He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1970 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to film.
Older brother of Susan Maryott.
Directed eight different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson, Burgess Meredith and Laurence Olivier. Christie won an Oscar for Darling (1965).
Schlesinger envisioned a cast of Al Pacino, Julie Christie and Laurence Olivier for Marathon Man (1976). Pacino has said that the only actress he had ever wanted to work with was Christie, who he claimed was "the most poetic of actresses". Producer Robert Evans, who disparaged the vertically challenged Pacino as The Midget when Francis Ford Coppola wanted him for The Godfather (1972) and had thought of firing him during the early shooting of the now-classic film, vetoed Pacino for the lead. Instead, Evans insisted on the casting of the even-shorter Dustin Hoffman! On her part, Christie -- who was notoriously finicky about accepting parts, even in prestigious, sure-fire material -- turned down the female lead, which was then taken by Marthe Keller (who, ironically, became Pacino's lover after co-starring with him in Bobby Deerfield (1977)). Of his dream cast, Schlesinger only got Olivier, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. "Marathon Man" was his last unqualified hit as a film director.
Was a member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1985.
Profiled in "Conversations with Directors: An Anthology of Interviews from Literature/Film Quarterly", E.M. Walker, D.T. Johnson, eds. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008.
Was offered A Clockwork Orange (1971) to direct but passed on the project because of the violence.
While shooting Marathon Man (1976), Schlesinger realized he had no idea of how to stage a fight, so he watched other films to see how it was done.
He was awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on January 10, 2003.
Parents are Bernard Edward and Winnifred Henrietta Schlesinger.
His brother, the publisher and literary agent Roger Schlesinger married into Peggy Ashcroft's family and had an actress daughter Katharine Schlesinger.