Oscar Directors: Bogdanovich, Peter–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

August 17, 2020

Peter Bogdanovich Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: Upper-middle; father painter

Nationality: US


Training: Roger Corman

First Film: Targets. 1968; 29

First Oscar Nomination: Last Picture Show, 1971; 32

Other Nominations: Globe Noms

Genre (specialties): genres films (revisionist)

Collaborators: Polly Platt; Sybil Shepard

Last Film:


Career Output:

Career Span: 1968-2017

Marriage: production designer; actress

Politics: NA


Death: NA


Peter Bogdanovich (born July 30, 1939) is an American director, writer, actor, producer, critic and film historian. Part of the wave of “New Hollywood” directors, Bogdanovich’s career started as a film journalist until he got hired to work on Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels (1966). After the success of the film, he managed to direct his own film Targets (1968) and later gained wider popularity for his critically acclaimed drama The Last Picture Show (1971), which earned eight Oscar nominations including Best Director.

He then directed screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972), which was a major box office success and is considered to be one of the best comedies made, and another critical and commercial success Paper Moon (1973), which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Director nomination.

His following three films have been all critical and commercial failures; including Daisy Miller (1974). After a four-year hiatus, he made a comeback with Saint Jack (1979) and They All Laughed (1981). Since then, he went on to direct films such as Mask (1985), Noises Off (1992), The Cat’s Meow (2001) and She’s Funny That Way (2014).

As an actor, he is best-known as Elliot Kupferberg on HBO series The Sopranos and for his role in Orson Welles movie The Other Side of the Wind, which he also helped to finish.

As film historian, he has directed documentaries such as Directed by John Ford (1971) and published over ten books which some of them include his interviews with his friends Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. He also wrote a memoir on his relationship with model Dorothy Stratten and her murder titled The Killing of the Unicorn. Bogdanovich’s films had influenced Tarantino, Rian Johnson, David Fincher, Edgar Wright,Safdie brothers, Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach.

Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York, the son of Herma (née Robinson; 1918–1979) and Borislav Bogdanovich (1899–1970), a Serbian painter and pianist. His Austrian-born mother was Jewish (her family moved from Vienna to Zagreb, Yugoslavia; his father was a Serbian Orthodox Christian; the two arrived in the U.S. in May 1939. He graduated from New York City’s Collegiate School in 1957 and studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory. He is fluent in Serbian, having learned it before English.

In the early 1960s, Bogdanovich was known as a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. An obsessive cinema-goer, seeing up to 400 movies a year in his youth, Bogdanovich showcased the work of American directors such as Orson Welles, John Ford, and Howard Hawks. He later wrote a book about Ford, based on the notes he had produced for the MoMA retrospective of the director. Bogdanovich also brought attention to such forgotten pioneers of American cinema as Allan Dwan. Bogdanovich kept a card file of every film he saw between 1952 and 1970, with complete reviews of every film.

Bogdanovich was influenced by French critics of the 1950s who wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma, especially critic-turned-director François Truffaut. Before becoming director himself, he built his reputation as film writer in Esquire. These articles were collected in Pieces of Time (1973).

In 1966, following the example of Cahiers du Cinéma critics Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer, who had created the Nouvelle Vague (“New Wave”) by making their own films, Bogdanovich decided to become a director. With his wife Polly Platt, he headed for Los Angeles, skipping out on the rent in the process.

To break into the industry, Bogdanovich would ask publicists for movie premiere and industry party invitations. At one screening, Bogdanovich was viewing a film and director Roger Corman was sitting behind him. The two struck up a conversation when Corman mentioned he liked a cinema piece Bogdanovich wrote for Esquire. Corman offered him directing job, which he accepted immediately. He worked with Corman on “Targets,” which starred Boris Karloff, and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, under the pseudonym Derek Thomas. Bogdanovich later said of the Corman school of filmmaking, “I went from getting the laundry to directing the picture in three weeks. Altogether, I worked 22 weeks – preproduction, shooting, second unit, cutting, dubbing – I haven’t learned as much since.”

Returning to journalism, Bogdanovich struck up a lifelong friendship with Orson Welles while interviewing him on the set of Mike Nichols’s Catch-22 (1970). Bogdanovich played a major role in elucidating Welles and his career with his writings on the actor-director, most notably his book This is Orson Welles (1992). In the early 1970s, when Welles was having financial problems, Bogdanovich let him stay at his Bel Air mansion for several years.

