charles Shyer, Meyers has written more than ten motion pictures, was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing 1980's Private Benjamin, and was named the 2004 ShoWest Director of the Year for Something's Gotta Give, which proved that romantic comedies, done right, are viable blockbusters. In addition, Meyers directed 2000's What Women Want, which earned $183 million domestically to become the highest-grossing, female-directed film to date.
While there is no doubting Meyers' directing ability, her passion lies in writing. "Directing is really a way of protecting the writing," she told Sheri Linden of the Hollywood Reporter. " The reason I direct movies is so that what I've written can get on the screen. I don't feel driven to direct; I feel driven to write. And then, because I write, I'm driven to direct."
A native Philadelphian, Meyers was born into the Jewish family of Irving and Patricia Meyers in 1949. Her father was an executive with a voting machine manufacturer, while her mother worked in interior design. In 1967 Meyers graduated from Lower Merion High School in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, and headed to American University in Washington, D.C., earning her journalism degree in 1971. She found employment at WHYY, a Philadelphia-based public television station.
In 1972 Meyers moved to Los Angeles and became a production assistant for the long-running daytime television game show The Price is Right. Working as a gofer for producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman taught Meyers plenty about production. She left after about two years to become a story editor for producer Ray Stark, which put her in the company of fellow screenwriter hopefuls.
Soon, the desire to write overwhelmed Meyers. She quit her steady job so she would have more time to bang out scripts. To earn money Meyers launched a cheesecake-baking business and sold her sweets to area restaurants. Meyers lived in a tiny Beverly Hills apartment and quickly outgrew her oven. "I'd pay the gas bill for my neighbors so I could use their ovens," she recalled to InStyle 's Jamie Diamond.
In the mid-1970s fellow writer Harvey Miller introduced Meyers to his best friend, Charles Shyer. By 1976 Meyers and Shyer were dating and eventually began writing together. Their first effort was 1980's Private Benjamin. The premise for the script came from Meyers. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Meyers recalled the moment the film idea came to her. "I remember driving on the Ventura Freeway when I was about 27, to run an errand, when I thought, 'What if a girl joined the Army to escape her problems?'"
Meyers, Shyer, and Miller collaborated on the script, which featured Goldie Hawn as a pampered princess who joins the army after her husband dies. The flick, lacking a male lead, was cutting-edge for the time and became one of the most profitable movies Hawn ever made, proving a woman could carry a film to box office success. The screenwriting trio garnered an Academy Award nomination for best writing.
Meyer and Shyer continued writing together and churned out 1984's Irreconcilable Differences and 1987's Baby Boom, as well as the Father of the Bride movies of the 1990s. They also had two daughters, both born in the 1980s. They finally married in 1995 but separated a few years later and severed their professional ties as well.
In 1998, Meyers made her directing debut with The Parent Trap, a remake of the 1961 Disney classic about twins who discover each other's existence at a summer camp, then vow to reunite their divorced parents. Widespread success came with her second directorial effort, 2000's What Women Want. The romantic comedy featured Helen Hunt opposite Mel Gibson who played a male chauvinist who gains the ability to read women's minds. The movie, raking in $183 million at the U.S. box office, made Meyers one of the few female directors to crack the $100 million mark. Worldwide sales hit $375 million.
In the meantime, Meyers stayed busy writing her first solo script, which became 2003's Something's Gotta Give. While working on the screenplay, Meyers found many skeptics who doubted the drawing power of a movie featuring a middle-aged love affair.
Over lunch one day, Meyers pitched the movie to actress Diane Keaton. "I just sat there and ate the meal and thought, 'Good luck,'" Keaton recalled to the Dominion Post. In the end, Keaton agreed to play the lead female role opposite Jack Nicholson, who played Harry Sanborn, a 60-something playboy who always dates women at least half his age. Instead, he falls for the more age-appropriate Erica Barry, the mother of his latest love interest. Barry, played by Keaton, is an uptight divorced playwright who feels most comfortable in turtlenecks, symbolic of the layers of protection she has swaddled around herself.
The highly nuanced comedy struck a chord with baby boomers, easily surpassing the $100 million mark domestically. In its first weeks out, box office sales topped what was thought would be bigger films, like Cold Mountain and Master and Commander.
Meyers, a keen observer of the human condition, does not deny that the film hits close to home. Divorced at 48, Meyers has experienced life as an aging dater. Erica Barry could very well be Meyers. "It's a real story I'm telling about what it's like to be her age and single," Meyers told the New York Times' Nancy Griffin. "To have been married for a long time and to be without that, and the shell she shrinks inside of."
Both Nicholson and Keaton earned Golden Globe nominations for their performances, with Keaton winning the award. Nicholson credited Meyers for driving him to such a great performance. He called Meyers a "grinder," who forced him to work through scenes over and over. "She knows what she wants and she's not afraid to get bloody to get it," Nicholson recalled to the New York Times ' Griffin. Prior to the Meyers film, Nicholson had appeared in more than 75 movies, but this was the first time he could recall a woman directed him.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Meyers was busy on another script within about a year of the film's release. Tentatively titled Holiday, the film, about two women with men troubles who befriend each other, was set for release in 2006. For Meyers' fans, the movie would not come soon enough.
Dominion Post (Wellington, New Zealand), January 7, 2004, p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter, March 23, 2004, p. 25, p. 31.
InStyle, April 15, 2004, p. 158.
New York Times, December 10, 2000, sec. 2, p. 15; December 14, 2003, Arts … Leisure, p. 15.
"Nancy Meyers," American University School of Communication Alumni, http://www.socalumni. american.edu/waves.cfm?pageid=23 (July 27, 2005)
"Nancy Meyers," Internet Movie Database, http:// www.imdb.com/name/nm0583600/ (August 4, 2005).
— Lisa Frick