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John Herzfeld
Born (1947-04-15) April 15, 1947 (age 74)
  • Director
  • screenwriter
  • actor
  • producer
Years active1972–present
Rebekah Chaney
(m. 2010)

John Herzfeld (born April 15, 1947) is an American film and television director, screenwriter, actor and producer. His feature film directing credits include Two of a Kind (1983), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), 15 Minutes (2001) and The Death and Life of Bobby Z (2007). He has also directed numerous made-for-television movies, including The Ryan White Story (1989), The Preppie Murder (1989), Casualties of Love: The "Long Island Lolita" Story (1993), and Don King: Only in America (1997) for which he was nominated for an Emmy and won the DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials. He won a Daytime Emmy Award for directing the 1980 ABC Afterschool Special titled "Stoned".

Early life

Herzfeld was born on April 15, 1947 in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. His father, who ran a small maintenance company, had a great love of movies, theater and ballet, and exposed his children to the arts as often as he could.[2]


ABC Afterschool Specials

Herzfeld began his directing career with two ABC Afterschool Specials. He won a Daytime Emmy for best directing in children's programming for his work on the 1980 film Stoned,[3] the story of a shy, bullied high school student (played by Scott Baio) who becomes involved with marijuana.[4] He also won the first annual "Scott Newman Drug Abuse Prevention Award" for his writing on Stoned.[5] In addition to writing and directing, Herzfeld also played the part of a concerned teacher in Stoned.[4] His second Afterschool Special, Run, Don't Walk, also starred Scott Baio about two teenager learning to cope with their life in wheelchairs.

Two of a Kind

In 1983, Herzfeld made his debut as a feature film director in the romantic comedy, Two of a Kind, starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.[6] Travolta plays a failed inventor who robs a bank, and Newton-John is a teller who puts deposit slips in Travolta's bag and keeps the cash for herself. In heaven, a group of angels (including two portrayed by Charles Durning and Scatman Crothers) try to persuade God (voice by Gene Hackman) not to send a new plague to the Earth if these two characters can be reformed.[6] The film was a critical and commercial flop and was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards including both Worst Director and Worst Screenplay for Herzfeld, although its soundtrack album was praised and certified Platinum.

Television movies

In the late 1980s and 1990s, Herzfeld directed and wrote several made-for-TV movies, including:

2 Days in the Valley

In 1996, Herzfeld returned to feature films as the director and screenwriter of the crime thriller 2 Days in the Valley with an all-star cast that included Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels, Teri Hatcher, Charlize Theron, Keith Carradine, Eric Stoltz, Marsha Mason, James Spader, Paul Mazursky and Louise Fletcher. The film was Charlize Theron's feature film debut.

Herzfeld described the movie, which follows 10 characters over 48 hours in the San Fernando Valley, as follows: "The movie is about a lot of people who either never achieved their goals, or screwed up their lives, or dropped the football the first time it was thrown to them. What a lot of characters share in common is this unrealized potential."[10]

When the press kit and advance newspaper stories for 2 Days in the Valley depicted Herzfeld as "a first-time feature filmmaker" moving from the small screen to the big screen, the Los Angeles Times published a story focusing on the omission of Herzfeld's earlier work on Two of a Kind.[6]

Don King: Only in America

In 1997, Herzfeld directed Don King: Only in America, a biographical dramatization of the life of boxing promoter Don King aired by HBO. The film starred Ving Rhames as King and Jeremy Piven in a supporting role as closed-circuit promoter Hank Schwartz.[11] The film received much critical success winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, as well as the Directors Guild of America's DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Specials. At the time, Herzfeld described his goal for the film:

"I'm trying to tell the tale of a full-rounded character--comes from a dark past, lives in a dark world where there's always clouds overhead and somehow when the ground separates underneath him, he always seems to jump over it and never fall in. ... And how he does that and who props him up and what and when, that's what the movie's all about."[12]

15 Minutes

Herzfeld also wrote and directed the 2001 feature 15 Minutes pairing Robert De Niro and Edward Burns. Herzfeld wrote at the time that he intended the film as a study of the country's fascination with celebrity—thus the title's reference to Andy Warhol's famous quote about "15 minutes of fame."[13] The film received a mixed review from the Los Angeles Times which noted:

"Like many ambitious, provocative films, '15 Minutes' is a bit of a mess. Both audacious and unwieldy, exciting and excessive, this dark thriller is too long, too violent and not always convincing. But at the same time, there's no denying that it's onto something, that its savage indictment of the nexus involving media, crime and a voracious public is a cinematic statement difficult to ignore."[14]

Later works

From 2004 to 2006, Herzfeld returned to television, writing and directing multiple episodes of the Rob Lowe series, Dr. Vegas.

