A movie buff practically since infancy, American producer Joel Silver attended the film school at New York University. After graduation Silver quickly worked his way up to an assistant producer post under Universal's Lawrence Gordon; after considerable success with a series of popular pictures, including a handful of Burt Reynolds vehicles, Silver was appointed president of Lawrence Gordon Productions. As head of his own Silver Pictures in 1980, Silver began inauspiciously with the mishmosh Olivia Newton-John vehicle Xanadu before finding his niche with the stylized violent action of 1984's Streets of Fire. Intense and demanding, Silver drove his staff, cast and crews mercilessly, but such prize properties as the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard series made the effort worthwhile. Silver was able to maintain his industry standing on the basis of these successes, permitting him to ride out his many failures, including Jumpin' Jack Flash (1985), Ford Fairlane (1990), and the potentially career-busting Hudson Hawk (1991). Silver more or less played himself (loud clothes and all) in the on-camera role of an explosive cartoon director in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988).
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Silver's trademark franchises would continue to pad his resume as the years went by, as he produced sequels to movies like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Predator. He would also produce new, but less successful action movies of a similar style, like 1993's Demolition Man and 1995's Fair Game. He would also executive produce countless episodes of the HBO series Tales from the Crypt between 1989 and 1996. Then, in 1999, Silver struck gold -- once again -- when he produced the monumentally successful sci-fi thriller The Matrix. The movie was a huge hit, even if its sequels, released in 2003 and 2004, were dramatically less so. Silver wouldn't be able to duplicate the Matrix's success with productions like 2001's Swordfish and 2002's Ghost Ship, but he gained some niche popularity with 2006's V for Vendetta, and as an executive producer for the series Veronica Mars.
Middling projects like the 2009 horror flick Orphan and Arctic thriller Whiteout kept Silver hard at work, and he would find serious box office success again with the Robert Downy, Jr. hit Sherlock Holmes in 2009, and 2010's apocalyptic Denzel Washington picture, The Book of Eli. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi