Jeremy Leven was born in South Bend, Indiana and grew up in Chicago; Yuba City, California; Olympia, Washington; and Rye, New York. He was educated at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, Harvard University, the University of Connecticut and Yale University Medical School, where he was a fellow at the Department of Psychiatry's Child Studies Center.
He has been a television producer-director at the NBC-TV outlet in Boston, a psychologist at the State Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts, a Mental Health Center Director, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and Director of Children and Drug Treatment Programs for Western Massachusetts. In 1968 he founded, wrote and directed "The Proposition," a frequently changing political satirical review that ran in Cambridge, Massachusetts for 10 years and Off-Broadway.
In April 2006, Leven was awarded a Special Award for Outstanding Achievement by the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis University. Due to a scheduling conflict, he was unable to attend, but his step-son, the up-and-coming filmmaker John Krokidas, accepted the award on his behalf.
In September 2005, Leven was awarded Connecticut Outstanding Filmmaker of the Year award.
In April 2006, at Monaco's annual Cinema and Literature International Forum, Prince Albert of Monaco awarded Leven the Prix du Meilleur Scénariste d'Adaptations Littéraires (Best Screenwriter) Award.
He and his wife, Roberta Danza, a psychotherapist, currently divide their time between Woodbridge, Connecticut, New York City, and Paris. [February 2011]
The works of Fyodor Dostoevsky have twice provided the inspiration for Leven's screenplays. Leven's The Gambler was based on the story of Dostoevsky's writing of his novella of the same name (Dostoevsky wrote the story under a strict deadline to pay off gambling debts) and was filmed by Rob Reiner as Alex & Emma (2003). Leven's script The Double, about a man whose life is taken over by his doppelganger, was based on Dostoevsky's novella of the same name and came close to being filmed in 1996 before creative differences between director Roman Polanski and lead actor John Travolta led to the project being cancelled.
Personal Quotes (6)
[on adapting Nicholas Sparks' novel for The Notebook (2004)] The biggest challenge is to make it real, not to make it saccharine. There's a sleight of hand while you're pulling the audience's strings not to let them know, so they don't feel like you're pulling their strings. It's a very difficult thing to do and it's a very delicate line between it, to make sure that it's real. You still get them to cry at the end, but they're crying over something that's real. It's not hard to get an audience to cry, but to get them to cry because it resonates with them - that's hard.
My first novel, Creator, is about faith. The second one is about the devil coming for psychotherapy because he feels he is unloved and misunderstood. That's all about faith. At the end, the devil has destroyed the life of the psychiatrist - absolutely destroyed it. He's lost everything: his children, his home, his job, his wife, everything. And he's off to do it again, and the devil says, "I don't get this. Hope. Hope. Hope. He's off doing it again. Where does this ever come from?" So all my novels, a lot of my screenplays, they all deal with love and faith and religion a lot. I always have a cryptic that my kids know about. I have "704" because "7" is "G", "0" is "O" and "4" is "D". So there's always a phone number with 704 or an address with 704 or something in every book that I write. Every screenplay that I write, there's always 704 in it somewhere.
[on Girl on a Bicycle (2013)] Paris has become a repository of beautiful-girl genes, so everywhere one goes, they pass by like a May breeze. I just saw the pretty girls riding by in Paris and came up with the idea. The theme is, as Derek says in the film, that "there will always be a girl on a bicycle", meaning that there will always be someone or something that makes us wonder what could have been and can have a very distracting presence.
[on working with Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando on Don Juan DeMarco (1994)] Johnny wanted to work with Marlon a whole lot. Obviously, I did not have Marlon Brando in mind when I wrote the film. I felt like I was watching probably the greatest actor now working passing the torch on to the greatest actor in his 30s. They're both instinctive actors. Although they'll discuss on an intellectual level with some emotional grounding, when they finally get down to it I don't think they have a clue what they're doing in front of a camera. It's totally instinctive. It's just brilliant. And they're constantly surprising.
[on Don Juan DeMarco (1994)] I had a decision to make about what to do about Marlon's weight, regarding the fact that he is heavy. Actually, it was Marlon's idea, when we starting shooting the first scene, suddenly he walks up to Richard C. Sarafian and taps him on the tummy and says, "Putting on a little weight." That came out of nowhere. I never wrote that line. That was Marlon's line. But I figured, "Well, that was his way of dealing."
[on The Notebook (2004)] The problem with the book is that it's melodramatic and sweet, and you have to find a way to appeal to an audience that is apprehensive about yet another sweet movie. So you have to give it an edge, make it real and make the choices the characters face real. I thought that Nick Cassavetes did some very good things - I don't mind being rewritten if it's better, I can learn from it. I'm very happy with the film.