Producer of Pulp Fiction
An Academy Award-nominated, American producer and occasional actor who began his career as a dancer, Lawrence Bender is famous as a result of his long-running partnership with writer/director Quentin Tarantino, with whom he formed the production company “A Band Apart” in 1993. The duo began working together in Tarantino's directorial debut, “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), which established their careers. Bender scored an even bigger victory with their next collaboration, “Pulp Fiction” (1994), which was a commercial hit. The masterpiece brought the producer an Independent Spirit Award and his first Oscar nomination. They also worked together in such films as “Jackie Brown” (1997), “Kill Bill 1” (2003) and “Kill Bill 2” (2004). On his own, Bender is noted as the producer of “Good Will Hunting” (1997), which was directed by Gus Van Sant. For his effort, he was handed his second Oscar nomination in addition to a PGA nomination and a Golden Satellite nomination. Other films he produced include Boaz Yakin's “Fresh” (1994) and “A Price Above Rubies” (1998), Robert Rodriguez's “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996), Gore Verbinski's “The Mexican” (2001), John Dahl's “The Great Raid” (2005), the praised documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006), which was helmed by Davis Guggenheim, and Jon Avnet's “88: 88 Minutes” (2007). He has also worked on TV programs like the award-nominating “Anatomy of a Hate Crime” (2001) and ABC's “Nancy Drew” (2002), and often has small roles in the movies he produces.
Bender, who is of Romania lineage, became a member of the dramatic jury at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. He was once romantically linked to French beauty Joelle Bentolila.
Childhood and Family:
Lawrence Kirk Bender was born on October 17, 1957, in The Bronx, New York. He attended the University of Maine and studied civil engineering. While pursuing his education, he began taking dance lessons and later toured with the Ralph Robertson Ballet Company. After moving to New York City, he received a scholarship to study at choreographer Louis Falco's dance academy. Unfortunately, his dance career was cut short by a series of injuries. He then turned to acting and studied the craft under the guidance of Sandra Seacat and with actors like Mickey Rourke, Christopher Reeve, Marlo Thomas and Jessica Lange. However, Lawrence did not hit the big time until he switched to producing.
Good Will Hunting
Turning down a career as a civil engineer, Lawrence Bender headed to New York City to try his luck as a dancer. After some training, he joined the Ralph Robertson Ballet Company and toured such cities as Massachusetts and Maine. Thanks to his dancing skill, he had the opportunity to study with renowned choreographer Louis Falco, but a string of injuries became an obstacle and forced the struggling dancer to find a new profession. Bender chose acting and was discovered doing bit parts in minor independent movies and worked on stage in such productions as “A Midsummer Night's Dream.”
With the hope of developing his acting career, Bender headed to Los Angeles in 1985, but found work behind the camera instead. With the American Film Institute, the Bronx native launched his producing career by working as a production assistant and three years later, embarked on his own with “The Intruder” (1989), a low-budget horror film that went straight to video release. In addition to producing, he also shared story credits with writer/director Scott Spiegel and appeared in the movie as an officer. The same year, he also produced “A Tale of Two Sisters,” a little-seen improvisational drama directed by Adam Rifkin.
Bender landed his first important role in the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle “Lionheart” (1990), where he appeared as a garage fight heckler. It was not until two years later that he was propelled to fame by producing “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), Quentin Tarantino's debut as a feature film director. Meeting through a mutual friend, Bender was soon impressed by Tarantino's material and they decided to work together. It paid off when “Reservoir Dog” received critical praise in such major festivals as Sundance and Cannes, and they co-won a Best First Feature nomination at the 1993 Independent Spirit Awards. The success of the film subsequently launched the career of both Bender and the first time director Tarantino. Bender also had a bit part in the film.
