Birthdate: March 22, 1960
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Nicole Holofcener is an American indie writer-director-producer whose dramedies, focused on (mostly female) characters and relationships, represent a middle ground between the more inventive-experimental schools and the more commercial strains often distributed by studio-backed “indie” distributors. Since the late 1990s, Holofcener has regularly alternated between her feature films as a writer-director and her TV work as a director of episodes in drama and comedy.
Holofcener’s feature debut was Walking and Talking (1996), starring Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, Todd Field, Liev Schreiber, and Kevin Corrigan, earning strong reviews but weak box office returns. Holofcener’s second film, Lovely & Amazing (2001), enjoyed a more successful life, starring Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer, Jake Gyllenhaal, James LeGros, and Dermot Mulroney, premiering at the Telluride Film Festival and grossing a robust $4.7 million worldwide on a $250,000 budget.
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s third feature was even more successful: Friends with Money (2006), again with Keener, co-starring with Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Francis McDormand, Jason Isaacs, Scott Caan, and Greg Germann, and opening the Sundance Film Festival. As well-reviewed as Holofcener’s previous features (but a box-office failure), Please Give (2010) again starred Keener, with Oliver Platt, Ann Guilbert, Amanda Peet, and Rebecca Hall, premiering at Sundance and then out of competition at the Berlin Film Festival.
Ranking among the five best-reviewed releases of 2013, Holofcener’s dramedy Enough Said co-starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini (who died between filming and the Toronto Film Festival premiere), Keener, Toni Collette, and Ben Falcone, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Louis-Dreyfus.
Nicole Holofcener has also worked purely as a screenwriter on select projects, including her big-screen adaptation of Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing (2015), directed by Amy Berg and starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, and Dakota Fanning, as well as her critically acclaimed adapted screenplay for the drama (based on Lee Israel’s confessional memoir), Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018), directed by Marielle Heller and co-starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, premiering at the Telluride Film Festival and winning multiple film critics association prizes; and then as co-writer of another adaptation (Eric Jager’s history book) and a producer on the Ridley Scott-directed medieval drama, The Last Duel (2021), starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck, and Jodie Comer.
Holofcener’s next feature as writer-director, The Land of Steady Habits (2018), co-starring Ben Mendelsohn and Edie Falco, bypassed theaters for Netflix, but ten years passed before Holofcener’s next theatrical big-screen movie as writer-director, You Hurt My Feelings (2023), reuniting her with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, and Jeannie Berlin, and premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.
Nicole Holofcener was born and raised in her early years in New York City. Her birth parents are Lawrence Holofcener (artist) and Carol Shapiro (set decorator). Holofcener has one older sister, Suzanne. At age one, Holofcener’s parents divorced; at age eight, her mother Carol married producer Charles H. Joffe, the longtime producer of Woody Allen’s movies. At this time, Holofcener’s family moved to Los Angeles.
After high school, Holofcener attended Sonoma State University, where she studied art. She transferred to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied cinema and made short films. After working in a video store, Holofcener resumed her film studies in a graduate program at Columbia University, with some classes taught by Martin Scorsese, and made a short film titled Angry (1991), which screened at the Sundance Film Festival. Holofcener was married to director Benjamin Allanoff from 1993 to 2002; the couple has two children.
Movie Trauma: Nicole Holofcener recalls mainly negative feelings about the first movies she watched, including being scared watching Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (1963).
Second Thoughts: Even though Holofcener was able to get her first movie jobs through her stepfather Charles H. Joffe on such Woody Allen movies as Take the Money and Run (1969), Sleeper (1973), A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982), and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), on which she was an apprentice editor, Joffe disliked her first short films enough that Holofcener left NYU film school. Only after a time working in a video store did Holofcener decide to resume her film studies, but now at Columbia.
Streaming/Cable Life: Between the sometimes long gaps in her various feature films, Nicole Holofcener has become one of the go-to choices for directors or creators/producers of streaming and premium cable series, including at HBO (Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, Bored to Death, Enlightened, Togetherness, Mrs. Fletcher), Netflix (Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), AMC (Lucky Hank), Amazon Prime (One Mississippi), and Apple + (Extrapolations).