Stephen J. Cannel
8″ x 10″ Signed in 1999 at Borders, World Trade Center, New York, NY
Stephen’s career spans several decades and he has become a Hollywood legend. Find out more about him and see some of his personal photographs.
Emmy Award-winning writer/producer, bestselling author and Chairman of Cannell Studios, Stephen J. Cannell’s highly successful career spans 35 years of writing for the diverse fields of television, film, and popular fiction. One of television’s most prolific writers, Cannell has created or co-created more than 38 shows, of which he has scripted more than 350 episodes and produced or executive produced more than 1,500 episodes. His hits include The Rockford Files, The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, The Commish, Wiseguy, and the hit syndicated shows Renegade and Silk Stalkings.
Cannell’s career as a novelist began 2 decades after his initial success in television. In 1995, Cannell made a smooth transition into the literary world with the publication of his debut novel, The Plan, a political thriller that became a national bestseller. He followed that book’s success with two more critically acclaimed national bestsellers: Final Victim, a thriller in the genre of Silence of the Lambs, and King Con, a confidence-game yarn. Feature film rights to King Con were sold to MGM for $1 million and Cannell wrote the screenplay for the film. A feature film version of Final Victim is also in development. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers Riding the Snake and The Devil’s Workshop. St. Martin’s Press published Cannell’s sixth novel, The Tin Collectors, in January, 2001.
According to Cannell, choosing writing as a profession was “a very cocky idea for a guy who couldn’t pass most of his English courses.” Impaired by severe dyslexia that went undiagnosed throughout his teen years, he flunked out of 2 schools before graduating at the bottom of his high school class. Undaunted by scholastic failure, Cannell optimistically listed “author” as his ambition under his yearbook photo. After receiving his college diploma, Cannell married his 8th-grade sweetheart and took a job in his father’s interior design firm, pursuing his writing career after hours. Over the next few years, he sold several story ideas to Mission Impossible and an episodic television script to It Takes a Thief.
Cannell’s television career finally took off in 1966, when he submitted a script for the Universal series, Adam 12. The producers and actors were so impressed by the story line and dialogue that Cannell was immediately offered the position of head writer. An “overnight success” while working at Universal, Cannell increasingly gained the respect of his colleagues for his skills as a writer and his instincts as a creator of new programming. The Rockford Files, Baretta, and Baa Baa Black Sheep are among the many popular shows he created during his tenure there.
An unstoppable creative force, Cannell is also a savvy businessman. In 1979, Cannell formed his own independent production company, Stephen J. Cannell Productions, in order to achieve creative control over material he was writing and producing. Seven years later, he formed The Cannell Studios to oversee all aspects of the organization’s operations. Having surpassed the $1 billion mark in production outlays, the studio experienced remarkable growth and diversification in such areas as production (films, mini-series, commercials), merchandising and first-run/off-network programming until its purchase by New World Communications Group in 1995 (which itself was purchased two years later by 20th Century Fox). Cannell still owns the worldwide distribution rights to about 1,000 hours of Cannell-produced series and TV movies.
Currently, Cannell has a variety of ongoing television and film projects lined up: he is presently in co-production with Gold Circle Films on Dawg, a theatrical motion picture starring Denis Leary and Elizabeth Hurley; the writer/producer of the motion picture Director’s Cut; and the executive producer of Terror.net, a movie being produced at Showtime. Other films Cannell currently has in development include: The A-Team feature film in development at Fox 2000; The Greatest American Hero feature film in development at Disney; Morning Into Midnight, a mini-series being developed at CBS; and the Jake Lassiter series of novels in development at Paramount Television.
Cannell has also amassed a variety of acting credits, guest-starring in many recurring TV roles including Diagnosis Murder, Pacific Blue, and Renegade. He has also appeared in 4 motion pictures.
A devoted family man, Cannell is a third generation Californian who currently resides in the Los Angeles area with Marcia, his wife of more than 30 years, and their children. A spokesperson on the subject of dyslexia, Cannell sponsored and performed in Gifts of Greatness, a film play depicting famous dyslexics in history. The video has been used as a vital educational tool and has been shown around the world.