Born in New York City, Mark Rydell began his long career in entertainment as a regular actor on the soap opera As the World Turns, after training with famed method acting coaches Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg. His first directing work came at the Actors Studio for the play Bo Hickey Creek to much acclaim from his teachers. After directing several more plays in New York, Rydell began working on the television series Ben Casey, doing odd jobs on the set and observing the directing team.
In 1963 he was given his first chance to direct an episode of the series and continued in the medium throughout the rest of the decade, directing for such series as Mr. Novak; The Reporter; Slattery’s People; I Spy; The Wild, Wild West; The Long, Hot Summer; The Fugitive; and Gunsmoke. After gaining attention from his television directing, he was hired to helm his first feature, The Fox in 1967 which won the Golden Globe for Best English-Language Foreign Film, as well as a Globe nomination for Rydell.
This was followed by many critically acclaimed films including The Reivers (1969), The Cowboys (1972), Cinderella Liberty (1973), Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976), The Rose (1979), the much lauded On Golden Pond (1981), The River (1984), For the Boys (1991), Intersection (1994), and Even Money (2006). Rydell also continued to have a prolific career in television, directing the pilot of the series Family in 1976, and the movies-for-television McBride and Groom (1993), Crime of the Century (1996), and the eponymous biopic James Dean (2001), with whom he had been friends with during his early years as an actor.
For his directorial efforts Rydell has been nominated for two DGA Awards, for On Golden Pond in 1982, and for James Dean in 2002. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for his direction of On Golden Pond, as well as three Primetime Emmys—two for directing and producing James Dean—and another for his direction of Crime of the Century. An active Guild member, Rydell served on the DGA’s National Board from 1987-91, the Western Directors Council from 1982-84, 1987-92, 1998-2007, and was a member of the 1977 and 1981 Negotiating Committees.
This interview was conducted by Jeremy Kagan over two days at the DGA Building in Los Angeles on August 12, 2003 and January 15, 2004.