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Zemeckis, Robert

Entry updated 6 December 2022. Tagged: Film, People.

(1952-    ) US filmmaker whose early career as director and screenwriter was nurtured by Steven Spielberg through a series of flops until the success of Romancing the Stone (1984) enabled him to make his pet Time Travel project Back to the Future (1985). Besides that film's back-to-back sequels, his other major sf credit as director is Contact (1997), which won a Hugo for best dramatic presentation. He produced Mars Needs Moms (2011), was an executive producer for Real Steel (2011), and has also been active in Fantasy and horror.

Zemeckis has been a strong promoter of new special-effects technologies, often building his narratives ingeniously around them: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) dealing with the social as well as technical integration of animation and live action, and the multiple Oscar-winner Forrest Gump (1994) weaving a fictional narrative into American history using digitally manipulated archive footage. Beginning with The Polar Express (2004), Zemeckis championed the nascent technologies of performance capture and, latterly, 3D in a series of lavish and technically adventurous digital animations hampered by unsettlingly dead eyes and straining for expressiveness. From 2007 a studio, ImageMovers Digital, was funded by Disney until the arrangement was terminated in 2011 following the failure of Mars Needs Moms; ImageMovers' production facility was closed, its development slate with Disney cancelled, and the studio moved to a less generous relationship with Universal. Later live-action fantasy films directed by Zemeckis are The Witches (2020; vt Roald Dahl's The Witches) based on The Witches by Roald Dahl (1983) and Pinocchio (2022), a remake of the Walt Disney Company's animated Pinocchio (1940).

Zemeckis's willingness to test the limits of emerging film-making technologies has yielded increasingly uneven results, but he was a major filmmaker for a decade and remains a significant innovator and risk-taker in the industry. [NL]

Robert Lee Zemeckis

born Chicago, Illinois: 14 May 1952


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