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Stephen Schiff

Stephen Schiff

American writer
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Screenwriter
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth Detroit
Education Wesleyan University
The details

Stephen Schiff is an American screenwriter and journalist. He is best known for his work at The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, his screenplays for Lolita, True Crime, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and his work as a writer and producer on the acclaimed FX television series The Americans.

Early life

Stephen Schiff grew up in Littleton, Colorado He graduated from Wesleyan University.


Schiff began his writing career at The Boston Phoenix, where he became the chief film critic and film editor (succeeding David Denby), and hired and trained such critics as Owen Gleiberman and David Edelstein.

In 1983, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. Later that year, he was named Critic-at-Large of Vanity Fair, a post he held until 1992, when he became a staff writer at The New Yorker, specializing in cultural profiles, many of which appeared under his rubric, “Cultural Pursuits.” His subjects included Steven Spielberg, V.S. Naipaul, Stephen Sondheim, Oliver Stone, Muriel Spark, and Edward Gorey.

From 1987 until 1996, Schiff was also the Film Critic of National Public Radio's Fresh Air. He served three terms as chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, and spent two seasons as a Correspondent on CBS-TV's prime-time newsmagazine West 57th, whose other Correspondents included Steve Kroft and Meredith Vieira.

In 1995, Schiff was asked to write a screenplay adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, by the prospective film’s then-producer, Richard Zanuck. It was Schiff’s first screenplay, and the controversial film that was made from it, directed by Adrian Lyne, was released in 1998. In her New York Times review, critic Caryn James called "Stephen Schiff's discerning, faithful screenplay...sensitive to Nabokov's wit as well as his lyricism." Schiff became a full-time screenwriter, leaving The New Yorker in 2003. His subsequent films include The Deep End of the Ocean (1999), starring Michelle Pfeiffer, and True Crime (1999), directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He also did uncredited writing on Unfaithful (2002), starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere, and Leatherheads (2008), directed by and starring George Clooney.

His recent film work includes the screenplay for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the Oliver Stone-directed sequel to the 1987 film Wall Street.

Schiff is a writer and co-executive producer of the critically acclaimed FX television series The Americans, starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. He is also the writer and executive producer of the extreme sports documentary series Ultimate Rush.

Schiff served four terms on the governing Council of the Writers Guild of America East. He also served as the Writers Guild’s National Chairman and twice headed the East’s negotiating committee. In 2002, he was given the Guild’s Richard B. Jablow Award. Since 2005, he has served as chairman of the Board of the Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition, which publishes Parabola magazine. He recently contributed the critical essay on Nabokov's Lolita to Harvard University Press's landmark scholarly compendium A New Literary History of America, which was published in September, 2009.

In December 2009, Henry Holt and Company announced that it would publish Schiff's forthcoming biography of Norman Mailer.


  • Lolita (1997)
  • The Deep End of the Ocean (1999)
  • True Crime (1999)
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
  • Ultimate Rush (2011- )
  • The Americans (2014- )

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