In 1970, Bogdanovich was commissioned by the American Film Institute to direct a documentary about John Ford for their tribute, Directed by John Ford (1971). The film included candid interviews with John Wayne, James Stewart and Henry Fonda, and was narrated by Orson Welles. Out of circulation for years due to licensing issues, Bogdanovich and TCM released it in 2006, featuring newer, pristine[clarification needed] film clips, and additional interviews with Clint Eastwood, Walter Hill, Harry Carey Jr., Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and others.

Much of the inspiration that led Bogdanovich to his cinematic creations came from early viewings of the film Citizen Kane. In interview with Robert K. Elder, author of The Film That Changed My Life, Bogdanovich explains his appreciation of Orson Welles’s work: “It’s just not like any other movie you know. It’s the first modern film: fragmented, not told straight ahead, jumping around. It anticipates everything that’s being done now, and which is thought to be so modern. It’s all become really decadent now, but it was certainly fresh then.”

The 32-year-old Bogdanovich was hailed by critics as a “Wellesian” wunderkind when his best-received film, The Last Picture Show, was released in 1971. The film earned eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, and won two statues, for Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson in the supporting acting categories. Bogdanovich co-wrote the screenplay with Larry McMurtry, and it won the 1971 BAFTA award for Best Screenplay. Bogdanovich cast the 21-year-old model Cybill Shepherd in a major role in the film and fell in love with her, an affair that eventually led to his divorce from Polly Platt, his longtime artistic collaborator and the mother of his two daughters.

Bogdanovich followed up The Last Picture Show with the popular comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972), starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, a screwball comedy indebted to Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940). While he relied on homage to bygone cinema, he solidified his status as one of a new breed of A-list directors that included Academy Award winners Coppola and Friedkin, with whom he formed The Directors Company. The Directors Company was a production deal with Paramount that essentially gave the directors carte blanche if they kept within budget limitations. It was through this entity that Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon (1973) was produced.

Paper Moon, a Depression-era comedy starring Ryan O’Neal that won his 10-year-old daughter Tatum O’Neal an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress, proved the high-water mark of Bogdanovich’s career. Forced to share the profits with his fellow directors, Bogdanovich became dissatisfied with the arrangement. The Directors Company subsequently produced only two more pictures, Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), which was nominated for Best Picture in 1974 alongside The Godfather Part II, and Bogdanovich’s Daisy Miller, which had lackluster critical reception.

Daisy Miller (1974) was a disappointment at the box office. At Long Last Love (1975), and Nickelodeon (1976) were critical and box office disasters, severely damaging his standing.  Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love featured Cybill Shepherd. Feeling against Bogdanovich began to turn. “I was dumb. I made a lot of mistakes”, he said in 1976.

In 1975, he sued Universal for breaching a contract to produce and direct Bugsy.

He took a few years off, then returned to directing with a lower-budgeted film, Saint Jack (1979), which was a critical success, but not a box-office hit. This film marked the end of his romantic relationship with Cybill Shepherd.

Bogdanovich’s next film was the romantic comedy They All Laughed (1981), which featured Dorothy Stratten, a former model who began a romantic relationship with Bogdanovich. Stratten was murdered by estranged husband shortly after filming completed.

Bogdanovich turned back to writing as his directorial career sagged, beginning with The Killing of the Unicorn – Dorothy Stratten 1960–1980, a memoir published in 1984. Teresa Carpenter’s “Death of a Playmate” article about Dorothy Stratten’s murder was published in The Village Voice and won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize, and while Bogdanovich did not criticize Carpenter’s article in his book, she had lambasted both Bogdanovich and Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner, claiming that Stratten was a victim of them as much as of her husband, Paul Snider, who killed her and himself. Carpenter’s article served as basis of Bob Fosse’s film Star 80 (1983), in which Bogdanovich, for legal reasons, was the fictional director “Aram Nicholas,” a sympathetic but possibly misguided and naive character.

Bogdanovich took over distribution of They All Laughed himself. He later blamed this for why he had to declare bankruptcy in 1985, with a monthly income of $75,000 and monthly expenses of $200,000.

On December 30, 1988, Bogdanovich, 49, married 20-year-old Louise Stratten, Dorothy’s younger sister; the couple divorced in 2001.

In the early 80s, Bogdanovich wanted to make I’ll Remember April with John Cassavetes and The Lady in the Moon written with Larry McMurtry. He made the film Mask instead, released in 1985.

Bogdanovich’s 1990 sequel to The Last Picture Show, Texasville, was a critical and box office failure.

Both films involved major disputes between Bogdanovich, who still demanded control over his films, and the studios, which controlled the financing and final cut. Mask was released with a song score by Bob Seger against Bogdanovich’s wishes (he favored Bruce Springsteen), and Bogdanovich has often complained that the version of Texasville that was released was not the film he had intended. A director’s cut of Mask, slightly longer and with Springsteen’s songs, was released on DVD in 2006. A director’s cut of Texasville was released on LaserDisc, and the theatrical cut was released on DVD by MGM in 2005.

