Ex-CEO of Disney
American entertainment executive, producer and film director Joe Roth began his career as a production assistant on commercials and films before earning success as a producer of low-budget, but high-grossing, films like “Tunnel Vision” (1976), “Bachelor Party” (1984) and “Moving Violations” (1985). He went on to co-found his first production company, Morgan Creek Productions, in 1987 and continued his winning box office record with “Young Guns” and “Dead Ringers” (both 1988), among others. Roth's career gained a boost when he was selected as a chairman of Twentieth Century Fox in 1989, a post he held until 1993 when he started Caravan Pictures, an independent production company housed at Disney. While at Fox, Roth oversaw such popular films as “Home Alone” and “Die Hard 2” (both 1990), “Sleeping with the Enemy” (1991) and “White Men Can't Jump” (1992).
Following several flourishing years with Caravan, Roth replaced Jeffrey Katzenberg as Disney’s CEO in September 1994 and spent six years restructuring the prominent studio. He left Walt Disney Studios in 2000 to form Revolution Studios, a Sony-based studio responsible for such releases as “Tomcats” (2001), “Tears of the Sun” (2003), “Daddy Day Care” (2003), “Hollywood Homicide” (2003), “Mona Lisa Smile” (2003), “The Forgotten” (2004) and “An Unfinished Life” (2005). It was announced that the studio will cease operations in October 2007 when its distribution deal with Sony Pictures ends. Roth himself will join Sony Pictures as a producer.
As a director, Roth has made no less than five movies since making his debut in 1986 with “Street of Gold.” Among his directorial ventures are “Coupe de Ville” (1990), “America's Sweethearts” (2001), “Christmas with the Kranks” (2004) and more recently, “Freedomland” (2006), which featured strong performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore.
Outside the limelight, Roth is the husband of producer Donna Arkoff Roth and father of Zachary (born 1984) and Julia (born 1989).
Childhood and Family:
Joe Roth was born on June 13, 1948, in New York, New York, to Larry and Frances Roth. He was raised on Long Island alongside his brothers, Dan and George (actor). Joe received a B.S in Journalism from Boston University's School of Public Communications in 1970. He originally planned to enroll in law school at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, California, but changed his mind at last minute.
Joe is married to producer Donna Arkoff Roth, daughter of Samuel Z. Arkoff of American International Pictures. Their first daughter, Alexis A Roth, died of sudden infant death syndrome when she was two years old. A year later, in 1984, they welcomed a son named Zachary Roth. Daughter Julia Roth was born in 1989.
New Yorker native Joe Roth was a communications major at Boston University before settling in San Francisco where he first found work as a production assistant on commercials and features films. During that same period, he served as lighting operator for Pitchel Players, an improvisational comedy group, and went on to produce the troupe's shows. The Players relocated to Los Angeles in 1974. In 1976, by employing then-unknown comic actors Chevy Chase, Howard Hesseman and Laraine Newman, he made his feature producing debut with “Tunnel Vision,” an inexpensive spoof of TV programming co-directed by Neal Israel and Bradley R. Swirnoff. Made for $250,000, the movie went on to gross around 17 million. Roth also appeared in the movie.
Roth followed the project up by producing various films like “Our Winning Season” (1978), “Americathon” (1979), “Bachelor Party” (1984), Christopher Cain's “The Stone Boy” (1984) and “Moving Violations” (1985) before making his directing debut in 1986's “Streets of Gold,” a boxing melodrama starring Klaus Maria Brandauer, Adrian Pasdar and Wesley Snipes. He next directed “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” (1987) and “Coupe de Ville” (1990). Roth then teamed up with James G. Robinson to establish the Morgan Creek independent production company and under the newly founded firm, he produced such vehicles as “Young Guns” and “Dead Ringers” (both 1988), “Enemies,” “A Love Story” and “Major League” (1989) and “Pacific Heights” (1990).
The producer's career entered a new phase in the late 1980s when he started working for major studios. He was appointed chairman of the Fox Film Corporation, the newly-established theatrical film unit of the 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation, in 1989 and made a distinction for being the first director since 1935 to become the head of production for a leading studio. While at Fox, Roth managed a number of hits, including “Home Alone,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Die Hard 2” (all 1990), “Sleeping With the Enemy” (1991), and “The Last of the Mohicans” and “White Men Can't Jump” (both 1992). Although his last tenure at the studio was marked with disappointments like “Toys” and “Hoffa” (both 1992), Roth co-founded Caravan Pictures (with Roger Birnbaum), an independent production company housed at Disney, and scored success with projects like “The Three Musketeers” (1993), “While You Were Sleeping” (1995) and “Before and After” (1996). His victory with Caravan led to him being named chairman of Walt Disney Motion Pictures in September 1994, replacing Jeffrey Katzenberg, and he quickly proved his capability for that position with the smash Christmas release “The Santa Clause” (1994). Known for “low-key and contemplative” in his managerial style, Roth focused on building up Disney's live-action movies and tried to keep costs down, and began affiliations with such diverse talents as Ridley Scott, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Robert Redford, John Hughes and Oprah Winfrey.
Roth announced his resignation from Disney in January 2000 after having worked there for six years. During that period, he made numerous changes including limiting the number of movies released by the studio in a single year to 20, and was responsible for the shutting down of Hollywood Pictures as a production company. Despite the hard times he faced in reconstructing the company, the capable executive successfully brought Disney back to the top of the blockbuster market and the studio enjoyed hits with the animated features “Hercules” (1997), “A Bug's Life” (1998) and “Tarzan” (1999), the action flicks “Con Air” (1997) and “Armageddon” (1998) and Academy Award-nominated dramas such as “The Insider” and “The Sixth Sense” (both 1999).
After leaving Disney, Roth founded Revolution Films with financial backing from Sony Pictures, Liberty Media's Starz Encore Group and Fox Broadcasting. “Tomcats,” Revolution Films' first production, was released on March 30, 2001. Jerry O'Connell and Shannon Elizabeth starred in the sexy romantic comedy directed and penned by Gregory Poirier. Later that same year, under his new company, Roth returned to the director chair with “America's Sweethearts,” scripted by Billy Crystal and starring Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones. He next executive produced Bruce Willis' “Tears of the Sun” (2003), Eddie Murphy's “Daddy Day Care” (2003), Harrison Ford's “Hollywood Homicide” (2003), “Mona Lisa Smile” (2003), which reunited his with Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore's “The Forgotten” (2004) and “An Unfinished Life” (2005), which starred Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman. He directed 2004's holiday comedy “Christmas with the Kranks” for Revolution Studios. His most recent directorial effort, Freedomland, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Moore and Edie Falco, was launched in February 2006.
“Revolution Studios had a six-year output agreement with Sony, Starz and Fox to make the minimum of 39 movies over six years. We will continue, after ‘Freedomland,’ to make 12 more movies. We will have put out 47 movies by the end of next year, so we're in conversations with Sony about what form to continue in and it's not clear what form we will continue in. We can't continue the same way we were in because we had an output agreement which is very specific.” Joe Roth
Roth disclosed that in October 2007, when Revolution Studios' distributions deal with Sony Pictures ends, the studio will close and he will join Sony as a producer. As for his upcoming projects, Roth is producing “The Great Debater” (2008), a drama starring and directed by Denzel Washington, and “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” (2008), directed by Guillermo del Toro. On the small screen, under Joe Roth Television, Roth serves as executive producer of a TV series pilot called “Me and Everyone Else” (2007) and the CBS made-for-TV drama “Demons” (2007).