Bruce Joel Rubin
March 10, 1943
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Assistant director, Assistant film editor, Associate curator, Head of the film department at the Whitney Museum
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A Hollywood screenwriter who is drawn to emotional material incorporating spiritual and fantastic elements, Bruce Joel Rubin began working in films as co-director with Brian De Palma of "Dionysus in 69" and as an assistant director on De Palma's "Hi, Mom!" (both 1970). Following a turn as an assistant film editor at NBC, Rubin embarked on a quest for spiritual enlightenment which included stints on the Greek isle of Paros and in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nepal. After three months of study at the latter, he was given 48 hours to leave by the Nepalese government, who suspected Rubin of being a CIA operative. Although the stay was cut short, its influence would be manifested in much of his subsequent screen work. Indeed, Rubin has made a good living from musing about death.Back in New York, Rubin worked first as an associate curator and later advanced to head of the film department at the Whitney Museum. He and his wife (an art professor) next moved to the Midwest where he earned his graduate degree and wrote a screenplay, "The George Dunlap Tape." He planned to direct it himself, but once the financing fell through, it was optioned by Douglas Trumbull and was eventually made into Natalie Wood's swan song, "Brainstorm" (1983). The film's most memorable sequence depicted the dreamy sights and sounds of a woman's after-death experience.Frustrated by his inability to work with Hollywood from the Midwest, Rubin moved to L.A. His first produced screenplay, "Deadly Friend" (1986), directed by Wes Craven, was an oddball teen horror film about a bright young lad who reanimates his dead girlfriend. 1990 was Rubin's breakthrough year: he wrote and served as associate producer on both "Ghost" and "Jacob's Ladder." The former featured Patrick Swayze as a murder victim who has unfinished business with his girlfriend (Demi Moore). This diverting romantic fantasy grossed over $200 million and netted a Best Screenplay Oscar for Rubin. The less successful, but more ambitious, "Jacob's Ladder" depicted the surreal hallucinations of a Vietnam vet trying to cope with life and love as a civilian. The film was abetted by the glossy direction of Adrian Lyne and a powerful central performance by Tim Robbins.Rubin also contributed to the psychodramas "Deceived" and "Sleeping with the Enemy" (both 1991). Unhappy with the results, he was credited as "Derek Saunders" for the former and uncredited for the latter. At the age of 50, Rubin finally made his solo directorial debut with "My Life" (1993), an emotional drama starring Michael Keaton as a terminally ill man preparing for death by videotaping his final months for his unborn child.