In 2007, Herzfeld directed the crime thriller The Death and Life of Bobby Z starring Paul Walker and Laurence Fishburne. Walker plays a prisoner offered a deal by the DEA in which he can win his freedom by impersonating a legendary drug dealer as part of a prisoner exchange.

In 2008, he wrote and directed the made-for-television feature SIS, about the Special Investigation Squad, an elite secret police force that hunts down criminals on the streets of Los Angeles.

In 2009, Herzfeld directed the 90-minute documentary "Inferno: The Making Of The Expendables" for his friend Sylvester Stallone. The two first worked together in 1969 on a low-budget self-produced film called Horses, later again on Cobra, where Herzfeld plays a goon that Stallone's character sets on fire during the film's climax. Herzfeld also directed Stallone in his 2014 film Reach Me.



Year Title Credited as Role Notes
Actor Director Producer Writer
1974 Death Wish Green tickY Train Mugger #2 Uncredited
1976 Cannonball Green tickY Sharpe
1978 Youngblood Green tickY Social Worker
1983 Two of a Kind Green tickY Green tickY
1986 Cobra Green tickY Cho
1996 2 Days in the Valley Green tickY Green tickY
2001 15 Minutes Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
2007 The Death and Life of Bobby Z Green tickY
2014 Reach Me Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
2019 Escape Plan: The Extractors Green tickY Green tickY


Year Title Credited as Role Notes
Actor Director Producer Writer
1980 A Rumor of War Green tickY The Drill Instructor miniseries
ABC Afterschool Special: "Stoned" Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Doug
1981 ABC Afterschool Special: "Run, Don't Walk" Green tickY
1987 Daddy Green tickY Green tickY TV movie
1989 The Preppie Murder Green tickY Green tickY TV movie
The Ryan White Story Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Florist TV movie
1993 Remember Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Tom Eddy TV movie
Casualties of Love: The "Long Island Lolita" Story Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY TV movie
1997 Don King: Only in America Green tickY TV movie
2004 Dr. Vegas[15] Green tickY creator
2008 SIS Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY TV movie
2010 Inferno: The Making of 'The Expendables' Green tickY Green tickY TV movie


  1. ^ "Rebekah's Gallery". Archived from the original on 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2016-02-28.
  3. ^ Lee Margulies (1981-05-22). "'Hospital,' 'Donahue' Among Winners". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ a b "An Earnest 'Stoned'". Los Angeles Times. 1980-11-12.
  5. ^ "4 Win Drug Abuse Prevention Awards". Los Angeles Times. 1981-08-07.
  6. ^ a b c Robert Koehler (1996-10-02). "Herzfeld's Directing Debut: the Second Time Around; Movies: Publicity for '2 Days in the Valley' fails to mention his big-screen bomb, 'Two of a Kind.'". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ John Voorhees (1987-04-05). "'DADDY': IT'S MORE THAN JUST A REPLAY". Seattle Times.
  8. ^ Ray Richmond (1989-01-16). "The Ryan White Story' pushes the right buttons". Orange County Register.
  9. ^ Howard Rosenberg (1989-09-23). "'Preppie Murder' Drama Pleads Case for Victims". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Robin Rauzi (1995-07-14). "Valley Takes a Hit John Herzfeld's new movie about misfits and murder, set in the 'big, vast grid,' brings the area dubious distinction". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ Bill Higgins (1997-11-11). "A Party Like This? Only in America". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Tim Kawakami (1997-07-14). "LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: CHOMP!; HBO's 'Don King,' Based on a Biting Biography of the Promoter, Adds a New Chapter to Saga". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ John Herzfeld (2001-03-09). "First Person; The 15-Minute Age; Filmmaker John Herzfeld makes a statement: Is there a price to be paid for kneeling at the foot of celebrity?". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ "For the Record". Los Angeles Times. 2001-04-02.
  15. ^ Lowry, Brian (September 22, 2004). "Dr. Vegas". Variety. Retrieved January 7, 2018.