After co-founding a production company with Tarantino called “A Band Apart” in 1993, Bender produced “Fresh” (1994), a critically acclaimed crime/thriller from director/writer Boaz Yakin and starring actor Sean Nelson. He then served as an executive producer for “Killing Zoe” (1994), Roger Avary's directorial debut. It was his second collaboration with Tarantino as director in the Oscar winner “Pulp Fiction” (also 1994) that marked Bender's big breakthrough. Hailed as the most advanced new film of the year, the crime/drama was nominated for seven Oscars, including a Best Picture for Bender, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay. The film also brought Bender an Independent Spirit for Best Feature, a BAFTA nomination for Best Film and a nomination at the Producers Guild Awards. “Pulp Fiction” was a hit with both audiences and critics alike.
After the much-talk-about work, Bender produced “White Man's Burden” (1995), a drama starring “Pulp Fiction” star John Travolta, and the comedy “Four Rooms” (1995) and executive produced “Snakeland” and the Robert Rodriguez-directed, Tarantino-written “From Dusk Til Dawn” (both 1996). 1996 also marked the launch of a new division, A Band Apart Commercials, which focuses on making music videos and ad spots. In 1997, he rejoined Tarantino for the director/writer's crime/drama “Jackie Brown,” based on a novel by Elmore Leonard.
Still in 1997, Bender again became the center of attention with his work in the Gus Van Sant-directed “Good Will Hunting.” The outstanding drama won two of nine Academy Award nominations including Best Supporting Actor (Robin Williams) and Best Screenplay (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) and collected four Golden Globe nominations, among numerous other honors. In addition to picking up his next Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Bender also netted a PGA nomination for Motion Picture Producer of the Year, a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Motion Picture-Drama and was honored with a Vision Award. With “Jackie Brown” and “Good Will Hunting,” Bender created history by being the only producer to have two films in concurrent competition at the Berlin Film Festival.
Next up for Bender, he produced such films as Boaz Yakin's “A Price Above Rubies” (1998), the Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat vehicle “Anna and the King” (1999), “From Dusk Till Dawn 2” (1999), “From Dusk Till Dawn 3” (2000), “The Mexican” (2001), which starred Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, “Knockaround Guys” (2001), penned and co-directed by David Levien and Brian Koppleman and starring John Malkovich and Dennis Hopper, and “Stark Raving Mad” (2002), a crime/comedy starring Sean William Scott. In 2001, the producer also made his television debut with “Anatomy of a Hate Crime,” a MTV original movie about the assassination of Matthew Shepard (portrayed by Cy Carter) and directed by Tim Hunter. The drama received a 2002 GLAAD Media nomination for Outstanding Television Movie. He continued to executive produce the TV films “Lost in Oz” and “Nancy Drew” (both 2002).
Bender rejoined Tarantino for the long-anticipated assassin thriller “Kill Bill,” which starred Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu and Daryl Hannah, and its sequel, “Kill Bill 2” (2004), where he made a cameo appearance as a hotel clerk. In between the projects, he produced the romance “Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing” (2004), helmed by Guy Ferland, and executive produced the made-for-TV-movie “The Survivors Clubs” (2004). He then worked in the Emmy-nominated miniseries “Legend of Earthsea” (Sci-Fi Channel, 2004), the TV series “Build or Bust” (2005), the teen comedy “The Chumscrubber” (2005) and John Dahl's “The Great Raid” (2005). From 2006 to 2007, he produced the Academy Award winning film “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) and executive produced the TV pilot “The Line-Up,” again directed by John Dahl, and the film “88: 88 Minutes” (both 2007), directed by Jon Avnet and starring Al Pacino and Alicia Witt.
Recently, 51-year-old Bender completed producing “Long Island Confidential” (2008), a TV movie about a female homicide detective returning to her Long Island roots. He also has two projects in pre-production, the comedy “818” (2008) and the drama/horror “Executive Order: Six” (2009), and one in-production called “Manhunt” (2009). The latter two will be produced under his own production company, “Lawrence Bender Production.” Bender will produce a documentary film scheduled for 2008 and the Quentin Tarantino war film “Inglorious Bastards” (2009), starring Michael Madsen and Tim Roth.
Vision Award: 1997
Independent Spirit: Best Feature, “Pulp Fiction,” 1995