Barry Levinson
Levinson in 2009
Barry Lee Levinson

(1942-04-06) April 6, 1942 (age 82)
Alma materAmerican University
  • Director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
Years active1970–present
Known for
(m. 1975; div. 1982)
Diana Rhodes
(m. 1983)
Children3, including Sam Levinson

Barry Lee Levinson (born April 6, 1942) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter.[1] His best-known works are mid-budget[2] comedy drama and drama films such as Diner (1982), The Natural (1984), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Bugsy (1991), and Wag the Dog (1997). Levinson won the Academy Award for Best Director for Rain Man (1988).[3][4][5] In 2021, he co-executive produced the Hulu miniseries Dopesick and directed the first two episodes.

Early life

Levinson is of Russian-Jewish descent.[6][7][8][9] After growing up in Forest Park, Baltimore and graduating from Forest Park Senior High School in 1960, Levinson attended Baltimore City Community College and American University in Washington, D.C. at the American University School of Communication, where he studied broadcast journalism.[citation needed]

He then moved to Los Angeles to work as an actor and writer and performed comedy routines. Levinson at one time shared an apartment with would-be drug smuggler (and subject of the movie Blow) George Jung.[1][10][11][12][13]


Levinson's first writing work was for variety shows such as The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, The Lohman and Barkley Show, The Tim Conway Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. After some success as a screenwriter – notably the Mel Brooks comedies Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977) (in which he played a bellboy) and the Oscar-nominated script (co-written by then-wife Valerie Curtin) ...And Justice for All (1979) – Levinson began his career as a film director.

His first directorial effort was Diner (1982), for which he also wrote the script, earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Diner was the first of four films set in the Baltimore of Levinson's youth. The other three were Tin Men (1987), a story of aluminum-siding salesmen in the 1960s starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito; the immigrant family saga Avalon (1990) featuring Elijah Wood in one of his earliest screen appearances; and Liberty Heights (1999).

His biggest hit, both critically and financially, was Rain Man (1988), a sibling drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in which Levinson appeared as a doctor in a cameo appearance. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also won the Golden Bear at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival.[14]

Levinson directed the popular period baseball drama The Natural (1984), starring Robert Redford. Redford later directed Quiz Show (1994), and he cast Levinson as television personality Dave Garroway. Levinson also directed the classic war comedy Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), starring Robin Williams (as Adrian Cronauer), and he later collaborated with Williams on the fantasy film Toys (1992) and the political comedy Man of the Year (2006). Levinson also directed the critically acclaimed historical crime drama Bugsy (1991), which starred Warren Beatty and which was nominated for ten Academy Awards.

In 1990, he planned to direct a Super Mario Bros. film starring Dustin Hoffman and Danny DeVito, but could not after Roland Joffé beat Hoffman to securing the rights and made Super Mario Bros. (1993) without their involvement.[15]

He directed Dustin Hoffman again in Wag the Dog (1997), a political comedy co-starring Robert De Niro about a war staged in a film studio. (Levinson had been an uncredited co-writer on Hoffman's 1982 hit comedy Tootsie.) The film won the Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival.[16]

Levinson partnered with producer Mark Johnson to form the film production company Baltimore Pictures, with 1990's Avalon as the company's first production. Johnson departed the firm in 1994. Levinson has been a producer or executive producer for such major productions as The Perfect Storm (2000), directed by Wolfgang Petersen; Analyze That (2002), starring De Niro as a neurotic mob boss and Billy Crystal as his therapist; and Possession (2002), based on the best-selling novel by A. S. Byatt.

Levinson has a television production company with Tom Fontana (The Levinson/Fontana Company) and has served as executive producer for a number of series, including Homicide: Life on the Street (which ran on NBC from 1993 to 1999) and the HBO prison drama Oz. Levinson also played an uncredited main role as a judge in the short-lived TV series The Jury.

Levinson published his first novel, Sixty-Six (ISBN 0-7679-1533-X), in 2003, and like several of his films, it is semi-autobiographical and set in Baltimore in the 1960s. In 2004, he directed two webisodes of the American Express ads "The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman." In 2004, he was also the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Levinson directed a documentary PoliWood about the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions: the documentary — produced by Tim Daly, Robin Bronk and Robert E. Baruc — had its premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

Levinson, in 2011, was developing a film based on Whitey Bulger, the Boston crime boss.[17] The film Black Mass (script by Jim Sheridan, Jez Butterworth, and Russell Gewirtz) is based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, and it is said to be the "true story of Billy Bulger, Whitey Bulger, FBI agent John Connelly and the FBI's witness protection program created by J. Edgar Hoover."[18] Levinson later left the project.

