Chris Columbus is a well-known American director famous for directing some of the most iconic films of the past couple of decades including Mrs. Doubtfire, two of the Home Alone movies, the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Rent and the first two movies from the Harry Potter series among others.

Chris Columbus: Early Life

Chris Joseph Columbus was born on September 10, 1958 in Spangler, Pennsylvania, but spent most of his childhood in Champion, Ohio. He was born in the family of factory worker Mary Irene Puskar and Alex Michael Columbus, who worked as a coal miner and aluminum plant worker. As a child, he enjoyed reading comic books in the fantasy and horror genres. Columbus later attended the John F. Kennedy high school in Warren, Ohio. Reportedly, he was inspired to pursue film directing and screenwriting as a career path after seeing The Godfather at the age of 15. After graduating from high school, Columbus moved to New York to study film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Chris Columbus: Breakthrough and Early Career

While studying at NYU Tisch, Columbus wrote a number of film screenplays. He managed to sell his first script for Jocks while still a sophomore, but it was never produced. Later on, after he graduated, Columbus was attempting to sell his fourth screenplay Gremlins for a while. It was Steven Spielberg who eventually picked it up and in some ways advanced Columbus’ career. The young screenwriter moved to Los Angeles to continue working alongside Spielberg on the script for Gremlins, a horror comedy about strange creatures, which was released in 1984. The success of this film landed Columbus future writing jobs with Spielberg and in the next year he wrote two more film scripts for the famous director: The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes. He was eventually given the chance to try his hand at directing and launched his directing career with the 1987 teen comedy Adventures in Babysitting with mediocre success. In 1990, he directed one of his most commercially successful films for which is he known, the beloved family comedy Home Alone. He also directed the 1992 sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

When asked about his early films, Columbus told uInterview:

“The ones that you do love, you know, there’s a special place because you make these movies in the hope that they’ll be timeless. That was always kind of my mantra as a writer and as a director. I always wanted movies – even when I was writing movies like Gremlins and Goonies and then getting into Adventures in Babysitting and Home Alone – I wanted those movies to feel sort of timeless. I thought ahead in 25-30 years, when people are watching them on TV, I want them to feel as if they were made yesterday.”

Having attained the reputation as one of Hollywood’s best directors, Columbus continued to direct and write screenplays throughout the 90s. Among his most notable works from this part of his career is the 1993 comedy Mrs. Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams in the title role and the 1998 box-office hit comedy Stepmom with Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris.

Chris Columbus: ‘Harry Potter’ Films

The early 2000s marked an even more successful period in Columbus’ directing career. In 2001 and 2002 respectively, he produced and directed Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the first two films of the widely popular series, which visually shaped the magical universe based on J.K. Rowling’s books. Both films were a huge success with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone earning an Academy Award nomination and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets being nominated for three BAFTA awards in the year of its release. Columbus reportedly accepted the job after Steven Spielberg turned down the offer and lived in England for a year and half during the shooting of the two movies.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón substituted Columbus in the director’s chair for the third film in the series Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which was released in 2004. Columbus reportedly wanted to be closer to his family which is why he decided he would not direct the third film, but he still co-produced it. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, ended being one of the best critically acclaimed films in the series.

Chris Columbus: Recent Projects

Apart from being a director and writer, Columbus has been heavily involved in film as a producer. He founded his production company named 1492 Pictures in 1995. The company has gone on to produce some blockbusters and notable films and their sequels in the past couple of decades, some of which Columbus has also directed. Those include Fantastic Four (2005, dir. Tim Story), Night at the Museum (2006, dir. Shawn Levy), I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009) Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), The Help (2011, dir. Tate Taylor) and most recently Pixels (2015) and The Young Messiah (2016, dir. Cyrus Nowrasteh).

Columbus also told uInterview that he doesn’t have one favorite film he has made, which is a quality that is certainly revealed in the great variety in his work:

“Most of them are favorites for different reasons. I don’t tend to look back a lot – I really want to move forward. I feel I’m about halfway through my career… But for me it’s really important that I look ahead and don’t look back.”

Chris Columbus: Personal Life

Columbus doesn’t shy away from mixing his professional and personal ties, as a number of his family members have appeared in cameo roles in his films. Those include his wife, mother, father-in-law, cousin and children, most notably his daughter Eleanor, who played the minor role of Susan Boner in the first two Harry Potter movies.

Columbus married choreographer Monica Devereux in 1983 and the couple now has four children named Eleanor, Violet, Brendan and Isabella. The family resides in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights.


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