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Abel Ferrara (born July 19, 1951) is an American filmmaker, known for the provocative and often controversial content in his films, his use of neo-noir imagery and gritty urban settings. A long-time independent filmmaker, some of his best known films include Ms .45 (1981), King of New York (1990), Bad Lieutenant (1992) and The Funeral (1996).
Abel Ferrara at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival
|Other names||Jimmy Boy L, Jimmy Laine|
|Occupation||Director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor, cinematographer|
Ferrara was born in the Bronx of Italian and Irish descent. He was raised Catholic, which had a later effect on much of his work. At 15 years old, he moved to Peekskill in Westchester, New York. He attended the film conservatory at SUNY Purchase, where he directed several short films.
Finding himself out of work after film school in 1976, Ferrara directed a pornographic film titled 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy using a pseudonym. Starring with his then-girlfriend, he recalled having to step in front of the camera for one scene to perform in a hardcore sex scene: "It's bad enough paying a guy $200 to fuck your girlfriend, then he can't get it up."
Ferrara first drew a cult audience with his grindhouse movie The Driller Killer (1979), an urban slasher film. The film follows the exploits of an artist (played by the director himself) who goes on a killing spree with a power drill. In the United Kingdom, the film made it on a list of "video nasties" created by moral crusaders that led to prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and to the passing of new legislation which forced all video releases to appear before the British Board of Film Classification for rating.
The directors' sophomore feature was a "rape revenge" film about a mute garment turned murderer played by frequent collaborator Zoë Tamerlis called Ms .45 (1981). Reviewers called it "a provocative, disreputable movie, well worth seeing."
Ferrara was next hired to direct a neo-noir, erotic action thriller called Fear City (1984), starring Melanie Griffith, Billy Dee Williams, Rae Dawn Chong and María Conchita Alonso. When a "kung fu slasher" stalks and murders young women who work in a seedy Times Square strip club, a disgraced boxer portrayed by Tom Berenger has to use his fighting skills to defeat the killer.
Ferrara worked on two Michael Mann-produced television series, directing the two-hour pilot for Crime Story (aired 18 September 1986), starring Dennis Farina, and two episodes of the series Miami Vice.
One of his most well-known films, King of New York (1990), stars Christopher Walken as gangster Frank White, who runs a group of black drug dealers, including one played by Laurence Fishburne. The cast includes Wesley Snipes, David Caruso and Giancarlo Esposito. The film received overall mixed reviews but Ferrara was praised for his strong command of mood and style. (1992)
In his review for King of New York, Roger Ebert wrote "What Ferrara needs for his next film is a sound screenplay." Bad Lieutenant (1992) credits Ferrara and actor Paul Calderon as co-writers of the script, but Zoë Tamerlis - who plays the woman who helps the Lieutenant freebase heroin in the film - claims that she wrote it alone.
Bad Lieutenant received Spirit Awards nominations for Best Director and Best Actor and, despite its controversial content, the film was lauded by critics. Martin Scorsese named it one of his top 10 films of the 1990s.
In 1993, Ferrara was hired for two Hollywood studio films: a new remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, titled Body Snatchers (1993), for Warner Bros.; and Dangerous Game (1993), starring Keitel and Madonna, for MGM.
In the mid-1990s Ferrara directed two well-received independent movies:
The Addiction (1995), photographed in black-and-white, stars Lili Taylor as a New York University philosophy student who succumbs to a vampire as she studies the problem of evil and philosophical pedagogy, represented by the most violent events of the 20th century. The film also features Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, Kathryn Erbe and Michael Imperioli. It was co-produced by Russell Simmons.
The Funeral (1996), starring Walken, Sciorra, Chris Penn, Isabella Rossellini, Benicio del Toro, Vincent Gallo and Gretchen Mol, was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards including Best Director.
After making The Blackout (1997) with Matthew Modine and Dennis Hopper, he contributed to the omnibus HBO–television movie Subway Stories. Ferrara then made New Rose Hotel (1998), which reunited him with Christopher Walken.
After recording two commentaries for Driller Killer and King of New York, he made Mary (2005), the religious-themed film starring Forest Whitaker, Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, Heather Graham, Stefania Rocca and Matthew Modine. The multi-plot film concerns an actress (Binoche) who stars in a Passion of the Christ-like movie about Jesus, where she plays Mary Magdalene, with whom she subsequently becomes obsessed. Matthew Modine portrays the director of the film, who bears striking similarities to Mel Gibson. Mary premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2005. It swept the awards ceremony, garnering the Grand Jury Prize, SIGNIS Award and two others. It was also seen at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2007, he directed a comedy with Modine, Bob Hoskins and Willem Dafoe, Go Go Tales. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was either highly acclaimed or vehemently disliked. Ferrara began preparations for Jekyll and Hyde in 2009, which was to star Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent. After disagreements with Warner Bros. the film was indefinitely shelved in 2010.
A Ferrara film, the docudrama called Napoli Napoli Napoli, is scheduled to premiere at the Rome Film Festival. Ferrara plays a small role as a mugger in the independent film Daddy Longlegs (2010). Also in 2010, Ferrara teamed up with Film Annex, an online film distribution platform and Web Television Network, to launch www.abelferrara.com. In a press release about the new web channel, Ferrara said, "We have been looking for a place, a home to express what we are doing and to avoid the misinformation found when we are not active on a website. With Francesco Rulli, the Founder of Film Annex, we hope to create a distribution platform for the work, both past and present, while actively interacting with our audience, collaborators and other filmmakers."
