Detroit Rock City
"An Adam Rifkin movie is really a movie that I think of as a career movie. Rif Coogan movies are more for fun, my own personal edification, and for practice." Adam Rifkin
Film director and writer Adam Rifkin, sometimes credited as Rif Coogan, made his writing and directing debut in 1988 with a straight-to-video independent film called "Never on Tuesday." He has since served as the writer and director for such films as "The Dark Backward" (1991), "The Nutt House" (1992), "The Chase" (1994), "Mousehunt" (1997), "Small Soldiers" (1998), "Detroit Rock City" (1999), "Welcome to Hollywood" (2000), "Night at the Golden Eagle" (2002), "Underdog" (2007), "Homo Erectus" (2007), and "Look" (2007).
"I see myself as a writer/director, first and foremost. My passion, above all else, is to write and direct my own material. I love to come up with an idea. I love to write the script and I love to then take that script and see it come to life through the process of getting an opportunity to get it made. That's my favorite. I have had great experiences directing movies that I haven't written and great experiences having written movies that I didn't direct. I love all those opportunities that have come my way and I've never had a negative experience that way. But my favorite thing to do is to write and direct my own piece of material." Adam Rifkin
Rifkin is also the creator and co-executive producer of the ABC horror series “Bone Chillers” (1996).
"My feeling is good movies are good movies whether they're little movies or big movies. To me, I want to make good movies. I want to tell the stories I want to tell whatever size that particular story needs to be." Adam Rifkin
Childhood and Family:
Born in 1966, Adam Rifkin was a 1984 graduate of The Chicago Academy for the Arts. At the age of 18, he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, where he attended the University of Southern California.
Rifkin was involved with actress/writer/director Valerie Breiman for three and a half years. Breiman later used their relationship as the basis of the one depicted in her movie, “Love & Sex” (2000).
Rifkin now resides in Beverly Hills. He is friends with singer/songwriter Henry Rollins, who appeared in a cameo in Rifkin's 1994 film "The Chase."
Welcome to Hollywood
"I love all kinds of movies. I always have. My favorite movies growing up were 'Midnight Cowboy,' 'Five Easy Pieces,' 'The Last Picture Show,' and 'Annie Hall;’ smaller, character-driven movies. Those are the movies that in my heart are my favorite movies and probably some of the movies that had the biggest influences on me as a filmmaker. I also love big popcorn movies. I loved 'Star Wars,' 'Jaws,' 'Gladiator,' 'X-Men,' but at the same time I still love movies like 'Happiness.’”
After being refused admission to a variety of film schools, Adam Rifkin tried his luck in Los Angeles, where he struggled to make ends meet as a cartoonist for greeting card companies and local publications. At age 21, the aspiring writer/director was hired by 20th Century Fox to write and direct a new version of “The Planet of the Apes.” Although the studio loved his draft, the project was shelved after the head of the studio was fired several days before pre-production was to commence.
In 1989, Rifkin made his feature directing debut with “Never on Tuesday,” a straight-to-video independent film which he also scripted. It featured Claudia Christian, Charlie Sheen, Andrew Lauer, Peter Berg, Emilio Estevez, and Judd Nelson, among others. That same year, he directed his second independent film, "Tale of Two Sisters," which featured Christian and Valerie Breiman, with narration and poetry by Charlie Sheen.
Entering the 1990s, Rifkin served as supervising producer of USA Network’s sci-fi series “The Swamp Thing” and acted in Charles Winkler's horror thriller starring Malcolm McDowell, “Disturbed.” He went on to write and direct the comedy “The Dark Backward” (1991), which starred Judd Nelson. He also directed the comedy “The Nutty Nut” (1992), whose cast included Traci Lords, Peter Lupus, and Vince Edwards, and was reunited (as writer-director) with Sheen for the adventure movie “The Chase” (1994).
About the film, Rifkin revealed, “’The Chase' was made for a very small amount of money as an independent film, but it was released by 20th Century Fox and Hollywood is all about perception, as you know. For some reason the perception of the film, whether it was the way it was marketed or the way the film looked, I don't know, was that it was a studio film that didn't do well. The actual reality was that it was an independent film that did great. It was made for a few million dollars. It was put out by 20th Century Fox and it made a huge profit for them. Somehow the perception was that it was a film that 20th Century Fox made and it just didn't particularly perform. There's no way you can put any spin on that and this is the way it's perceived. Consequently, it didn't really help me, but had I done another film like 'The Dark Backward,' it certainly would have hurt me more. It was probably the right film to do at that time just so I had something different than just a dark movie filled with circus freaks to show for myself as a director."
In 1995, Rifkin produced the Valerie Breiman-directed comedy starring Adam Sandler, “Going Overboard,” in which Rifkin also served as second unit director. Also that year, he was hired to direct Pamela Anderson Lee in the film version of the “Dark Horse” comic book series, “Barb Wire,” but was fired for creative differences after one week of filming.
