Ex-Focus chief James Schamus to make directing debut on ‘Indignation’

James Schamus
James Schamus will make his feature directing debut with an adaptation of Philip Roth’s “Indignation.” Above, Schamus in New York in 2010.
(Michael Nagle / For The Times)

James Schamus, the former Focus Features chief, is set to make his feature directorial debut with an adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel “Indignation.”

While it’s somewhat rare for executive types to move into the director’s chair, Schamus is a veteran screenwriter and producer known for his work with Ang Lee, including “The Ice Storm,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Hulk,” “Lust, Caution” and an upcoming 3-D project about the golden age of boxing.

Schamus left Focus, the Universal Pictures specialty label he co-founded, amid a major overhaul last year.

In addition to directing “Indignation,” Schamus has written the adaptation of Roth’s novel. Schamus’ longtime collaborator Anthony Bregman is producing the film, which is scheduled to start shooting next summer in New York.


Set in 1951, the film tells the story of Marcus Messner, an idealistic butcher’s son from New Jersey who travels to Ohio to study at a small conservative college. Once there, he finds himself at odds with the administration, grapples with anti-Semitism and sexual repression, and pines after a troubled girl.

In a statement Wednesday, Bregman quipped, “It’s been two decades since I met and first started working with James, and I’ve noticed that he’s still figuring out what he wants to be when he grows up.” He added that Schamus’ shift to directing represents “a tantalizing prospect for anybody who loves movies.”

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