Bogdanovich also revisited his earliest success, The Last Picture Show, and produced slightly modified director’s cut. Since that time, his recut has been the film’s only available version.

Bogdanovich directed two theatrical films in 1992 and 1993, but their failure kept him off the big screen for several years. Noises Off, based on the Michael Frayn play, has subsequently developed a cult following, while The Thing Called Love, is better known as one of River Phoenix’s last roles.

In 1997 he declared bankruptcy again.

Bogdanovich, drawing from his knowledge of film history, authored several critically lauded books, including Peter Bogdanovich’s Movie of the Week, which offered the lifelong cinephile’s commentary on 52 of his favorite films, and “Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors” and Who the Hell’s in It: Conversations with Hollywood’s Legendary Actors, both based on interviews with directors and actors.

In 1998, the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress named The Last Picture Show to the National Film Registry, an honor awarded only to “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.”

In 2001, Bogdanovich resurfaced with The Cat’s Meow, once again reworking the past, this time the supposed murder of director Thomas Ince by Orson Welles’s bête noire William Randolph Hearst, The Cat’s Meow was a modest critical success but made no money at the box office. Bogdanovich says he was told the story of the alleged Ince murder by Welles, who in turn said he heard it from writer Charles Lederer.

Bogdanovich returned to acting with a recurring guest role on the cable television series The Sopranos, playing Dr. Melfi’s psychotherapist, also later directing a fifth-season episode. He also voiced the analyst of Bart Simpson’s therapist in an episode of The Simpsons, and appeared as himself in the “Robots Versus Wrestlers” episode of How I Met Your Mother along with Arianna Huffington and Will Shortz.

Tarantino also cast Bogdanovich as a disc jockey in Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2. “Quentin knows, because he’s such a movie buff, that when you hear a disc jockey’s voice in my pictures, it’s always me, sometimes doing different voices”, said Bogdanovich. “So he called me and he said, ‘I stole your voice from The Last Picture Show for the rough cut, but I need you to come down and do that voice again for my picture … ‘”

Bogdanovich hosted “The Essentials” on TCM, but was replaced in May 2006 by TCM host Robert Osborne and film critic Molly Haskell. Bogdanovich has hosted introductions to movies on Criterion Collection DVDs, and has had a supporting role as a fictional version of himself in the Showtime comedy series Out of Order. He will next appear in The Dream Factory.

In 2006, Bogdanovich joined forces with ClickStar, where he hosts a classic film channel, Peter Bogdanovich’s Golden Age of Movies. Bogdanovich also writes a blog for the site. In 2003, he appeared in the BBC documentary, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and in 2006, he appeared in the docu Wanderlust.

In 2007, Bogdanovich was presented with award for outstanding contribution to film preservation by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) at the Toronto International Film Fest.

In 2010, Bogdanovich joined the directing faculty at the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. On April 17, 2010, he was awarded the Master of Cinema Award at the 12th Annual RiverRun Film Festival. In 2011, he was given the Auteur Award by the International Press Academy, which is awarded to filmmakers whose singular vision and unique artistic control over the elements of production give a personal and signature style to their films.

In 2012, Bogdanovich made news with an essay in The Hollywood Reporter, published in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting, in which he argued against excessive violence in movies:  Today, there’s a general numbing of the audience. There’s too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible. Back in the ’70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, “We’re brutalizing the audience. We’re going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum.” The respect for human life seems to be eroding.

Bogdanovich’s most recent film, She’s Funny That Way, was released in theaters and on demand in 2014, followed by the documentary The Great Buster: A Celebration in 2018.


1968 Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women; credited as Derek Thomas
Targets Also writer, producer and editor

1971 Directed by John Ford Documentary

The Last Picture Show Also writer
BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated – Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

1972 What’s Up, Doc? Also writer and producer

1973 Paper Moon Also producer
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
1974 Daisy Miller Also producer

1975 At Long Last Love Also writer and producer
1976 Nickelodeon Also writer
Nominated – Golden Bear

1979 Saint Jack Also writer; Venice Film Fest for Best Film

1981 They All Laughed Also writer

1985 Mask Nominated – Palme d’Or

1988 Illegally Yours Also producer

1990 Texasville Also writer and producer

1992 Noises Off Also executive producer

1993 The Thing Called Love

2001 The Cat’s Meow

2007 Runnin’ Down a Dream Documentary

2014 She’s Funny That Way (Also writer)

2018 The Great Buster: A Celebration Documentary