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Before becoming a highly respected feature film director, Jonathan Glazer started getting people’s attention with his revolutionary work on Radiohead’s Street Spirit and Jamiroquai’s multi-MTV award winning Virtual Insanity video. However, he really leapt on to the scene for his work on 1999′s ground-breaking Guinness Surfer, which picked up 2 D&AD Black Pencils, a Gold at Cannes and the top spot at most of the other awards festivals that year. The film still tops many lists as one of the best commercials of all time.
To celebrate the highly anticipated release of UNDER THE SKIN, we are looking at some of the greatest creative directors of our generation, who started out in music videos and have made the transition to feature films.
Despite the success Spike Jonze enjoys as a feature film director, he still continues to make the occasional music video. Recent work includes videos for LCD Soundsystem (Drunk Girls) and Arcade Fire (The Suburbs). But his finest music moment might have been when he persuaded actor Christopher Walken to retrace his dance roots (Walken originally trained in music theatre) and gracefully glide through Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice which was named best video of all time by VH1 in 2002.
His career as a film director is similarly impressive having directed Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are, and Her, all movies that were nominated for or won Oscars and Golden Globes.
Michel Gondry’s vision and career began with his emphasis on emotion. Much of his inspiration, he says, came from the film Le voyage en Ballon. His career as a filmmaker began with creating music videos for the French rock band Oui Oui, in which he also served as a drummer. The style of his videos for Oui Oui caught the attention of Björk, who asked him to direct the video for her song Human Behaviour. The collaboration proved long-lasting, with Gondry directing a total of eight music videos for Björk. Other artists who have collaborated with Gondry on more than one occasion include Daft Punk, The White Stripes, The Chemical Brothers, The Vines, Steriogram, Radiohead, and Beck.
Gondry also pioneered the “bullet time” technique later adapted in The Matrix in a 1998 commercial for Smirnoff vodka. Gondry made his feature film debut in 2001 with Human Nature, garnering mixed reviews. His second film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released in 2004 and received very positive reviews, becoming one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Gondry shared an Academy Award with Charlie Kaufman and Pierre Bismuth for the screenplay of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.
Mark Romanek started out as music video director and was responsible for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s Scream (which is still labelled as the most expensive music video ever made), as well as videos for Devil’s Haircut (Beck), 99 Problems (Jay-Z), Free Your Mind (En Vogue), and Hurt (Johnny Cash). His first feature film was One Hour Photo, starring Robin Williams, which opened to very mixed reviews. Romanek’s last film was Never Let Me Go starring Keira Knigtley , Carey Mulilgan, and Andrew Garfield.
The Dutch director Anton Corbijn started out as a photographer who first moved to the UK in the 1970s to shoot the band, Joy Division. Corbijn then used his talents as a still photographer to start shooting music videos, working with highly respected artists including U2, Depeche Mode and Nirvana. His next move into feature films saw him make his first film, Control, which told the story of Joy Division’s lead singer, Ian Curtis. George Clooney was alerted to his talents and brought him on board to direct the highly acclaimed The American. Anton Corbijn is viewed as one of the top directors in the world, and his next film features the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man.
Francis Lawrence is an Austrian-born, filmmaker raised in the U.S. He got his first break as a music video director at the age of 23 when he got to work with Tidal Force on their video for A Man Rides Through. He then went on to work with artists including Foreigner, Akon, Natalie Cole, Robyn and Third Eye Blind. This body of work attracted superstar artists including Pras (Ghetto Supastar) and Aerosmith (I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing). Further videos for the world’s biggest stars followed in the 2000s, including Independent Woman Part 1 for Destiny’s Child, I’m A Slave 4 U for Britney Spears and Pink’s Just Like A Pill, and he ended up shooting videos for some of the key pop songs of the decade, like Justin Timberlake‘s Cry Me A River, Avril Lavigne‘s Sk8er Boi, and Gwen Stefani‘s What You Waiting For? In between film features, Lawrence has kept his toe in the music video world, working with Beyonce on Run The World (Girls) and winning a Grammy for Lady Gaga‘s Bad Romance.
