Jonathan David Kaufer (March 14, 1955 – October 2, 2013) was an American film director, screenwriter, and occasional actor. Kaufer received his first job while in his late teens as a writer for the sitcom Mork & Mindy. Filmmaker Howard Zieff later hired Kaufer to do rewrites for his films, and his work on the 1979 film The Main Event led to a development deal enabling him to direct his first film, the romantic comedy Soup for One. At the time, he was the youngest director hired by a major studio.

Kaufer did not make another film for seventeen years, however, he had acting roles in two films and wrote and directed an episode of the television series Dream On. In 1997, his second and final film, Bad Manners, was released. The film, based on a play by David Gilman, received positive reviews, holding an 84% approval rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes.

Kaufer dated model and actress Myra Jean Hall. After he became angry when he learned that she had been in a relationship with another man, he attacked her and was jailed for attempted murder. He was married to actress Pia Zadora from August 1995 to November 2001, and the two had one son together. In 2010, Kaufer sued Zadora, due to claims that Zadora had made which Kaufer alleged were defamation; however, the case was thrown out. Kaufer died on October 2, 2013 when he was ejected from a vehicle while driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

Early life and career

Jonathan David Kaufer[1] was born on March 14, 1955 in Los Angeles, California.[2] His father was Mac and his mother was Jimi. His brother Scott is a television writer and producer, and he also had a sister, Susan.[3] Kaufer first attended Sarah Lawrence College. While there, Kaufer received his first job as a writer when he was hired to write for the sitcom Mork & Mindy.[3] Kaufer also attended Amherst College. While there, he penned comedy screenplays for television. Although his agents advised him to continue attending the school, Kaufer ignored them and was hired as story editor for the short-lived science fiction series Quark.[4]

Filmmaker Howard Zieff discovered Kaufer, which led to Kaufer doing rewrites on the script for Zieff's films The Main Event and Unfaithfully Yours.[5] Kaufer's work on The Main Event gave him a development deal with Warner Bros., which led to him directing the romantic comedy Soup for One.[4] At 24 years old and recently out of college, the film made Kaufer the youngest filmmaker to be hired by a major studio at the time.[6] Kaufer, who also wrote the film's screenplay, was compared to Woody Allen for his work.[7] TV Guide opined that Kaufer "lacks distance or objectivity" but that he "brings a rare type of energy to the film,"[8] and Vincent Canby wrote that "it's energetic, sort of gawky, sometimes obnoxious, occasionally very funny and frequently endearing" and described Kaufer and the cast as "up-and-coming new talents."[9] Kaufer did not direct another film for sixteen years, with The Sacramento Bee noting he had "disappeared".[10]

Kaufer had brief acting roles in the years between making his two films,[6] appearing in the Henry Jaglom film Always... But Not Forever and the John Landis-directed Into the Night.[2] He also wrote and directed "Martin Gets Lucky", an episode of the television series Dream On.[11] It originally aired on August 26, 1990, the eighth episode of the first season.[12] Kaufer also wrote several romantic comedies that he was willing to direct, however, he recalled that "the studios kept folding when I turned in my scripts!"[6]

He made a return to directing with the 1997 film Bad Manners.[6] The film, which stars David Strathairn, Bonnie Bedelia, Saul Rubinek, Caroleen Feeney, and Julie Harris, was based on the play Ghost in the Machine by David Gilman, who also wrote the screenplay.[13] Reviews for the film were generally positive. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that, based on 13 reviews, 85% of critics gave the film a favorable review.[14]

Personal life

Kaufer was married to American actress Pia Zadora from August 1995 to November 2001;[15] they had one son, Jordan.[5] Zadora claimed they separated after Kaufer allegedly threw her against a garage door. Kaufer denied that he had ever done so, claiming that the "brief and mutual physical contact" occurred when Zadora was intoxicated and had attempted to take their son out of a moving vehicle. He also rebuffed a claim that he had attacked Zadora on a ferry, claiming that "Pia fell that evening because she was drunk."[15] In 2010, he filed a lawsuit, claiming that Zadora defamed him. Kaufer detailed that Zadora had taken advantage of their son's developmental issues in order to make "false, outrageous and defamatory reports."[16] The complaint wrote that Zadora alleged Kaufer had downloaded child pornography onto his computer, and that he had molested his son. Zadora won dismissal of the lawsuit, with it being ruled that her statements fell under protected speech.[15]

In 1985, Kaufer was arrested for attempted murder after attacking his then-girlfriend, actress and model Myra Jean Hall, in her apartment. Kaufer, angry that Hall had dated another man, reportedly used a leather rope to choke her. Hall managed to break free and phoned authorities. Kaufer was later released on bond.[17]


Kaufer died in a road accident on October 2, 2013. He had been on his way from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.[5] Driving on Interstate 15, Kaufer was traveling southbound when, for an unknown reason, he began swerving to the right into a dirt median. The vehicle then tilted back into the roadway before swerving back, rolling and ejecting Kaufer from the car. He was announced dead on scene.[1]



Year Title Role Reference
1982 Soup for One Director
1985 Into the Night Actor: Kalijak Script Clerk [18]
Always... But Not Forever Actor: Maxwell [19]
1997 Bad Manners Director [2]


Year Title Role Notes/Reference
1976–1977 Holmes & Yo-Yo Writer "The Thornhill Affair"[20]
"Bye, Bye Bennie"[20]
1978 Quark Story editor [4]
1990[12] Dream On Director
"Martin Gets Lucky"[11]


  1. ^ a b Staff reports. "Man dies in I-15 solo rollover". Desert Dispatch. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Jonathan Kaufer". Allrovi. Archived from the original on October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b The Deadline team. "Jonathan Kaufer Dead – Writer-Director Dies In Car Accident". Deadline.com. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c Pollock, Dale (December 24, 1980). "Kaufer to direct his 'Soup for One'". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ a b c Variety staff. "Jonathan Kaufer, Writer and Director, Dies in Car Accident". Variety. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d Pride, Ray. "Bad Manners". Newcity. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  7. ^ Hassen, Kristie. "Soup for One". AllRovi. Archived from the original on October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Soup For One Review". TV Guide. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  9. ^ Canby, Vincent (April 30, 1982). "'SOUP FOR ONE,' ABOUT COMING OF AGE". The New York Times. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Games People Play 'Bad Manners' serves up scintillating conversations and destructive relationships". The Sacramento Bee. January 1, 1999. 
  11. ^ a b Kaufer, Jonathan (August 26, 1990). "Martin Gets Lucky". Dream On. Season 1. Episode 8. 
  12. ^ a b "Dream On Episodes on FOX". TV Guide. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  13. ^ Deming, Mark. "Bad Manners". Allrovi. Archived from the original on October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bad Manners – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c Staff. "Actress Pia Zadora wins dismissal of defamation lawsuit". Daily Breeze. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  16. ^ Akiba, Chie. "Ex Claims Pia Zadora Defamed Him". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Free On Bail". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. August 14, 1985. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Into the Night – Cast". Allrovi. Archived from the original on July 7, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Always... But Not Forever – Cast". Allrovi. Archived from the original on October 29, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Harris M. Lentz (2001). Science Fiction, Horror & Fantasy Film and Television Credits: Television shows. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 1884. ISBN 978-0-7864-0952-5. 

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