PROFILE
Name:
Mimi Leder
Birth Place:
Famous for:
Director of ER (1994)
BIOGRAPHY
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Director of ER

Background:

“Traditionally women are shunned at 40, but I think in some ways these women will be able to break that barrier. Fifty is the new 40; forty is the new 30. Women are looking better. Look at 'Desperate Housewives.' Those women are (mostly) all in their 40s and it's a very successful show. Maybe the world has finally realized all women aren't 20.” Mimi Leder

Mimi Leder is a two time Emmy Award winning director and producer who became famous for her work on the popular drama series “ER.” Joining the NBC show in 1994 as a supervising producer and director on the episode “Day One,” she progressed to co-executive producer in 1995 and made her debut with the episode “Make of Two Hearts,” which she also helmed. Mimi was nominated for four Emmy Awards for “ER” and received the awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing for a Drama Series and for Outstanding Drama Series (1996). She also received three Directors Guild of America nominations for directing episodes of “ER.” Starting out as script supervisor in the late 1970s, she also scored notable gigs on the NBC shows “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law” before coming to the attention of the public with “China Beach” (ABC, 1988-1991), from which she earned her first four Emmy nominations as a supervising producer and director. Following her success with “ER,” Mimi branched out to film directing in 1997 with “The Peacemaker” and enjoyed a significant box office hit with her sophomore effort “Deep Impact” (1998). However, after the failure of “Pay It Forward” (2000), she focused her work on the small screen as a director and executive producer. In 2006, she received her ninth Emmy nomination for directing the “The West Wing” episode “Election Day.” Her film “Thick as Thieves” (shot in 2007) was released directly to DVD in 2009.

Mimi was honored with a Franklin J. Schaffner Award at the 1999 American Film Institute Awards. A year later, she won the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award from the 2000 Women in Film Crystal Awards.

Mimi is the wife of actor Gary Werntz, with whom she has one daughter, actress Hannah Werntz.


American Film Institute

Childhood and Family:

Born Miriam Leder on January 26, 1952, in New York City, New York, Mimi Leder was raised by producer/director/writer Paul Leder (born in 1926, died in 1996) and Etyl Leder. The middle of three siblings, Mimi has an older brother named Reuben Leder (born on January 21, 1950), who is a producer and writer, and a younger sister named Geraldine Leder (born in 1962), who is a casting director and appeared in front of the film cameras in their father's films “Five Minutes to Love” (1963) and “My Friends Need Killing” (1976). Mimi graduated from the American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory in 1973 with a degree in Cinematography. She became the first female graduate of AFI.

Mimi is married to actor Gary Werntz. They have a daughter named Hannah Werntz (born on September 28, 1986) who appeared in Mimi's films “The Peacemaker” (1997), “Deep Impact” (1998) and “Pay It Forward” (2000).


Director of Deep Impact

Career:

The daughter of independent filmmaker Paul Leder, Mimi Leder served as a camera operator for “My Friends Need Killing” (1976), a drama written and directed by her dad. The same year, she became an unit photographer/assistant director for her father's science fiction movie “Ape,” which was co-written by her brother Reuben. She went on to work on her father's films “Red Light in the White House” (1977), where she served as an assistant director/script supervisor, and “Sketches of a Strangler” (1978), as an assistant director, before being hired as a script supervisor for the John Florea directed family film “Where's Willie” (1978). She did the same duty for “Spawn of the Slithis” (1978), a science fiction film written and directed by Stephen Traxler, and the CBS Emmy nominated docudrama “Dummy” (1979), which marked her television debut.

In the early 1980s, Mimi worked as a script supervisor for the CBS TV film “The Boy Who Drank Too Much” (1980, starred Scott Baio), director/writer Jerrold Freedman's feature “Borderline” (1980, starred Charles Bronson), the Timothy Hutton Golden Globe nominated TV film “A Long Way Home” (1981), the Liza Minnelli TV film “A Time to Live” (1985) and the CBS drama “Under the Influence” (1986, starred Andy Griffith). Her career gained a boost when she scored a six year stint as a script supervisor for the NBC popular series “Hill Street Blues” from 1981 to 1987. Meanwhile, Mimi branched out as an associate producer on the films “I'm Going to Be Famous” (1983) and “The Education of Allison Tate” (1986), which were directed by her father.

Thanks to the short film “Short Order Dreams,” which she directed and produced, Mimi caught the attention of the producers of NBC's “L.A. Law” and was recruited as a script supervisor for the series in 1986. She made her television directing debut with an episode of the popular legal drama called “Fifty Ways to Floss Your Lover,” which first aired on February 19, 1987. She directed one more episode titled “Oy Vey! Wilderness” (also 1987).

