Student, University Chicago, 1965-1967; Bachelor of Fine Arts, New York University, 1969; postgraduate, New World Pictures Roger Corman Post-Graduate School Film Making, Hollywood, California, 1971-1973.
Kaplan received five Emmy nominations for his roles directing and producing ER. He is the brother of actresses Nora Heflin and Mady Kaplan. Kaplan started his career as a child actor in the Broadway production of The Dark at the Top of the Stairs directed by Elia Kazan. He earned a BA at the University of Chicago before studying film at New York University, where he made an award-winning short film, Stanley (1965).
Kaplan was working at the Filmore East in New York, doing some editing on the side, when he received an offer from Roger Corman to direct. Kaplan had been recommended by Martin Scorsese, who had taught the director at NYU. Kaplan made the movie and returned to New York. It was hit and Corman offered him another film, , which he also co-wrote and co-edited.
He made for Corman's brother Gene, then , which was another big hit, and saw Kaplan get an offer to direct for Columbia, a major Hollywood studio. That movie was an even larger success but then Kaplan made what he describes as "the biggest failure of my career", Mr. , an attempt to launch Terence Hill to American audiences.
He then went on to make the critically acclaimed , which failed to reach large audiences. During the early 1980s Kaplan directed some movies for television and many music videos, including several John Cougar Mellencamp and Rod Stewart's "Infatuation" in 1984. He also directed the drag racing biopic and the science fiction-thriller.
His feature film career revived in 1988, when earned Jodie Foster her first Oscar, for Best Actress. High profile feature film directing jobs followed, including and. His final theatrical feature film was.
Since the 1990s Kaplan has primarily worked as a television director.