Combining nearly three decades of motion picture experience, first as an executive, then as a highly prolific producer and finally as one of American film’s most versatile and successful directors, ROB COHEN (Directed by) maintains a unique place in the entertainment industry. In summer 2008, Universal Pictures releases director Rob Cohen’s fourth summer tent-pole film with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
The action-adventure film is the first major studio release totally set in China and to have its premiere in the new Beijing Opera House, which will take place July 21, 2008. The highly anticipated movie unfolds in Asian movie theaters on July 24 and in America on August 1.
His two recent back-to-back blockbusters, The Fast and the Furious and xXx, prove that Cohen is often on the cutting edge of cultural (pop and otherwise) and technological developments. Those two films have generated over one billion dollars. Cohen’s films as both producer and director have swept across a wide range of topics and backdrops, revealing a filmmaker constantly in search of broadening his cinematic horizons.
Cohen’s critically acclaimed The Rat Pack, an HBO film starring Ray Liotta as Frank Sinatra, Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin and Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis Jr., chronicled an entire era as it told the story of Hollywood and Las Vegas’ most famous swingers in their heyday. The Rat Pack garnered 11 Emmy Award nominations (winning three), won Cheadle a Golden Globe Award and earned Cohen a nomination from the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television.
Cohen’s previous directorial efforts reveal his expansive storytelling interests. His debut film, A Small Circle of Friends, starred the late Brad Davis and Karen Allen in a romance set against the political turmoil of late 1960s Harvard University (Cohen’s alma mater). Heralded both by critics and audiences, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story—which was both written and directed by Cohen—humanized the legendary Hong Kong-born action hero for new generations, and made stars of both Jason Scott Lee and Lauren Holly.
For Dragonheart, visual effects made a quantum leap in Cohen’s epic fable of an unlikely alliance in mythical times between a knight (Dennis Quaid) and a fierce but noble dragon endowed with the powers of speech (voiced by Sean Connery). Cohen was intricately involved with both the design of the massive creature and implementation of the state-of-the-art effects from Industrial Light & Magic, the first time that a major motion-picture character was fully rendered digitally. The film won the Saturn Award as Best Fantasy Film in 1996, and was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Visual Effects.
Cohen was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson in New York. He attended Harvard University, from which he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in anthropology. He began his career in film during his sophomore year at Harvard, when he assisted director Daniel Petrie in making Silent Night, Lonely Night, an NBC made-for-television movie. After graduation, Cohen moved to Los Angeles, where as a reader for International Famous Agency (IFA), he discovered the now-classic The Sting.
He left IFA for 20th Century Fox Television and quickly acquired the title director of television movies, developing such projects as Mrs. Sundance and Stowaway to the Moon. Desiring to expand into feature films, Cohen joined Motown as their executive vice president of the motion-picture division while still in his early 20s.
At Motown, Cohen produced some key entries in 1970s cinema, several of them antidotes for the “blaxploitation” films of the era. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, starring Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor, was a seriocomic look at the Negro Leagues of the 1930s. The television movie Scott Joplin, which also starred Williams, was the story of the great early 20th century ragtime pianist and composer whose music was popularized in the soundtrack for The Sting. Mahogany and The Wiz both starred Diana Ross, the former a romantic drama set against the world of high fashion, the latter a screen adaptation of the smash Broadway hit musical. For The Wiz, Cohen received the NAACP Image Award for Best Picture, and Mahogany received an Oscar® nomination for its now-standard theme song “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To).”
At Motown, Cohen also produced Thank God It’s Friday, which was the decade’s quintessential disco movie. The film featured superstar diva Donna Summer and such young talents as Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger and Terri Nunn (later the lead singer of the group Berlin) at early stages of their careers.
Cohen’s television directorial credits include an Emmy-nominated episode of Miami Vice, as well as segments of thirtysomething, Hooperman, A Year in the Life and Private Eye. He also created, wrote and executive-produced the series Vanishing Son, notable for being one of the very few to focus on Asian characters...with Asian actors filling all of those roles. Vanishing Son won two MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans) Awards for positive portrayal of Asians in media, one for the program itself and another for star Russell Wong.
Cohen is an avid surfer and collector of first-edition books and has homes in Malibu, California, and Bali, Indonesia.