Prior to embarking on his filmmaking career, Kingston, New York-born Peter Bogdanovich spent his teens studying acting with the legendary Stella Adler and working as an actor in live TV and various theaters around the country. He soon began directing plays Off-Broadway and in New York summer theater, along with writing a series of three monographs for the Museum of Modern Art on Orson Welles, Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock, the first such studies of these directors in America. His film writing continued for Esquire Magazine and as published books over the subsequent years.
In 1966, Bogdanovich began working in movies as Roger Corman’s assistant on The Wild Angels, for which without credit he re-wrote most of the script and directed the second unit. It was Corman who financed Bogdanovich’s first film as director-writer-producer-actor: the 1968 cult thriller Targets, starring Boris Karloff.
Bogdanovich had a breakthrough year in 1971, helming the AFI-commissioned documentary Directed by John Ford and directing and co-writing the period drama The Last Picture Show starring then-unknowns Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, and other newcomers. The film won the New York Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Screenplay (which Bogdanovich co-wrote with novelist Larry McMurtry) and received a total of eight Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Screenplay and Best Director. In 1998, the Library of Congress inducted the film as a part of the National Film Registry.
He had a second big success in 1972 with What’s Up, Doc?, a madcap screwball-styled romantic comedy starring Barbara Streisand and Ryan O’Neal that won The Writers’ Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay. Then in 1973, Bogdanovich made the Depression Era comedy-drama Paper Moon with Ryan O’Neal and his daughter Tatum, which earned critical acclaim, box office success and four Academy Award nominations.
The next two decades saw Bogdanovich direct a number of high-profile, star-filled productions, including the musical comedy At Long Last Love (1975) with Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd; the silent film era comedy Nickelodeon (1976) with Reynolds, Ryan and Tatum O’Neal and John Ritter; the romantic comedy They All Laughed (1981) with Ritter, Ben Gazzara, Audrey Hepburn and the late Dorothy Stratten; the biographical drama Mask (1985) with Eric Stoltz and Cher; Texasville (1990), a follow-up to The Last Picture Show featuring a returning Bridges and Shepherd; and the country music-themed The Thing Called Love (1993) starring Samantha Mathis and the late River Phoenix. In 2014, Bogdanovich co-wrote and directed the New York City-set comedy She’s Funny that Way starring Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots and Kathryn Hahn.