Levinson finished production on The Humbling (2014), starring Al Pacino. Levinson also directed Rock the Kasbah (2015), written by Mitch Glazer.[19] The film starred Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Kelly Lynch, Arian Moayed, Taylor Kinney, and Beejan Land.

In 2010, Levinson received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement, which is the lifetime achievement award from the Writers Guild of America.[20]


Main article: Barry Levinson filmography

Directed features
Year Title Distribution
1982 Diner Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists
1984 The Natural Tri-Star Pictures
1985 Young Sherlock Holmes Paramount Pictures
1987 Tin Men Buena Vista Distribution
Good Morning, Vietnam
1988 Rain Man Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1990 Avalon Tri-Star Pictures
1991 Bugsy
1992 Toys 20th Century Fox
1994 Jimmy Hollywood Paramount Pictures
Disclosure Warner Bros.
1996 Sleepers Warner Bros. / PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
1997 Wag the Dog New Line Cinema
1998 Sphere Warner Bros.
1999 Liberty Heights
2000 An Everlasting Piece DreamWorks Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing
2001 Bandits Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / 20th Century Fox
2004 Envy DreamWorks Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing
2006 Man of the Year Universal Pictures
2008 What Just Happened Magnolia Pictures
2012 The Bay Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions
2014 The Humbling Millennium Films
2015 Rock the Kasbah Open Road Films
2021 The Survivor HBO Films
2025 Alto Knights Warner Bros. Pictures

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Barry Levinson

Year Title Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1982 Diner 1 1
1984 The Natural 4 1
1985 Young Sherlock Holmes 1
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam 1 2 1 1
1988 Rain Man 8 4 3 4 2
1990 Avalon 4 3
1991 Bugsy 10 2 8 1
1992 Toys 2
1996 Sleepers 1
1997 Wag the Dog 2 1 3
2001 Bandits 2
Total 34 6 6 0 23 4


  1. ^ a b Balaban, Bob (April 19, 2011). "Interview with Barry Levinson for the Directors Guild of America's Visual History Program". Directors Guild of America. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  2. ^ O'Falt, Chris (July 6, 2018). "Barry Levinson: The Oscar-Winning Director Who Decades Ago Saw TV's Peak Potential and Trump-like Danger". IndieWire. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Erickson, Hal (2010). "Barry Levinson". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 21, 2010. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 16, 1988). "Review/Film; Brotherly Love, of Sorts". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  5. ^ Barnes, Brooks (December 14, 2009). "Al Pacino, Barry Levinson and Buck Henry Team Up on a Roth Tale". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Avalon movie review & film summary (1990) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  7. ^ "Jews in the News:Sarah Michelle Gellar, Julianne Margulies and Jake Gyllenh | Tampa JCCs and Federation". Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  8. ^ Arnold, Peter (May 3, 2017). "Jmore Exclusive with Baltimore Filmmaker Barry Levinson". JMORE - Baltimore Jewish Living. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  9. ^ "Barry Levinson: Baltimore, My Baltimore". Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  10. ^ O'Brien, Kyle (April 24, 2017). "Gilbert Gottfried and Barry Levinson talk storytelling during live podcast at Tribeca Film Festival". The Drum. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  11. ^ Carr, Sandra (April 28, 2012). "Barry Levinson Shares His Life and Career with Fans at the Florida Film Festival". Savvy Scribe's Blog. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  12. ^ "Distinguished Alumni - Notable Alumni". http. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  13. ^ "Barry Levinson". Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  14. ^ "Berlinale: 1989 Prize Winners". Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  15. ^ "Super Mario Bros". AFI Catalog. Retrieved April 27, 2024.
  16. ^ "Berlinale: 1998 Prize Winners". Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  17. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (February 22, 2013). "Hollywood Insider: What's Going on Behind the Scenes: Boston's Bulger is Now Hollywood's "It" Gangster". Entertainment Weekly. New York. p. 27.
  18. ^ Cappadona, Bryanna (June 20, 2013). "Who Should Play Whitey Bulger in Black Mass?". Boston. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  19. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 3, 2013). "QED Sets Bill Murray For Barry Levinson-Directed 'Rock The Kasbah'". Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  20. ^ "Acclaimed Screenwriter Barry Levinson to Receive WGAW's 2010 Screen Laurel Award". Writers Guild Awards. February 20, 2010. Retrieved July 3, 2023.