With a flair for special effects and an impressive track record for eliciting strong performances, director Robert Zemeckis emerged from the University of Southern California's film school to become a potent filmmaking force in Hollywood. Though his first professional job was writing the script for Steven Spielberg's much-maligned World War II comedy "1941" (1979), Zemeckis staked his reputation as a hit maker with his third directing effort, "Romancing the Stone" (1984), which became a surprise box office success despite low expectations. But it was his next film, "Back to the Future" (1985) that cemented his place in Hollywood as a reliable director of both commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies. By this time, he was earning a reputation for pushing the boundaries of technology onscreen, though often with some criticism for focusing too much on visual effects. Still, Zemeckis continued to churn out hits, including the two "Back to the Future" sequels, as well as the animated-live action hybrid "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988). He achieved esteemed status when he won an Academy Award for his exemplary drama, "Forrest Gump" (1994), which, along with "Back to the Future, became a high water mark in his career. Though he slipped a bit with efforts like "Death Becomes Her" (1992), "Contact" (1997) and "What Lies Beneath" (2000), Zemeckis proved time and again with films like "Cast Away" (2000) and the groundbreaking "Polar Express" (2004) that he was capable of tackling challenging material while remaining commercially viable.