John Ridley

John Ridley wrote the screenplay for the 2013 historical drama 12 Years a Slave, for which he won an Academy Award.


Born in Wisconsin in 1965, John Ridley started out his career in television. He wrote for such shows as Martin and The John Larroquette Show in the 1990s. In 1997, Ridley published his first novel Stray Dogs. He also made his directorial debut with Cold Around the Heart, which he also wrote. Ridley went on to work on such shows as Barbershop and such films as Undercover Brother. For his screenplay for 12 Years a Slave (2013), he won the 2014 Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.

Early Life and Career

Born in Wisconsin in 1965, John Ridley is a leading African American writer, director and producer. He has written and produced for both television and film. Ridley started out on the small screen, writing for the sitcom Martin starring Martin Lawrence in the early 1990s. He soon moved on to The John Larroquette Show, working as a writer and a producer.

Switching to more dramatic fare, Ridley made his directorial debut with the crime thriller Cold Around the Heart (1997). He also wrote the screenplay for the film, which stars David Caruso and Kelly Lynch. That same year, Ridley published his first novel Stray Dogs. The book became a film by Oliver Stone called U Turn (1997).

Talented Author, Director and Producer

Over the next few years, Ridley published several more novels, including Everybody Smokes in Hell (1999) and Drift (2002). One of his stories was used as the basis for 1999 Iraq war film Three Kings starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube. Around this time, another of his creative endeavors was brought to the big screen. The comedy Undercover Brother (2002), starring Eddie Griffin, was adapted from Ridley's animated web series of the same title.

On television, Ridley continued to demonstrate the range of his skills. He served as a producer on such shows as the drama Third Watch and such comedies as The Wanda Sykes Show and Barbershop, for which he also wrote and directed some episodes as well. He worked with Emilio Estevez on the film Bobby (2006), serving as a producer on this examination into the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Illustrating just how multitalented he is, Ridley released a comic book he wrote entitled The American Way the following year.

Working with director Steve McQueen, Ridley helped bring one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2013 to the big screen. He served as a screenwriter for 12 Years a Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Ridley used Northup's memoirs for this adaptation of a true life tale. For his efforts on 12 Years a Slave, he won the 2014 Academy Award for best adapted screenplay and was nominated for a Golden Globe in the best motion picture screenplay category.

In addition to 12 Years a Slave, Ridley debuted another one of his projects in 2013: He directed and wrote All Is By My Side, a biographical film about rock legend Jimi Hendrix. André Benjamin, better known as André 3000, plays Hendrix in the movie. The film is scheduled to release nationwide in September 2014. In January 2014, news broke that Ridley had landed a deal for a pilot for a new television series, American Crime, for the ABC television network.

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