James L. Brooks

James L. Brooks Biography

Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Television Producer (1940–)
James L. Brooks is an award-winning producer, director and screenwriter known for series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and films such as Terms of Endearment.


Born on May 9, 1940, in Brooklyn, New York, James L. Brooks's television series Room 222 won an Emmy Award in 1970. As the decade progressed, Brooks created a number of iconic TV shows, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi. In 1984, he won Academy Awards for writing, producing and directing Terms of Endearment. Brooks also helped develop The Simpsons and had another hit film with As Good as It Gets (1997).

Early Life

James Lawrence Brooks, who is generally known as James L. Brooks, was born on May 9, 1940, in Brooklyn, New York. After growing up in New Jersey, Brooks enrolled at New York University in 1958. He dropped out of school in 1960, without earning his diploma.

Success in Television

In 1964, Brooks became a writer for CBS News in New York. Two years later, he left New York for Los Angeles, California, where he was hired by David Wolper to work on documentaries. Budget issues meant that Brooks was laid off by Wolper Productions, but he soon landed on his feet and began working on television sitcoms.

With producer Allan Burns, Brooks developed the groundbreaking TV show Room 222. The program, which aired from 1969 to 1974, focused on an African-American teacher at an integrated high school. In 1970, Room 222 received an Emmy Award for outstanding new series.

During the 1970s, Brooks continued to create many iconic TV shows, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Lou Grant and Taxi. His work on these programs led to Brooks receiving multiple Emmy Awards as a producer and writer.

Branching out to Movies

Brooks expanded his repertoire by writing and serving as a co-producer for his first feature film: Starting Over (1979). He next created the smash hit Terms of Endearment (1983), a tearjerker that starred Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine. Brooks won three Academy Awards for writing, producing and directing the film.

In 1984, Brooks started his own production company, Gracie Films, where he developed his next big screen blockbuster, Broadcast News (1987). Gracie Films was also responsible for The Tracey Ullman Show, which was where the wildly popular animated series The Simpsons made its debut. As a producer of The Simpsons, Brooks has continued to add to his collection of Emmy Awards.

The film I'll Do Anything (1994)—which Brooks wrote, produced and directed—flopped, but his talent was demonstrated once again when As Good as It Gets (1997) was a critical and popular success. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award and brought home a Golden Globe Award for best picture. Two of its stars, Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson, won Academy Awards for their performances in the film.

The next film Brooks created, Spanglish (2004), was not a box office hit. However, The Simpsons Movie (2007), which Brooks produced and co-wrote, was a success. Brooks followed this with How Do You Know (2010), a romantic comedy that he oversaw as writer, producer and director. Unfortunately, audiences stayed away from the movie; the year after its release, Brooks saw his production deal with Sony Pictures come to an end.

Personal Life

Brooks married Marianne Morrissey in 1964; they welcomed one daughter, named Amy, before divorcing. In 1978, Brooks married Holly Holmberg. The couple had three children together—daughter Chloe and sons Cooper and Joseph—before separating in 1998.

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