Kimberly Peirce
Birth Date:
Birth Place:
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Famous for:
Her debut feature film, “Boys Don't Cry” (1999)
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Boys Don’t Cry


“I like to go for the reality, I like to go for what's underneath and I don't even judge it. But that isn't what all Hollywood movies are. That's an example where my success in ‘Boys (Don't Cry)’ brought me this great Hollywood career and all these offers that I really appreciate, but I really have a very particular thing that I like doing. I love real emotion. I love real drama.” Kimberly Peirce

First gaining notice with her award winning experimental short “The Last Good Breath” (1994), director and writer Kimberly Peirce rocketed to stardom with her debut feature film, “Boys Don't Cry” (1999), based on the real life story of Brandon Teena. Starring Hilary Swank, the independent picture won the hearts of audiences and critics alike and brought the newcomer extensive critical acclaim. Awards Peirce picked up for “Boys Don't Cry” included a Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a National Board of Review Award, two Young Hollywood Awards, two London Film Festival Awards, two Stockholm Film Festival Awards, and two Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards. She also received nominations at the Independent Spirits Awards, the Satellite Awards, the Robert Festival, the Chlotrudis Awards, the European Film Awards, and the Gijón International Film Festival. Her second film, “Stop-Loss” (2008), was well-received by critics but a box office bomb. In between the movies, Peirce directed an episode of Showtime’s “The L Word” (2006).

“You talk to any director, it's tough. It's tough to make movies that you love.” Kimberly Peirce

Peirce currently lives with her female partner Evren Savci.


Childhood and Family:

Kimberly Peirce was born on September 8, 1967, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Her family left Harrisburg when she was four years old and moved to New York and Puerto Rico before settling in Miami, Florida. As a child, Kimberly founded a group she called the “Tomboy Club.” She has a younger brother named Brett.

In Miami, Kimberly attended Miami Sunset High School with future comedian Mark Ginzo. After graduating, she moved to Chicago to enroll at the University of Chicago. When she ran out of tuition money, she took a two year break and stayed in Japan, where she worked as an English teacher and photographer. Upon returning to America, she went back to school and finally graduated with a dual B.A. degree in English and Japanese literature. She returned to New York City in 1990 to pursue an M.F.A. in film at Columbia University. She also trained at the Sundance Institute's Writing and Directing Lab programs.

Stop Loss


A former teacher and photographer, Kimberly Peirce’s filmmaking debut was “The Last Good Breath,” an experimental 16-minute short she wrote and directed. The film was screened at the Leopard of Tomorrow Program at the 1994 Locarno International Film Festival and nabbed first place at the Suffolk Film Festival, second place at the Canada International Film Festival, and a Golden Award in the Experimental Division at the Chicago International Film Festival.

In early 1994, Peirce heard about Brandon Teena's story while she was working on her thesis. She subsequently changed the topic of her thesis and headed to Falls City, Nebraska, where the events occurred (murder of Brandon Teena who lived her life as a man), and attended the trial of the two men suspected of Teena's murder (real name of the victim was Teena Brandon). The short film, “Take It Like a Man” (1995, with Anna Grace playing Brandon Teena and Natalie Zea as her girlfriend), was nominated for the Princess Grace Award by The Columbia faculty and won an Astrea Production Grant.

Lured by the success of her short film, Peirce decided to develop it into a full length feature movie. In 1996, she returned to Nebraska to do more research and worked tirelessly with writing partner Andy Bienen on the screenplay. The following year, she received an invitation from The Sundance Institute to work on the screenplay at the Sundance Filmmakers, Writers and Producers Lab.

Peirce, who wanted to hire a female actor to portray Brandon, searched for three years before choosing then-unknown Hillary Swank. During this time, she also worked on other projects and served as an assistant director on Cheryl Dunye's short “Greetings From Africa” and edited Shawn Atkins' experimental 16mm animated film, “Anastasia and the Queen of Hearts” (both 1996).

With Peirce sitting in the director's chair and Swank taking the lead of Brandon Teena, “Boys Don’t Cry” earned critical success immediately after its release in October 1999 and was considered a box office hit, despite having a relatively low budget (approximately $2 million) and being independently financed. The drama collected numerous awards and awards nominations, including Best Actress at the Oscars and Golden Globes for Swank and nominations for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Chloë Sevigny for her performance as girlfriend Lana Tisdel. Peirce won a Boston Society of Film Critics for Best New Filmmaker, a National Board of Review for Outstanding Directorial Debut, two Young Hollywoods for Best Director and Best Screenwriter, the FIPRESCI Prize and Satyajit Ray Award at the 1999 London Film Festival, the FIPRESCI Prize and the Best Screenplay honor at the 1999 Stockholm Film Festival, an Audience Choice Award at the 1999 St. Louis International Film Festival, a Rosebud for Best Film at the 1999 Verzaubert - International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, a Festival Diploma for Best Full-Length Fiction Film at the 2000 Molodist International Film Festival and many more. She also received Independent Spirit nominations for Best First Feature - Over $500,000 and Best First Screenplay, a Golden Satellite nomination for Best Director, a Robert nomination for Best American Film, a European Film nomination for Screen International Award, and other impressive nominations.

After the much-talked about “Boys Don't Cry,” Peirce was considered for a sting of high profile projects, including Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha.” At the beginning of 2006, she directed an episode of the popular Showtime drama “The L Word” called “Lifeline” in 2006.

Following such canceled projects as “Silent Star” (as co-writer), “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” (as director), and others, Peirce revisited the director's chair when she directed Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown and Channing Tatum in “Stop Loss” (2008), which she also wrote with Mark Richard. The dramatic film, about an American soldier, earned primarily positive reviews from critics. However, it was a box office failure. With an estimated budget of $25 million, “Stop Loss” only grossed about $11 million.

Apart from being a director and screenwriter, Peirce has written articles about film for Kansai Time Out, Grey City Journal, and Chicago’s Screen Magazine. She has also been featured in the documentaries “Women in Film” (2001), “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” (2006) and “Hollywood Brats” (2008).


  • Columbia University Film Festival: Andrew Sarris Award, 2008

  • Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Sierra Award, Best Director, “Boys Don't Cry,” 2000

  • Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Sierra Award, Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Boys Don't Cry,” 2000

  • Molodist International Film Festival: Festival Diploma, Best Full-Length Fiction Film, “Boys Don't Cry,” 2000

  • Young Hollywood: Best Director, “Boys Don't Cry,” 2000

  • Young Hollywood: Best Screenwriter, “Boys Don't Cry,” 2000

  • National Board of Review (NBR): Outstanding Directorial Debut, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC): Best New Filmmaker, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • London Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • London Film Festival: Satyajit Ray Award, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • St. Louis International Film Festival: Audience Choice Award, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • Stockholm Film Festival: Best Screenplay, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • Stockholm Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, Competition, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • Verzaubert - International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: Rosebud, Best Film, “Boys Don't Cry,” 1999

  • Canada International Film Festival: Second place, “The Last Good Breath,” 1994

  • Chicago International Film Festival: Golden Award, Experiment Division, “The Last Good Breath,” 1994

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