In April 2011, Ferrara began shooting his first feature in four years, 4:44 Last Day on Earth, starring Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh.. The film premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in September 2011 and released in theatres in March 2012. In April 2013, Ferrara a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case titled Welcome to New York starring Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset. It was released on VOD in 2014 because the film failed to be picked up for theatrical distribution.
It has been confirmed that Ferrara and Dafoe will collaborate for a fifth time in a film inspired by Carl Jung's The Red Book. The script has been written by Ferrara and Chris Zois and will be titled Siberia. Isabelle Huppert and Nicolas Cage will co-star with Dafoe.
Ferrara is married to Christina and they have a daughter.  He was previously married to Nancy Ferrara. Ferrara also has two adopted children: Endira and Lucy. He was also in a relationship with actress Shanyn Leigh.
|“||It’s not a conversion, you’re not a card-carrying Catholic, you’re brought up Italian, so you’re brought up with those images. All the great art is financed by the Church so they have a monopoly on the paintings, and they’re powerful images, the whole nine yards of it. But Jesus was a living man, and so were Buddha and Muhammad. These three guys changed the fucking world, with their passion and love of other human beings. All these guys had was their word, and they came from fucking nowhere. I’m not saying Nazareth is nowhere – I’m sure Jesus came from a very cool neighbourhood.||”|
|— Abel Ferrara|
Ferrara has also admitted that Pier Paolo Pasolini has served as influence in becoming a filmmaker. He also credited Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen as influences, as well as Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
|1971||Nicky's Film||Yes||Yes||Short film|
|1972||The Hold Up||Yes||Yes||Yes||Short film|
|1973||Could It Be Love||Yes||Yes||Short film|
|1976||9 Lives of a Wet Pussy||Yes||Yes||Pornographic adult feature film; credited as Jimmy Boy L.|
|1977||Not Guilty: For Keith Richards||Yes||Documentary short film|
|1979||The Driller Killer||Yes||Yes||Plays Reno; credited as Jimmy Laine|
|1981||Ms .45||Yes||Yes||Plays the 1st Rapist; credited as Jimmy Laine|
|1986||The Gladiator||Yes||TV movie starring Nancy Allen|
|Crime Story||Yes||TV series pilot|
|1987||China Girl||Yes||A modern retelling of West Side Story as a gang war between the Chinese tong and the Italian Mafia.|
|1988||The Loner||Yes||TV movie|
|1989||Cat Chaser||Yes||Peter Weller|
|1990||King of New York||Yes|
|1996||Mylène Farmer: California||Yes||Music video for Mylène Farmer|
|Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground||Yes||TV movie (segment "Love on the A Train")|
|1998||New Rose Hotel||Yes||Yes|
|2004||Abenaa: "Rain"||Yes||Yes||Music video for Abenaa|
|2006||Exes||Yes||Actor only, as Cain|
|2007||Go Go Tales||Yes||Yes|
|2008||Chelsea on the Rocks||Yes||Yes||Documentary|
|2009||Napoli Napoli Napoli||Yes||Yes||Documentary|
|Daddy Longlegs||Yes||aka Go Get Some Rosemary, actor only, as robber|
|OneDreamRush: Dream Piece||Yes||Short film segment|
|2011||4:44 Last Day on Earth||Yes||Yes|
|2012||Pizza Connection||Yes||Web series|
|No Saints||Yes||Short film|
|My Big-Assed Mother||Yes||Short film; as Charles Bukowski|
|2014||Welcome to New York||Yes||Yes|
|Don Peyote||Yes||Actor only, as taxi cab driver|
|2017||Black Butterfly||Yes||Actor only, as Pat; remake of the 2008 French thriller; directed by Brian Goodman|
|Alive in France||Yes||Yes||Yes||Music documentary about the songs and music from his films|
|Piazza Vittorio||Yes||Yes||Documentary about Rome's biggest public square|
|Hans||Yes||Yes||Short film tribute to Hans Hurch|
|2018||Buon Lavoro||Yes||Actor only; post-production as of autumn 2017|
|Talking with the Vampires||Yes||Yes||Yes||30-minute documentary included on Arrow Video's Blu-ray of The Addiction|
|TBA||Siberia||Yes||Yes||In development; a film inspired by Carl Jung's The Red Book|
Ferrara has recast many of the same actors in his films, most notably Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe. Other actors he has recast include Annabella Sciorra and Matthew Modine as well as character actors such as Victor Argo, Paul Calderón and Giancarlo Esposito. David Caruso is another one of Ferrara's frequent film collaborators. M .45 (1981) star Zoë Lund collaborated with Ferrara again on Bad Lieutenant (1992), which she co-wrote. Gretchen Mol has worked with Ferrara twice. Forest Whitaker starred in Ferrara's films Mary (2005) and Body Snatchers (1993).
|Actor||The Driller Killer
|King of New York
|New Rose Hotel
|Go Go Tales
|Chelsea on the Rocks
|Napoli Napoli Napoli
|4:44 Last Day on Earth
|Welcome to New York
Awards and nominationsEdit
|1993||Body Snatchers||Palme D'or||Nominated|
|1993||Bad Lieutenant||Independent Spirit Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|1995||The Addiction||Golden Berlin Bear||Nominated|
|1996||The Funeral||Independent Spirit Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|1998||The Blackout||Worst Director - Yoga Awards||Won|||
|2001||R' Xmas||Un Certain Regard||Nominated|
- Nicole Brenez, Abel Ferrara, University of Illinois Press, 2007 page 2
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- "1998 (novena edición) : Los Catacric y los YoGa". Retrieved 2019-09-09.