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An integral contributor to the American independent film business for over a decade, James Schamus has the unique distinction of being an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and producer who is also a film executive.
He is chief executive officer (CEO) of Focus Features, a motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution company committed to bringing moviegoers the most original stories from the world's most innovative filmmakers. He formed Focus with David Linde in May 2002.
Mr. Schamus has had a long collaboration as writer and producer with Ang Lee, on ten feature films. The director's Brokeback Mountain, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, was released worldwide through Focus Features and is Focus' all-time top-grosser, with global ticket sales of over $180 million. Brokeback Mountain, on which Mr. Schamus served as a producer, won, among other honors, 3 Academy Awards; 4 Golden Globe Awards; 4 BAFTA Awards; and the Producers Guild of America's top prize, the [Darryl F. Zanuck] Producer of the Year Award, Theatrical Motion Pictures.
Prior to Lust, Caution and Brokeback Mountain, the duo's earlier films together include The Hulk (which Mr. Schamus wrote and produced); Ride with the Devil (which Mr. Schamus produced and adapted); The Ice Storm (which Mr. Schamus produced and adapted, earning the Best Screenplay prize at the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival as well as WGA and BAFTA Award nominations); Sense and Sensibility (which Mr. Schamus co-produced); Eat Drink Man Woman (which Mr. Schamus co-wrote and associate-produced); The Wedding Banquet (which Mr. Schamus co-wrote and produced); and Pushing Hands (which Mr. Schamus produced).
Prior to the formation of Focus, Mr. Schamus was co-president of the independent film production company Good Machine, which he co-founded in 1991. Mr. Schamus and his partners at the company produced over 40 films during an 11-year period, in partnership with filmmakers such as Mr. Lee, Todd Solondz, and Nicole Holofcener. Through its financing and distribution arm, Good Machine International, the company represented dozens more filmmakers, among them Pedro Almodóvar and the Coen Brothers. Good Machine was honored with a 10-year retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Mr. Schamus is also a screenwriter, and received Academy Award nominations in the Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song categories for his work on Mr. Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The blockbuster Good Machine feature, which Mr. Schamus co-wrote and executive-produced, won 4 Academy Awards.
He executive-produced several Good Machine features that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, including Edward Burns' The Brothers McMullen, Tom Noonan's What Happened Was…, and Todd Haynes' Poison. Among the other films that he executive-produced at Good Machine are Paul Schrader's AutoFocus, Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers, Todd Solondz' Happiness, Bart Freundlich's The Myth of Fingerprints, Cindy Sherman's Office Killer, Nicole Holofcener's Walking and Talking, and Todd Haynes' Safe.
Mr. Schamus is also Associate Professor in Columbia University's School of the Arts, and he currently serves on the board of directors of Creative Capital. He was the 2006 Presidential Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, and received his Ph.D. in English from U.C. Berkeley in 2003.
He was honored with the NBC Screenwriter Tribute at the 2002 Nantucket Film Festival as well as with the Writers Guild of America, East's 2003 Richard B. Jablow Award for devoted service to the Guild.
Focus' celebrated releases have included four more Academy Award winners, Roman Polanski's The Pianist, Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener, Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries; and Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice, Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven, François Ozon's Swimming Pool, and Alejandro González Iñárritu's 21 Grams. Focus' second-highest-grossing film to date (after Brokeback Mountain) is Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, which grossed over $100 million worldwide and won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Current and upcoming Focus Features releases, in addition to Lust, Caution, include Lajos Koltai's Evening, starring Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy, Natasha Richardson, Mamie Gummer, Eileen Atkins, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close; Kasi Lemmons' Talk to Me, starring Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor; Shane Acker's animated fantasy epic 9, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly; Henry Selick's stop-motion animated feature Coraline, starring Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher; Joe Wright's Atonement, starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, and Romola Garai; David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, and Vincent Cassel; Terry George's Reservation Road, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, and Mira Sorvino; Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes; Bharat Nalluri's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams; and Joel and Ethan Coen's Burn After Reading, starring George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and Brad Pitt.
In addition to Lust, Caution and the majority of the previously mentioned titles, the company's Focus Features International division is also currently handling the overseas sales and distribution of among other films, Fernando Meirelles' Blindness, starring Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore; Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, starring Jack Black and Mos Def; Justin Chadwick's The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Eric Bana; Peter Hedges' Dan in Real Life, starring Steve Carell, Dane Cook, and Juliette Binoche; Sean Penn's Into the Wild, starring Emile Hirsch, Catherine Keener, and Vince Vaughn; and Carlos Cuarón's Rudo y Cursi, starring Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna.
Focus Features and Focus Features International are part of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80% owned by General Electric and 20% owned by Vivendi.