He recalled, "Yeah, yeah. I was the original director of 'Barb Wire.' I was fired after less than a week of shooting for political reasons that had nothing to do with me. There was a feud going on between the company that was financing the film and the comic book company that owned the character. I was hired by the comic book company and the financing company wanted their director hired. So in the midst of their feuding, I took the fall and got fired."
Rifkin subsequently created and co-executive produced ABC’s horror series “Bone Chillers” (1996) and wrote the script for the comedy “Mousehunt” (1997), the first $100 million hit for the new movie studio DreamWorks. Rifkin then contributed to the script of Joe Dante's film “Small Soldiers” (1998), featuring Gregory Smith and Kirsten Dunst and the voice talents of Tommy Lee Jones and Frank Langella.
"I got a message from DreamWorks that Steven Spielberg wanted to have a meeting with me, so I immediately got nervous that I had done something wrong and I was in trouble. When I went there they said, 'Steven wants to talk to you about an idea.' So I don't know quite how to compute all this information. It's too much for me because this is still Steven Spielberg. So, he came in from the set of 'Jurassic Park 2' and just started pacing back and forth and telling me this idea for this movie, which was 'Small Soldiers.' It was an idea that they had been working on for awhile, but hadn't been able to crack. Because of 'Mouse Hunt,' they thought they'd let me try it. He said 'I don't want you to read anything that's been written prior, I just want to tell you this new version of the idea that I have and see if you can do something with it.' He paced back and forth and he pitched for a really long time this really cool story." Adam Rifkin
Meanwhile, Rifkin also wrote, directed, and acted in “Denial” (1998), which was released to video under the title "Something about Sex." The film, which follows couples as they struggle with the hardships of maintaining a monogamous relationship, starred Jonathan Silverman, Leah Lail, Patrick Dempsey, Christine Taylor, Ryan Alosio, Amy Yasbeck, and Jason Alexander.
The next year, Rifkin joined publisher/producer Audrey Kelly to publish Hollywood's greatest unproduced screenplays in book form. He also helmed and re-wrote “Detroit Rock City” (1999), a musical comedy which follows four teens (played by Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Edward Furlong, and Sam Huntington) trying to get into a sold-out KISS concert.
Hitting the new millennium, Rifkin co-directed (with Tony Markes) “Welcome to Hollywood,” which was nominated for a DVD Exclusive Award for Video Premiere Award - Best Screenplay. During this time, a movie based on him and his real life 3-year relationship with writer director Valerie Breiman, "Love & Sex," was also released. In the film, he was portrayed by John Faveraux while Famke Jensen took on the role of Breiman.
When asked how it feels to have a movie made based on him, Rifkin explained, "Valerie and I were in a relationship for about three and a half years. It was a very unusual relationship. It was the first big love for both of us. When we broke up, it was pretty devastating to both of us. First heartbreak is the worst. So when we broke up, both of us being writer/directors, we both wrote movies about our relationship."
Rifkin subsequently directed Judy Greer in the independent comedy “Without Charlie” (2001), which he also wrote, and cast Natasha Lyonne in his independent drama film, “Night at the Golden Eagle” (2002).
"The achievement that I'm the most excited about is the film I'm finishing right now. It's called 'Night at the Golden Eagle.' The reason I think I'm the most excited about it is because first and foremost, I used my own money to finance it with my producing partner Steve Bing. The reason we did that was so that we had the control to green light it and not have to wait for other people to see if it would fit into their slate, if it was something that they felt they could make enough money on, or if it had foreign pre-sale value or whatever. By financing it ourselves, we cut through all of that and just green lit the film in a five minute conversation. It also afforded us complete creative control, which is very freeing when making a film. I was free to cast whoever I wanted, which enabled me to cast the two leads, which are 65 year old unknowns who had never acted before. Freedom to be able to basically make the movie that I saw, the way I saw it without any compromise or interference. Because of that, I feel the most excited about that achievement right now." Adam Rifkin
Recently, Rifkin directed and starred in the comedy “Homo Erectus.” The film, which also starred Giuseppe Andrews, Gary Busey, David Carradine, Ron Jeremy, Ali Larter, Hayes MacArthur, and Talia Shire, premiered at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival in January 2007. He also co-wrote the live-action version of the classic cartoon “Underdog” (2007), which featured Jason Lee as the voice of the canine superhero. He then wrote and directed the independent drama feature “Look” (2007), which was reportedly the first feature film shot entirely using surveillance camera footage and won a Grand Jury Award for Best Film at the CineVegas International Film Festival.
CineVegas International Film Festival: Grand Jury Award - Best Film, "Look," 2007