Jay Russell biography
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Director
Date of Birth: January 10, 1960
After graduating from Columbia University (where he had the chance to study with two-time Oscar-winning director Milos Forman) with an MFA in screenwriting and directing, Russell's first job was directing a parks and tourism commercial for the state of Arkansas.
His first film, End of the Line (1998), was produced by The Sundance Institute and released by Orion Classics. His second film, My Dog Skip (2000), starring then-newcomer Frankie Muniz, was a big success. A heartwarming story about a little boy and his dog, it won a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award as Best Family Film and Russell won a Silver Gryphon at the Giffoni Film Festival. Made on a budget of $7 million, it grossed $34 million at the domestic box office alone.
Russell's next project was a film adaptation of the classic children's novel, Tuck Everlasting (2002). It featured an all-star cast that included William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley and in the roles of the two youngsters, Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel and Jonathan Jackson. The film was a magical and inspiring look at the benefits and drawbacks of eternal youth, and received a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination as Best Family Film. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to catch on with audiences, making just over $19 million at the domestic box office.
Leaving family films starring attractive youngsters behind, Russell next took on the grittier Ladder 49 (2004), starring Joaquin Phoenix as a firefighter who has to re-evaluate his life choices when he's caught in a blazing inferno and realizes he may not get out alive.
In addition, Russell has also directed numerous documentaries for American television networks such as CBS, Fox, PBS, NBC, Discovery, Learning Channel, and USA network. He has been married to Lee Cunningham since 1991.