Charles Stuart Kaufman (born September 20, 1958) is an Academy Award winning American screenwriter, identified by Premiere magazine as one of the 100 most powerful people in Hollywood.
Life and work
Kaufman was born to a Jewish family in New York City.He later moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, and was a graduate of William H. Hall High School, graduating with a 3.1 GPA. After graduting from film school at New York University, he worked for a time in Minneapolis before moving to Los Angeles. He got his start in television, writing two episodes for Chris Elliott's Get a Life, as well as a couple of dozen other episodes of shows like Ned and Stacey and The Dana Carvey Show.
He first came to prominence as the writer of Being John Malkovich, earning an Oscar nomination for his effort and a BAFTA. He also wrote Human Nature, which was directed by Michel Gondry and then worked with Spike Jonze again as the screenwriter for Adaptation., which earned him another Oscar nomination and his second BAFTA. Adaptation featured a "Charlie Kaufman" character that is a heavily fictionalized version of the screenwriter, including an "identical twin brother" that is possibly a figment of the writer's imagination allowing him to "sell out" to Hollywood while keeping his artistic integrity intact.
He also penned the screenplay for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a biopic based on the "unauthorized autobiography" of Chuck Barris, a gameshow host who claims to have also been a CIA hitman; this was directed by George Clooney in his directorial debut. Kaufman angrily criticized George Clooney for making dramatic alterations to the Confessions of a Dangerous Mind script without consulting him whatsoever. Kaufman said in an interview with William Arnold: "The usual thing for a writer is to deliver a script and then disappear. That's not for me. I want to be involved from beginning to end. And these directors [Gondry, Jonze] know that, and respect it."
His most recent film script and story is for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his second film with director Michel Gondry, for which he received his first Oscar for best screenplay and third BAFTA. Kaufman also received the prestigious PEN American Center 2005 prize for screenplay for the film . David Edelstein described the film in Slate as "The Awful Truth turned inside-out by Philip K. Dick, with nods to Samuel Beckett, Chris Marker, John Guare—the greatest dramatists of our modern fractured consciousness. But the weave is pure Kaufman." Kaufman will make his directorial debut with his next project, Synecdoche. Academy-award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Michelle Williams are both attached to the film, which tells "the story of an anguished playwright who is forced to deal with several women in his life."
Kaufman's works often focus on an introverted, somewhat shy, male protagonist and a more dominant female figure. This is true of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Joel/Clementine), Adaptation. (Charlie/Susan) and Being John Malkovich (Craig/Maxine).
He lives in Pasadena, California.
Kaufman wrote and directed the play Hope Leaves the Theater, a segment of the sound-only production Theater of the New Ear. This play starred Meryl Streep, Hope Davis and Peter Dinklage. In the world of the play, it was the last thing Charlie Kaufman (the character) wrote before he committed suicide. The title actually refers to Hope Davis' character "leaving the theater."
Theater of the New Ear, including Hope Leaves the Theater, debuted in April 2005 at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, NY. 
Among Charlie Kaufman's favourite writers and influences are Franz Kafka, Samuel Beckett, Stanisław Lem, Philip K. Dick, Flannery O'Connor, Stephen Dixon, Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith. The phrase "eternal sunshine of the spotless mind" is drawn from Alexander Pope's poem Eloisa to Abelard. There are also references in Kaufman's work to another literary figure, Italo Svevo. One of his characters is named after the Italian Modernist writer (Mary Svevo in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and Svevo's novel La Coscienza di Zeno (Confessions of Zeno, or Conscience of Zeno, 1923) also seems to be important in connection with Kaufman's writing.
"Consciousness is a terrible curse. I think. I feel. I suffer."
- Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) in Being John Malkovich
"You are what you love, not what loves you."
- Donald Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) in Adaptation.
"I liked Woody Allen when I was younger. The early Woody Allen is a complete mess, which I liked as a kid, but he was also a person that I could aspire to be, you know, short Jewish guys up there on the screen. I wanted to write comedies when I was younger, and yeah I liked his style. But I had a different idea of things then." (...)
"I don’t really have anything against stories, but I just want to feel something happening. I read something that Emily Dickinson said that I’m going to paraphrase: you know something’s poetry if a shiver goes up your spine."
- In an Interview with Michael Koresky and Matthew Plouffe, Reverse Shot Online, Spring 2005
- Being John Malkovich (1999)
- Human Nature (2001)
- Adaptation. (2002)
- Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
- Synecdoche, New York (2007)
- Synecdoche, New York (2007)
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