James Gray (born April 14, 1969; New York City) is an American film director and screenwriter. Gray was born in New York City and grew up in the neighborhood of Flushing. He is of Ukrainian-Jewish descent, with grandparents from Ostropol, Western Ukraine. The original family name was "Grayevsky". His father was once an electronics contractor. Gray attended the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where his student film, Cowboys and Angels, helped him get an agent and the attention of producer Paul Webster, who encouraged him to write a script which he could produce. As a child growing up in Queens, New York, Gray aspired to be a painter. However, when introduced in his early teenage years to the works of various filmmakers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Gray's interests expanded to the art of filmmaking. The Yards returned Gray to Queens where the story takes place. In 1994, at age 25, Gray made his first feature film "Little Odessa" (1994), a film starring Tim Roth about a hit man confronted by his younger brother upon returning to his hometown, "Little Odessa," a section of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. The film won the Silver Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival. Miramax Films released James Gray's second feature, "The Yards" (2000) starring Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron and James Caan in fall of 2000. The film was selected for official competition at the 2000 Cannes International Film Festival. His next film "The Immigrant" (2013) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. In October 2016, Gray's film "The Lost City of Z" (2016) premiered at the New York Film Festival. The film, based on the book by David Grann, depicts the life of explorer Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam. Gray first confirmed his plans to write and direct sci-fi space epic "Ad Astra" (2019) on May 12 during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. On June 17, 2020, it was officially confirmed that his next film, titled "Armageddon Time" (2022), would be a coming-of-age drama story of loyalty and friendship against the historical backdrop of Ronald Reagan's presidential election loosely based on Gray's childhood memories, with Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong cast in the film.