Alumni Achievement Award
On October 22, 2016, Robert Mark Kamen (ARTS '69) received the CAS Alumni Achievement Award at the Alumni Day CAS Dean's Luncheon. Kamen has been credited with writing some of Hollywood’s most iconic action films. After graduating with honors from NYU’s University College of Arts and Science in 1969 and receiving his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975, his screenwriting career began with the sale of his first screenplay to Warner Brothers in 1979.
One of Kamen’s biggest box office successes, "The Karate Kid," opened to critical acclaim in 1984, paving the way for a filmmaking career spanning almost forty years. Kamen is responsible for a slew of Hollywood blockbusters, including "Taps" (which introduced Sean Penn and Tom Cruise to the world in 1981), "The Fifth Element," "The Professional," "The Transporter" series, "A Walk in the Clouds," "Lethal Weapon III," and all three films of the "Taken" franchise starring Liam Neeson.
Kamen believes everything happens for a reason, and yet nothing in his life was ever planned. After the unexpected six figure sale of his first screenplay, he decided to spend every cent on 280 acres in Sonoma County, turning the rocky soil into his beloved vineyard, Kamen Estate Wines. Kamen, enamored with the view, didn’t have a second thought about buying the property. The vineyard has featured prominently in Kamen’s life and is threaded throughout his filmmaking career—he lives at the vineyard and continues to write scripts in Sonoma County.
In the 1990’s, Kamen landed a gig rewriting scripts for some of Warner Bros. biggest investments. He has worked on major pictures including "Under Siege" and "The Fugitive"—often forgoing his name in the credits—but many of his movies are personal. Kamen is a Goju-Ryu karate practitioner and based "The Karate Kid"’s Mr. Miyagi character on Kamen’s own martial arts inspiration.
Kamen navigates his twin passions—screenwriting and winemaking—with ease. He continues to enjoy the beautiful Sonoma County landscape while working on future film scripts. His latest project, action adventure film "Warrior’s Gate," is set for a 2016 release.