His feature film credits include The Accused, the story of a rape victim forced to fight for her rights in court, for which Jodie Foster won her first Academy Award as Best Actress; Love Field, which starred Michelle Pfeiffer (who received an Oscar nomination) and explored racial issues against the backdrop of the early 1960s; Immediate Family, which starred Glenn Close, James Woods and Mary Stuart Masterson and focused on the changing nature of the family, and Unlawful Entry, a thriller which starred Kurt Russell, Madeline Stowe and Ray Liotta and examined the often thin line between the criminal and those upholding the law.
Kaplan, born in Paris, comes from a show-business family. His father was composer Sol Kaplan, and his mother was actress Frances Heflin, who was well known to television audiences as Erica Kane's mother Mona on the long-running soap opera All My Children. She was the sister of actor Van Heflin. Kaplan's father was among the many blacklisted writers in Hollywood who lost their jobs during the McCarthy era.
Kaplan's career in the entertainment industry began when he was 11, when his mother took him along when she went to see director Elia Kazan about understudying Teresa Wright in the Broadway production of The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Kazan asked young Kaplan to understudy the role of Wright's son. A bout of chicken pox plagued the cast, and Kaplan and his mother found themselves on stage together - real-life mother and son playing the same roles on the stage. Kaplan subsequently continued his acting training in high school, joining Elaine May's off-Broadway improvisational children's workshop.
After two years at the University of Chicago - from which he was expelled for anti-Vietnam protests - Kaplan transferred to New York University's undergraduate film school, where one of his teachers was Martin Scorsese. Kaplan's short film, Stanley Stanley, won the grand prize at the 1970 National Student Film Festival. Following college, he spent two years as a lighting designer for Bill Graham's Fillmore East and as a freelance editor for promotional, industrial and television films.
Kaplan ultimately came to the attention of producer Roger Corman, who hired him in 1972 to direct Night Call Nurses, which was made in 13 days for a budget of $75,000. The results impressed Corman enough to give Kaplan another picture - The Student Teachers. This film impressed Corman's brother Gene, who then hired him to direct The Slams, a bigger budget ($300,000) prison escape movie that starred Jim Brown. Kaplan's next picture, Truck Turner, starring Isaac Hayes, was equally low-budget and commercially successful.
Meanwhile, Kaplan and NYU classmate Ken Friedman had developed an idea for a modern-day western, using trucks instead of horses. In 1975, White Line Fever, a powerful story of corruption in the trucking industry, was made for a budget of $1.5 million and went on to gross over $50 million internationally. Kaplan subsequently directed Mr. Billion, a loose re-working of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
His next two films fell victim to the vagaries of movie distribution, only to ultimately emerge successful. In 1979, his critically acclaimed story of value-less teens in suburbia, Over the Edge (which was the feature film debut of Matt Dillon), was unable to find an audience until Joseph Papp played it for a week at the Public Theatre in New York and influential critic Vincent Canby placed it on his Ten Best List.
In 1983, Heart Like a Wheel, the story of race car driver Shirley Muldowney, was given an unprecedented second release by Twentieth Century Fox after its initial marketing campaign proved unsuccessful. The film went on to make more Ten Best Lists than any other film released that year, and earned Bonnie Bedelia a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. In 1987, Kaplan directed the popular thriller Project X, which starred Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt. Most recently, Kaplan directed the female-dominated western Bad Girls.
He has also directed several movies for television, including the recent mini-series adaptation of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, episodes of the popular ER series, which he also produces, as well as music videos for Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart, John Mellencamp and Paula Abdul.
Jonathan Kaplan Facts
|Birthday||November 25, 1947 (76)|