His break in feature films came with Constantine, starring Keanu Reeves, opening to mixed but generally positive reviews. Lawrence then was given the job of directing I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, and followed that with Water For Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. However, the film’s he will be most known are the last three films in The Hunger Games franchise. The franchise has proven to be incredibly popular at the box-office, and the reviews for his work on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire have been very strong.
David Fincher started out as a music director and found himself working with some of the biggest names in the business, including Madonna (Express Yourself, Vogue), many of Paula Abdul’s biggest hits, Aerosmith (Janie’s Got a Gun) George Michael (Freedom), and the Rolling Stones (Love Is Strong). Fincher had become known for the dark tone of his videos, and won his first job directing Alien 3, quite a daunting task for a first time director. He went on to direct commercially successful films including Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network (for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Director) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and the soon to be released Gone Girl.
Marc Webb started shooting music videos at the age of 23, with his first project being for Blues Traveller. This was followed by videos for Santana, Anastacia, Green Day, Puddle Of Mudd, Maroon 5, Brand New, Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance, Trey Songz, and Nelly. After cutting his teeth on music videos, his first feature was 500 Days Of Summer starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, it was well received at Sundance, and was reviewed fairly positively. He went on to direct The Amazing Spider Man starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and is also directing The Amazing Spiderman 2.
Michael Bay started out making music videos and commercials, and it’s doing this that developed his ‘in your face’ style that he is famously known for now. He directed videos for The Divinyls (I Touch Myself), Lionel Ritchie (Do It To Me), Meatloaf (I Would Do Anything For Love), and Aerosmith (Falling In Love Is Hard On The Knees). His MTV style eventually got him work as feature director and he went on to work on blockbusters including Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon and, of course, the Transformers franchise. He is probably most well known for his work on Pearl Harbour, weighed down by an overblown budget, poor plot and poor acting (or direction..) from Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale.
Antoine Fuqua first came to public attention with his 1992 videos for Christopher Williams and Chante Moore. The praise he received for his early work led some of the biggest names in the industry to come calling. He went on to make Mint Condition‘s Nobody Does It Betta, Toni Braxton‘s Another Sad Love Song, and Arrested Development‘s United Front. He became a household name once he worked with Prince to shoot the video for The Most Beautiful Girl In the World. More work followed for the likes of Queen Latifah, Stevie Wonder, Usher and Pras, along with the famous Michelle Pfeiffer-starring clip for Coolio‘s Gangsta’s Paradise. His career maintained its upward trajectory when he moved into feature films. His first film was The Replacement Killers starring Chow Yun-Fat, and Mira Sorvino. It was recognised for its stylistic value, and crowned Fuqua as the guy you go to with your action movie script. His work on Training Day, starring Denzel Washington, garnered him critical acclaim and earned Denzel Washington an Oscar for Best Actor. Later films include Tears of The Sun, King Arthur, Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, and soon to be released The Equalizer, which sees the director reteam with Denzel Washington.
Jonathan Glazer had a history in directing adverts and music videos, and it would be unfair to choose exactly what first drew industry attention due to the body of fantastic work he is responsible for. But, if we had to pick, it would probably be his work directing Jamiroquai in Virtual Insanity. It is still one of the most talked about music videos ever made. He also directed the Guinness Surfer advert, which was voted the best advert of all time in a 2002 British poll. Glazer also worked with Radiohead for their Street Spirit video. His first feature, Sexy Beast starring Ray Winstone and Sir Ben Kingsley, blew people away, and was labelled as possibly the best British gangster film ever made. He then went on to direct Nicole Kidman in Birth, in a film that was compared to the films of Stanley Kubrick, and noted for the skill involved in his direction. His latest feature UNDER THE SKIN stars Scarlett Johansson in what is being labelled as the best performance of her career , and it’s one not to be missed!
Under the Skin is available on digital platforms on July 7th and on Blu-ray & DVD on 14th July, 2014.