When he first appeared as teenager Sam Weir in the highly acclaimed TV comedy ‘Freaks and Geeks’ (1999), John Francis Daley surprised us with his thespian flair, starring alongside Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and Busy Philipps. Merely a child at the time, Daley became an easily recognizable presence in Hollywood, quickly establishing himself as a rising star.


He emerged in the spotlight again years later as Dr Lance Sweets in the FOX procedural drama ‘Bones’ (2007), where his dynamic with Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz’s characters made him into a fan favourite. With other film and TV roles under his belt, however, Mr Daley quickly proved that acting was not his only talent.


Shortly before season 10 of ‘Bones’ began filming, Daley branched out into directing for the National Lampoon’s reboot of ‘Vacation’ (2015), after he’d already delivered exquisite screenplays for ‘Horrible Bosses’ (2011), ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ (2014), and ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ (2013). Dr Lance Sweets was killed, and Mr Daley was free to expand his artistic career.

As an actor, he captured many hearts with his big brown eyes and his childlike appeal, but as a writer, Daley creates great comedy, remarkably high above the average and far from the norm. Today, John Francis Daley is even better known as one of the writers behind ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ (2017) and as one half of the directorial duo responsible for ‘Dungeons & Dragons’.


Born in Wheeling, Illinois, and raised in Nyack, New York, John Francis Daley received plenty of artistic influences from his parents. R.F. Daley, his father, was an esteemed Broadway actor, and the two even met on-screen once during young Mr Daley’s guest appearance on ‘Boston Public’ (2000), as TV father and son. His mother was a piano teacher and an accomplished musician. That, too, played a significant part in his artistic evolution.

Mr Daley got his first taste of acting when he played Danny in the Nyack middle school production of ‘Grease’. His break came with the role of Young Tommy in the US and international tours of ‘The Who’s Tommy’, a Broadway hit that further pushed him into the Hollywood spotlight. His first love, however, was not acting.

‘I had always been interested in screenwriting, ever since I could write things down as a child. Obviously, I started as an actor, professionally, but screenwriting was always something that I had great interest in,’ the actor/writer/comedian/director once said in an interview with Collider. Slowly, but surely, Daley began to make his mark in the writers’ room, as well.

Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley. CREDIT: ROB LATOUR/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Upon meeting Jonathan Goldstein, the path to writing and directing films became clear and impossible to ignore. The duo teamed up for ‘Horrible Bosses’, after both had already written their share of episodes for ‘Bones’, where Daley was still involved at the time. ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’ (2013) followed, starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, and a host of other Hollywood heavyweights, and it garnered numerous positive reviews during its premiere at the SXSW film festival.

The duo then tried their hand at animation, penning the screenplay for ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ alongside Erica Rivinoja, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller. ‘Vacation’ followed after ‘Horrible Bosses 2’, and it was where Mr Daley said goodbye to his steady acting work. As an emerging writer and director, the move made all the sense in the world.

‘Once you see the entertainment world from both sides, you really get a greater understanding of how it all operates. As an actor going into screenwriting, I was able to understand what type of dialogue feels natural and what an actor could actually say.’

Mr Daley was obviously more than just the boy-faced Lance Sweets or Sam Weir. He was writing, and he was writing well, particularly in the comedy genre.  Following the release of ‘Vacation’, an evolution in Mr Daley’s writing style can be observed. A shift from clean and goofy comedy to the darker type—gritty, violent, but tremendously hilarious, nonetheless. The free-wheeling writing that borders on black comedy, rife with blunt-force physical trauma and dry humour is a formula that seems to simply… work. 

And that is the formula that later brought ‘Game Night’. Mr Daly truly excelled here. Making good comedy these days is never an easy task, but the film certainly proved that it could still be done, especially if the casting is a perfect fit for the characters involved—in this case, Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman, who were beyond fantastic.


Not wanting to adhere strictly to the comedy genre, Mr Daley followed up on his ‘Game Night’ success by joining the writers’ team of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, along with his friend and co-writer, Mr Goldstein. The film’s success propelled the duo higher into the Hollywood stratosphere, as the team have recently been confirmed to take on ‘Dungeons & Dragons’, Hasbro’s iconic roleplaying board game, thus bringing it to the silver screen. It’s an ambitious project that has already captured the interest and excitement of the game’s gargantuan fandom. 

They’re also scheduled to bring the ‘M.A.S.K.’ animated TV series to the big screen, as well as a comedic nod to the classic ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, which is titled ‘The $40,000 Man’. Little-known fact, the latter was actually Daley and Goldstein’s first project together, and it is now finally getting its shot at production, after New Line Cinema picked it up.

Hopefully everyone understands why it is already causing some serious giggles. ‘The $40,000 Man’ follows a legendary astronaut and American hero who is horribly injured in a car crash and is rebuilt as a bionic man by the government on a side-splittingly limited budget. ‘We were thinking about the whole concept of “The Six Million Dollar Man”, and we thought that it would be funny if the government didn’t have enough money’, Mr Daley said to The Hollywood Reporter.

Setting the laughter aside, what truly sets him apart as a screenwriter is the ability to take his acting experience and put it into his writing. ‘Once you see the entertainment world from both sides, you really get a greater understanding of how it all operates. As an actor going into screenwriting, I was able to understand what type of dialogue feels natural and what an actor could actually say,’ he told Collider.


Though still very young and with plenty of years ahead, John Francis Daley shows tremendous potential as a screenwriter and as a director. While most of his work is closely tied to Jonathan Goldstein for now, we are wondering what his solo projects will look like. His versatility is a noticeable advantage, as he naturally delves into multiple aspects of the film industry. Furthermore, his affinity for music has turned him into a keyboard player and vocalist in his own band, Dayplayer, which ultimately makes him the aforementioned Jack of artistic trades.

He’s no stranger to unemployment, either, his ascension in the cinematic world being anything but easy. Mr Daley held his ground, more than once, when negotiating his contracts. For a while, he was practically jobless after a producer failed to meet his quote. The hiatus did help him establish his credibility as a bankable TV personality, and his more recent accomplishments prove it.

His discerning nature, along with the clarity in his choices so far put Daly farther ahead of other writers and directors of his generation. His ability to work seamlessly in front of and behind the camera gives him more room to play, where his characters and plots are involved. 

His sense of humour is undoubtedly the most powerful driver for his creativity, and it’s even more valuable when he is able to insert it into almost anything he writes. A more recent example, aside from ‘The $40,000 Man’ is ‘The Creeps’, which Universal Picture has just picked up, and it’s described as a coming-of-age comedic horror. That is a genre cross that no one has dared explore, until now.

With such a diverse array of incoming projects, we can’t help but simply look forward to Mr Daley’s continuous evolution, tackling the challenges he’s so gleefully taken on. His talent is undeniable. His drive is equally robust. And his partnership with Mr Goldstein is certainly taking him to new levels of excellence in the cinematic universe.