Nicole Kassell

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Nicole Kassell
EducationColumbia University (BA)
New York University (MFA)
Occupationfilm and television director
RelativesLauren Kassell

Nicole Kassell (born 1972) is an American film and television director who is noted for her work on films such as The Woodsman and on TV in series such as Vinyl, The Leftovers and Watchmen.

In January 2020, Kassell won the Directors Guild of America Award for Dramatic Series for directing the Watchmen episode "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice".[1]

Early life

Kassell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised in Charlottesville, VA where she attended St. Anne's-Belfiield School. Her father, Dr. Neal Kassell, a University of Virginia medical professor, performed two brain surgeries on Joe Biden in 1988 to repair his aneurysm and the two have remained friends ever since.[2][3][4][5][6]

She earned a BA in Art history from Columbia University,[7] and received her MFA from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.[8][9] While a student at NYU, she made three short films, including The Green Hour, which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002.[8]



While attending NYU she was honored with a full scholarship for two years. She was awarded with the 1999 DGA Student Female Filmmaker Prize for her short film Jaime, and in 2002 her screenplay The Woodsman won first prize at the Slamdance Screenplay Competition.[10][8] The Woodsman would go on to receive recognition, including a CACAE (art house award) at the Directors' Fortnight at The Cannes Film Festival, The Jury Prize at the Deauville Film Festival, a Humanitas nomination, and The Satyajit Ray Award at the London Film Festival.[8]


A year earlier, she had won the Slamdance Screenplay Competition[11] for her first feature-length project, The Woodsman (2004 film),[9][12] adapted from Steven Fechter's 1997 minimalist play she had seen staged at The Actors Studio in New York City. Her enthusiasm for it convinced Lee Daniels, one of the producers of Monster's Ball, to help her get funding for the film version. When he approached Kevin Bacon, the actor was so impressed by the script, about a convicted child molester forced to deal with social prejudice and the fear he will not be able to control his dark urges after he is released from prison, that he suggested he star in the movie opposite wife Kyra Sedgwick. The Woodsman competed at Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival, was featured in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, and eventually was released to the public in 2004. Kassell's second feature film, A Little Bit of Heaven, a romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson and Gael García Bernal, had its first release in February 2011 in the UK.[citation needed]

She has adapted Arthur Miller's play The Ride Down Mt. Morgan for the big screen. The project has been in pre-production since 2004 and will reportedly feature a cast that includes Diane Keaton, Emily Blunt and Michael Douglas if it goes into production. Douglas would also serve as executive producer.[citation needed]

In February 2021, Kassell was chosen to direct a new adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at New Line Cinema.[13]


Kassell has directed episodes of the series Cold Case and 3 lbs (both on CBS), The Closer (on TNT), The Killing (on AMC), Vinyl (on HBO)[14][15] and The Americans (on FX). She also is writing an adaptation of the book Bad Medicine for HBO.[citation needed]

In 2018, it was announced that Kassell would direct the pilot for the HBO series Watchmen.[16][17] In January 2020, Kassell won the Directors Guild of America Award for Dramatic Series for directing the Watchmen episode "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice".[1]

Kassell recently signed with WME.[18]

Personal life

Kassell is now living in New York City, with her husband and two children.[8] In an interview for a Complex article, Kassell described part of her ethnic identity and how it informed her work on the Watchmen series: "My father is Jewish and I am half-Jewish. We all lived in Charlottesville, and I’m just realizing in talking with you, that my ancestors escaped the pogroms of Ukraine. How much is there actually in my DNA history that I’m not even aware of that I am pouring into this?."[19]



Year Title Director Writer
2004 The Woodsman Yes Yes
2011 A Little Bit of Heaven Yes No

Short films

Year Title Director Producer Writer
1999 Jamie Yes No No
Spent Nation No Yes No
2001 Slo-Mo No Yes No
2002 The Green Hour Yes Co-producer Yes


Year Title Episodes directed
2006 3 lbs
  • "Disarming"
2006-2008 Cold Case
  • "One Night"
  • "Sabotage"
2009-2010 The Closer
  • "Elysian Fields"
  • "High Crimes"
2011-2014 The Killing
2013 Suits
  • "Zane vs. Zane"
2013-2015 The Following
  • "Havenport"
  • "Reflection"
  • "Unmasked"
  • "Home"
  • "The Edge"
  • "Modern Times"
  • "The Future"
2013-2017 The Americans
  • "Covert War"
  • "Dinner for Seven"
  • "The World Council of Churches"
2015 Better Call Saul
2015-2016 American Crime
  • "Episode Six"
  • "Season Two: Episode Ten"
2015-2017 The Leftovers
2016 Vinyl
  • "Cyclone"
2017 Claws
  • "Tirana"
  • "Teatro"
2018 Westworld
Castle Rock
  • "Romans"
2019 Watchmen
2021 The Baby Episode #1.1


  1. ^ a b "'1917' Director Takes Home Top Prize At DGA Awards". Patch. January 26, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  2. ^ Daly, Michael (2020-11-08). "Surgeon Who Saved Biden's Life Recalls Fateful Prediction". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  3. ^ Olurunnipa, Toluse (October 24, 2020). "Both Biden and Trump have questioned the other's physical and mental fitness. Here's what we know about their health". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  4. ^ "Neal Kassell - Focused Ultrasound Foundation". Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  5. ^ Cochran, Cheryl (2016-04-08). "How an obscure medical technology caught the eye of Joe Biden. And John Grisham". STAT. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  6. ^ Tina Nguyen. "Neurosurgeon: I've Seen Biden's Brain and It's Perfectly Fine". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  7. ^ "AitN: August 10, 2020". Columbia College Today. August 10, 2020. Retrieved August 10, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Nicole Kassell". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  9. ^ a b "Going out on a limb". LA Times. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Awards / Students". Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  11. ^ "Slamdance Names Ten Winners of Screenplay Competition". Indie Wire. Indie Wire. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  12. ^ "Released From Prison but Never Really Free". NY Times. NY Times. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  13. ^ Mehrtens, Michelle (February 10, 2021). "Wizard of Oz Remake In The Works From Watchmen TV Show Director". Screen Rant. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  14. ^ "Nicole Kassell on". Indie Wire. Indie Wire. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Seasoned TV Directors Field Wide Array of Job Offers". Variety. Variety. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Watchmen' Is A Go: Damon Lindelof's Pilot Picked Up To Series By HBO". Deadline. Deadline. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Watchmen' HBO Series Taps Nicole Kassell to Direct Pilot". Variety. Variety. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  18. ^ "WME signs director Nicole Kassell". WME. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  19. ^ "Anatomy of a Scene: How 'Watchmen' Director Nicole Kassell Recreated the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots." Clark, Kevin L. Complex. Published October 30, 2019. Accessed August 3, 2020.

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