The Greatest Directors: The New Breed
Starting from the top left and working clockwise: Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino.
In our last Moment In History Article we brought you our selections of some of the greatest Early Contemporary directors. Continuing that list, here is our final group of directors whom we have categorized as The New Breed, the ones we have watched in recent years and will continue to over many years to come.
Order is based on first feature length movie directed. Pics are courtesy Wikipedia.
Peter Jackson: Peter Jackson went from being a relative unknown before 1997, to getting the highest salary ever paid to a director pre-production, in 2005. How did this happen...? Well a small trilogy called Lord of the Rings, which, as discussed in a previous MIH article, made quite a tidy sum of money at the box office. Three Billion USD to be exact.
Before the trilogy however, Jackson's career had mostly been making horror movies, usually of the comedic blood-splattering type, but horror movies nonetheless. His first, Bad Taste, was started in 1983, took over three years to make on a shoe-string budget, often involved friends and family, and was finally released in 1987. The next comedy-horror made in his early career was the now cult popular Braindead from 1992. Following this movie he made the based-on-true-events movie Heavenly Creatures, about two girls who become friends and then later on commit murder together. This film was met with critical acclaim and opened the door for Jackson to get his first big-budget Hollywood break with his next film The Frighteners (1996). This film was more a supernatural thriller than a comedy-horror as many critics and fans expected and unfortunately it underperformed at the box office and led Jackson to seriously ponder the direction he was taking.
Then the most fortuitous thing happened for him, he obtained the rights to direct Lord of the Rings in two parts. After some time of negotiating with Miramax over the script and being forced into cutting the movie down from the two parts into one, Jackson managed a last minute move to New Line Cinema who were willing to fund a trilogy. The trilogy was filmed over an almost non-stop 14 month period from October 1999 to the end of 2000 and the movies were released on a yearly basis between 2001 and 2003.
Then in 2005 Jackson made his next movie, King Kong, for which he received the previously unheard of upfront salary of $20 million. He is currently is working on a number of projects, including The Hobbit which is being scheduled for release in two parts in 2012 and 2013.
James Cameron: Director James Cameron, born in Ontario, Canada, began his career in the film industy in 1977, six years after his family had moved to California when he was 16. He started in the film industry as a model maker, then quickly moved on to art direction and later to special effects where he worked on a number of productions, including John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981). His first job as director came after the original director for the 1981 film Piranha II: The Spawning quit the project and Cameron was promoted from special effects director. Cameron's interest in science and his early work in special effects helped him create movies throughout his career that often involved cutting-edge special effects and technologies, a common characteristic of his films.
Three years after that first movie Cameron released his second, which would go on to become one of the most influential and popular science fiction movies of all time, The Terminator (1984), and he later made the even more successful sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991. After Terminator, Cameron went on to make two other science-fiction movies, both of which were also successful big-budget movies, 1986's Aliens and 1989's The Abyss. Then in 1994 Cameron went in a slightly different direction from his previous science-fiction movies, and released the action-adventure movie True Lies. Up to this point Cameron's movies had been averaging approximately $80 to $100 million dollars in revenue. True Lies made over $330 million. But was nothing compared to what Cameron released next. Again he took a totally different direction and made a movie centering on the sinking of the Titanic and involving a fictional love story between the two protagonists of the movie. Titanic was released in 1997, went on to win 11 Academy Awards, and has maintained the position it reached ever since, of being the highest-grossing movie of all time, with international revenues of over $1.8 billion.
After a failed attempt to be the director for Spider-man in the late 1990s Cameron moved on to television where he directed the popular series Dark Angel. He continued his break from Hollywood movies by producing a number of documentaries in the early 2000s. He finally returned to feature films with his 2009 release entitled Avatar, which is also a return to the science-fiction genre.
Tim Burton: Tim Burton grew up with a love of horror movies and this is obvious in his filmmaking career. His movies often have dark atmospheric overtones, yet have a comedic and bizarre element to them, as well he is known for depicting his movie protagonists as societal misfits. The first few years of Burton's career saw him making a number of shorts, including the Disney commissioned live-action short Frankenweenie which, after making the rounds at film festivals, was not given wide release for fears it was too scary for children. However the movie was seen and liked by Paul Reubens who then approached Burton to direct the movie version of his Pee Wee Herman character, which Burton accepted and released Pee Wee's Big Adventure in 1985, to become his first full-length feature film.
Following that movie Burton moved to directing TV for a few years, but returned to movies in 1988 with his release of the extremely quirky movie Beetlejuice. The next year he released his first big-budget movie with Batman, which went on to gross over $400 million worldwide and became a huge influence to future superhero productions. Following this came the hit Edward Scissorhands (1990) for which he cast Johnny Depp, the first of many collaborations between the two. Two more quirky cross-genre films were to follow with 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas and 1996's Mars Attacks! .
Burton took a break from the eccentricity of these movies and directed two movies more along traditional lines, Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Planet of the Apes (2001). The last few years have seen him return to the quirky, genre-bending filmmaking with Corpse Bride (2005) and the musical-horror Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). He has been perfectly chosen for his next project which is to be an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and is set for release in 2010.
Quentin Tarantino: Quentin Tarantino became an overnight sensation after the 1992 release of his hugely popular independent movie Reservoir Dogs, which has gone on to have tremendous cult status and appeal. This movie and his later work, such as 1994's Pulp Fiction, cemented his status as a master of stylized violence, flashback and non-linear story-telling. It is also obvious that he is a fan of the Sergio Leone "spaghetti westerns" since most of his movies involve "standoff" scenes.
Tarantino, while making movies that aestheticize violence, has produced or created surprisingly little controversy, and his movies often do fairly well at the box office. However, he has been chastised by Spike Lee for his frequent use of the slang word "nigger", particularly in the 1997 movie Jackie Brown. Black actor Samuel L. Jackson came to his defence though by saying "I don't think the word is offensive in the context of this film. Jackie Brown is a wonderful homage to black exploitation films". Tarantino also defended his use of the word by saying that he specifically made Jackie Brown with black audiences in mind.
Tarantino continued his style of filmmaking into this century with the release of his two volume Kill Bill series in 2003 and 2004, and 2007's Death Proof. His next project is scheduled for release in 2009 and is a remake of the 1977 Italian war movie Inglorious Bastards.
Guillermo del Toro: The newest and final director on our list, Guillermo del Toro has made a mark for himself directing a number of comic book adaptations and science fiction horror movies over the last 10 years. He began his career in his native Mexico but has since moved to the Los Angeles area. His first two movies, 1993's Cronos and 1997's Mimic were science fiction horror films that, while not huge successes, did fairly well for having a new director at the helm.
Following Mimic del Toro released his first of two "historical" science fiction horror movies, both of which have achieved him great critical acclaim and praise. The first was The Devil's Backbone (2001) and the second was Pan's Labyrinth (2006). Before Pan's Labyrinth, though, he made two comic book movies, 2002's Blade 2 which did mildly well at the box office and 2004's Hellboy which faired better. Then in 2008 he released his sequel to Hellboy, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. In 2009/2010 he began working as director for the two parts of The Hobbit, with Peter Jackson as executive producer. But multiple delays forced him to back out of the project. He went on to write the screenplay for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, and has other directing projects on the go currently.
We hope you have enjoyed these articles on the great directors and that you agree that they are some of the best and most influential directors from the movie industry.