Charlie Kaufman has never been ordinary, a trait that has likely helped the 57-year-old writer and director amass a collection of unordinary accomplishments. While Kaufman has become commercially successful, earned the highest of praises by critics and awarded the highest of film honors, an uncommon set of achievements for a screenwriter, none of it came easily to a writer often regarded as too odd for the mainstream to understand, much less like.
Born in New York City but raised in Massapequa and West Hartford, Conn., Kaufman spent his years as a film student attending New York University, where he began writing a series of scripts that failed to gain interest from producers.
Discouraged but not defeated, Kaufman moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of more television and film opportunities, eventually landing writing gigs on “The Dana Carvey Show” and “Ned and Stacey” — after spending nearly five more years failing to have his screenplays produced.
He found his stride when Spike Jonze received a copy of his script for “Being John Malkovich,” a mind-bending realism film that follows actor John Malkovich portraying a fictional version of himself as he discovers that others have found a portal into his mind.
The film put Kaufman on the map as a bold and groundbreaking writer and earned his first Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay. Three years later Kaufman and Jonze partnered again for “Adaptation,” which again merged the physical and the psychological, the real and the fictitious, with Nicholas Cage (cast for the roles as Kaufman and his fictitious twin brother) portraying Kaufman as he struggles to overcome his writer’s block while adapting a novel into a film. “Adaptation” earned Kaufman another Academy Award nomination, this time for best adapted screenplay.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” followed two years later and clinched the Oscar that year for best original screenplay, as well as a host of other prestigious accolades for the writer. Kaufman then made his directorial debut with 2008’s “Synecdoche, New York,” in addition to serving as the film’s writer and producer.
After a brief hiatus, Kaufman went to work on his latest project, “Anomalisa.” Pushing his own boundaries of surrealism again, Kaufman directed, wrote and produced the stop-motion drama in which a self-help author struggles to reach deeper human connection in a world where everyone around him looks and sounds exactly the same. The screenplay began as a play Kaufman penned in 2005 under a pseudonym, Francis Fregoli. After its stage run, Kaufman began a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough funds for a Hollywood-free production that would allow him more creative license. His production team also used 3D printers to build the film’s puppets, offering a distinctly peculiar cast of visual characters for the film. For the cast, Kaufman only needed three, calling on David Thewlis to voice the lead character, Michael Stone; Jennifer Jason Leigh to voice Stone’s love interest, Lisa Hessleman; and Tom Noonan to voice, as the credits state, “everyone else.”
“Anomalisa” will premiere at the Terrace Theater, 1956 D Maybank Highway, on Friday. Tickets are $8 for seniors, military and students; $10.50 for general admission. Call 843-762-4247 or go to www.TerraceTheater.com for more information.
When Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” opened in 1963, no one could have known that it would remain a Broadway fixture for four years straight, tallying more than 1,500 performances and becoming the 10th longest-running play in Broadway’s history.
The plot centers on newlyweds Paul and Corie, who have just moved into their first apartment together in New York City, and takes place over the course of four days as the couple begin to face the challenges and discoveries of romantic cohabitation. As Corie worries that Paul is too uptight and lacks a sense of romance and adventure, Paul begins to question Corie’s practicality.
The Flowertown Players production features Marissa Rocco as Corie, Joseph Demerly as Paul, Sue Vinick as Ethel, Ernie Eliason as Velasco, Barry Gordon as the telephone repair man and Dustin Lack as the delivery man, under the direction of J.C. Conway, assisted by Leslie Ross. The play will be staged at the James F. Dean Theatre, 133 South Main St., in Summerville and will run Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20-$25 and are available at the box office or online at www.FlowerTownPlayers.org. Call (843) 875-9251 or go to the company’s website for more information.