The late 1980s found Mimi directing episodes of “A Year in the Life” (2 episodes, 1988), “Crime Story” (1 episode, 1988) and “Midnight Caller” (1 episode, 1988). She made her television movie directing debut with “Nightingales” (NBC, 1988), which became the pilot for the short lived series of the same name.

The New York City native, however, did not experience a real breakthrough until she began her partnership with the ABC drama series “China Beach” (1988-1991), which starred Dana Delany, Nan Woods, Michael Boatman, Marg Helgenberger and Robert Picardo. She served as a producer for the series from 1989 to 1990 and then as a supervising producer from 1990 to 1991. She also directed 13 episodes of the show and was the production consultant for the episode “The World” (1989). “China Beach” brought Mimi Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama Series (in 1990 and 1991) and Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for the 1990 episode “You, Babe.” She also received an Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Drama Series nomination for the 1991 episode “Rewind.”

Mimi next directed Rita Wilson, David Bowe and Daphne Ashbrook in the unsold TV series pilot “Sisters” (1990), which won a WGA Award for Anthology Episode/Single Program. She went on to direct a string of TV films, including “A Little Piece of Heaven” (1991), “Woman with a Past” (1992), “Marked for Murder” (1993), “There Was a Little Boy” (1993), “Rio Shannon” (1993), “House of Secrets” (1993), “Baby Brokers” (1994) and “The Innocent” (1994) before scoring a huge break with the successful medical drama “ER” (NBC, 1994-2009), which was created by Michael Crichton. For the series, Mimi served as a supervising producer from 1994 to 1995 and co-executive producer in 1995. In 1996, she jointly picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. Also directing episodes, she won her first Emmy Award for her Outstanding Directing for the 1995 episode “Love's Labor Lost,” which she also nabbed a Directors Guild of America (DGA) nomination. She earned an additional Emmy nomination for directing the 1996 episode “The Healers” and a DGA nomination for the 1994 episode “Blizzard.” “ER” marked her first project with director Steven Spielberg.

In 1997, Mimi made her feature film directing debut with “The Peacemaker,” a thriller starring Oscar winners George Clooney and Nicole Kidman that became the first film released by DreamWorks, which was founded by Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen in 1994. The following year, she directed the big budgeted movie “Deep Impact,” a disaster film starring Elijah Wood, Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall. “Deep Impact” earned $41 million during its opening weekend and went on to collect $140 million in North America. The film grossed over $349 million worldwide, well surprising its $75 million budget. Despite its success at the box office, “Deep Impact” received mixed reviews from critics. Mimi closed out the decade directing the independent film “Sentimental Journey” (1999), which was written by her brother Reuben and based on a story by her father.

In 2000, Mimi directed the dramatic film “Pay It Forward,” which was an adaptation of the Catherine Ryan Hyde novel. Starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey, the film debuted at No. 4 at the box office but ended up being a commercial flop. Back to television, Mimi executive produced the ABC short lived drama series “The Beast” (2001), which was canceled after five episodes. She next served as an executive producer for the science fiction series “John Doe” (Fox, 2002-2003), which starred Dominic Purcell. She also directed five episodes of the series, including the pilot episode.

In 2003, Mimi executive produced her brother's thriller “Baltic Storm,” which Reuben adapted from the book “Die Estonia: Tragödie eines Schiffsuntergangs” by German journalist Jutta Rabe. She followed it up by executive producing the action series “Jonny Zero” (Fox, 2005), but the show was axed after eight episodes. Mimi also directed four episodes of the series.

In 2006, Mimi received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for her work on an episode of NBC's “The West Wing” called “Election Day.” She also directed the pilot episode of the short lived comedy series “Related,” which starred Jennifer Esposito, and executive produced the Fox dramatic series “Vanished,” in which she directed several episodes. In 2007, Mimi directed Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman and Radha Mitchell in the movie “Thick as Thieves” (2009), but it was shelved and went to video in 2009.

Mimi made her return to “ER” after directing 1996's “The Healers” when she helmed Parminder Nagra, John Stamos and Linda Cardellini in the episode “A Long, Strange Trip,” which was broadcasted on February 5, 2009. Later that same year, she directed and executive produced the CBS TV movie “U.S. Attorney,” which starred Lennie James, Michael Gaston, Rachel Nichols and Paula Boudreau.

Recently, in 2010, Mimi directed Amber Tamblyn in the CBS TV drama “The Quinn-tuplets,” which was written by Mike Kelley.

Awards:

  • Women in Film Crystal: Dorothy Arzner Directors Award, 2000

  • American Film Institute: Franklin J. Schaffner Award, 1999

  • Emmy: Outstanding Drama Series, “ER,” 1996

  • Emmy: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing for a Drama Series, “ER,” for episode “Love's Labor Lost,” 1995

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