9 Milestones in the Evolution of J.J. Abrams

In this weekend's Super 8, writer/director J.J. Abrams harkens back to the seminal films from his idol Steven Spielberg to create a breath of fresh air in this summer of superheros and sequels. How did the the Los Angeles-raised cinephile transform himself from the guy who wrote the forgettable '90s comedy Taking Care of Business to an Emmy-winning Spielberg collaborator who has succeeded in both television and film, all while maintaining one of the most loyal followings in Hollywood? You can always trace a direct line through a few important projects to illustrate what led to a filmmaker's current success. As such, let's look at nine pivotal credits that track the evolution of J.J. Abrams.

Taking Care of Business (1990)

The son of two producers, Abrams' own professional film career began during his senior year at Sarah Lawrence College, when he -- still using the name Jeffrey Abrams -- and his then writing partner Jill Mazursky (daughter of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice director Paul Mazurksky) came up with a treatment for a comedy about a convict who sneaks out of prison to watch the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series. Touchstone bought and produced the forgettable film starring Jim Belushi and Charles Grodin.

Regarding Henry (1991)

Abrams had slightly better success the next year at the age of 25, when Mike Nichols chose to direct his screenplay for Regarding Henry. About a Manhattan lawyer who tries to regain his memory after escaping a shooting, the drama starred Harrison Ford and Annette Bening. The following year, Mel Gibson and Jamie Lee Curtis would star in the Wunderkind's third produced screenplay in three years, Forever Young.

Armageddon (1998)

After another comedy written with his college writing partner (Gone Fishin') flopped at the box office, Abrams changed his professional name to "J.J." and reunited with Touchstone Pictures for this sci-fi disaster film. Directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and featuring an all-star ensemble cast, Armageddon became the highest-grossing film of the year -- even beating out Abrams' idol Steven Spielberg, who premiered Saving Private Ryan that same summer. Yes, this was a major turning point for the writer who was about to add "director" to his resume...

Felicity (1998)

In a surprising move for someone who had just achieved such impressive box office success, Abrams transitioned into television. Again working with Touchstone, Abrams and his childhood friend Matt Reeves created this drama about one girl's transitional college year. Starring Keri Russell, the beloved WB series ran for four seasons. During the show's first season, Abrams made his directing debut with "Todd Mulcahy" -- a pivotal two-part episode for both the title character and the show's co-creator.

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