Born in 1947 in the Bronx, New York, Rob Reiner, son of comedic genius Carl Reiner, has enjoyed great success in the entertainment industry as an actor, a writer and a director. He got his first taste of success as Mike "Meathead" Stivic on the popular sitcom All in the Family—a role he held for seven years—and went on to explore the world behind the camera with films like Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men. Recent films directed by Reiner include And So It Goes (2014) and Being Charlie (2015).
Famed actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner was born Robert Norman Reiner on March 6, 1947, in the Bronx, New York. The son of comedic genius Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner has enjoyed great success in the entertainment industry, both behind and in front of the camera. He spent his early years surrounded by show business personalities such as Sid Caesar and Mel Brooks, while his father worked on hit television program Your Show of Shows in the early 1950s. Reiner also spent time on the set of his father's next successful series, The Dick Van Dyke Show, starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.
According to family friend and legendary producer Norman Lear, Reiner showed great comedic promise as a child. He moved to California with his family when he was 13 and attended Beverly Hills High School, where he became friends with future actors Albert Brooks and Richard Dreyfuss. Wanting to pursue a career in comedy, Reiner started a group called The Session with some friends.
Early Acting Career
After high school, Reiner attended the University of California Los Angeles and continued to work with improvisational comedy groups, landing some small television roles. In 1967, he made his film debut in Enter Laughing, a romantic comedy written and directed by his father. He also worked as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
Reiner got his first taste of success as Mike "Meathead" Stivic on the popular sitcom All in the Family. Stivic and his wife, Gloria, lived with her parents—bigoted curmudgeon Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O'Connor) and flighty Edith (played by Jean Stapleton). Premiering in 1971, the show surprised audiences with its confrontational humor. All in the Family, created by Norman Lear, showed that comedy could tackle the issues of the day, including racism.
For seven years, Reiner played "Meathead," a liberal intellectual who frequently clashed with his father-in-law. He won two Emmy Awards in the best supporting actor in a comedy category, first in 1974 and then in 1978. Reiner left the show after the 1977-78 season to pursue other opportunities, including starring on the short-lived show Free Country, which ran during the summer of 1978.
Acclaim for Filmmaking
Reiner's next big break, however, came from his work behind the camera in 1984. Movie audiences were delighted and probably a bit confused by This Is Spinal Tap, a comedy disguised as a rock documentary. At the heart of the film was the dysfunctional heavy metal act known as Spinal Tap (played by actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer). Reiner served as the film's director as well as one of its writers. He even appeared on screen as the band's documentary maker Marty DiBergi. While critics responded positively to this hilarious spoof, it was not an instant hit. Since its release, however, it has become a comedy cult classic.
Reiner followed up this film with The Sure Thing (1985), a road trip romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga. The movie received some positive reviews, but it was met with a tepid response at the box office.
Turning his attention to more serious fare, Reiner directed the 1986 coming-of-age drama Stand By Me. The film, based on a story by Stephen King, was a critical and commercial success. It helped launch the careers of its young stars, including River Phoenix and Corey Feldman. The film also earned Golden Globe, Director's Guild of America, Kinema Junpo and Independent Spirit award nominations.
Playing with fables and legends, Reiner next helmed the fantastical comedy The Princess Bride (1987), starring Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Chris Sarandon and Mandy Patinkin. The film was another instant hit, and helped launch the career of a young Fred Savage. Around this time, Reiner also co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment, a film and television production company. The business was later sold to Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. in 1993.
In 1989, Reiner scored another big hit with the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally... . The film explored whether men and women can truly just be friends without becoming romantically involved. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan starred as the title characters. His mother, Estelle, also appeared in the movie in a brief cameo. The film proved to be Reiner's biggest film of his career thus far, earning more than $90 million in its United States release.
Not one to stick to a single genre, Reiner carefully crafted the hit 1990 thriller Misery, starring James Caan and Kathy Bates. Based on a work by Stephen King, the film tells the story of a novelist (Caan) who is being held hostage by a crazed fan (Bates). For her performance in the film, Bates received the 1990 Academy Award for best actress.
Two years later, Reiner scored another box office hit with the military drama A Few Good Men (1992). The film starred Demi Moore and Tom Cruise as Navy lawyers defending two Marines involved in a hazing-related death. Jack Nicholson gave a tremendous performance as the Marines' base commander. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture—Reiner's only Academy Award nomination to date.
Ending his directorial winning streak with North (1994), Reiner found himself the target of intense media criticism. Critics panned the film, which starred Elijah Wood as a boy who divorces his parents and tries to find new ones. The movie was also a disaster at the box office. The following year, Reiner bounced back with the popular political comedy The American President (1995), starring Michael Douglas.
Ghosts of Mississippi (1996) explored the decades-long fight to bring the assassin of civil rights leader Medgar Evers to justice. While it featured fine performances by Whoopi Goldberg and Brian De La Beckwith, the film proved to be a critical and commercial misfire. His next effort, The Story of Us (1999), was also a disappointment. The romantic comedy starred Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer as a couple going through a rough patch in their marriage.
Return to Acting and Political Activism
Around this time, Reiner made a return to acting. He had supporting roles in such films as Primary Colors (1998) and EdTV (1999).
By the end of the 1990s, Reiner had also become very active in liberal politics. He was a supporter and friend to Al Gore during his 2000 presidential bid. In his home state of California, Reiner lobbied hard for an early childhood education initiative. He helped get voters to pass the proposal, which was funded by a special tax on tobacco products. From 1999 to 2006, Reiner served as chairman for First 5 California; he was forced to resign due to a conflict of interest. He aggressively campaigned for another educational initiative for free preschool education while serving as chairman.
In Recent Years
Reiner had more success with politics than in his later films. The 2003 romantic comedy Alex & Emma starred Luke Wilson as a novelist trying to finish his book in 30 days, and Kate Hudson as his typist. He tried again two years later with another romantic comedy Rumor Has It... (2005). The film had a stellar cast, including Jennifer Aniston, Shirley MacLaine and Kevin Costner, and an interesting premise inspired by the classic film The Graduate. But that wasn't enough to attract large crowds of movie-goers.
In 2007, Reiner fared better with The Bucket List. The film starred Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two cancer patients who create a list of things they've always wanted to do before they die. While not a darling of the critics, the movie attracted a substantial audience. The film earned around $175 million at the box office. For his next directing project, he tackled the coming-of-age comedy Flipped (2010), based on the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. He then reunited with Morgan Freeman for The Magic of Belle Isle (2012).
The filmmaker's more recent credits include the 2014 dramatic comedy And So It Goes, starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton and Being Charlie (2015) about a troubled teen. Reiner is also directing the upcoming presidential biopic LBJ starring Woody Harrelson as Lyndon B. Johnson. He has also taken on some high-profile acting projects as well. Reiner has appeared in such films as The Wolf of Wall Street (2014) and on such TV shows as New Girl and Happyish.
In addition to continuing to act, write and direct, Reiner remains politically active, supporting a number of Democratic candidates and causes in recent years. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Michelle. The couple has three children. (Reiner was previously married to actress and director Penny Marshall.)
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