James Gray (director)

James Gray (born April 14, 1969)[1] is an American film director and screenwriter. Since his feature debut Little Odessa in 1994, he has made seven other features including We Own the Night (2007), Two Lovers (2008), The Immigrant (2013), The Lost City of Z (2016), Ad Astra (2019), and Armageddon Time (2022). Five of his films have competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.[2]

James Gray
James Gray Press Conference The Lost City of Z Berlinale 2017 01.jpg
Gray in 2017
Born (1969-04-14) April 14, 1969 (age 53)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUSC School of Cinematic Arts
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter
Years active1994–present
SpouseAlexandra Dickson
Children3

Early lifeEdit

Gray was born in New York City and grew up in the neighborhood of Flushing.[3][4] He is of Russian Jewish descent,[5][6][7][8] with grandparents from Ostropol, Western Ukraine, which at that time was a part of the USSR.[9] The original family name was "Grayevsky" or "Greyzerstein."[10] His father was once an electronics contractor. Gray attended the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where his student film, Cowboys and Angels, helped him get an agent and the attention of producer Paul Webster, who encouraged him to write a script which he could produce.[11][12]

CareerEdit

1990sEdit

In 1994, at age 25, Gray made his first feature film Little Odessa, starring Tim Roth as a hit man confronted by his younger brother upon returning to his hometown, "Little Odessa," a section of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.[13] The film won the Silver Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival.[14]

In 1998, Gray began shooting his second film, The Yards, a crime drama set in the commuter rail yards in New York City. The film was released theatrically by Miramax two years later on October 12, 2000.[15]

2000sEdit

In March 2006, Gray began production on his third film, We Own the Night, which he had been wanting to shoot since the early 2000s. Set in 1988, it stars Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg as two brothers, one a nightclub manager with ties to the mob, and the former a police detective who wages an all-out war on drugs. The film screened in competition at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival in May,[16] receiving widely divergent reviews from international critics, and was released theatrically in the U.S. in October.[17]

After that film's success, Gray was given creative freedom for Two Lovers which was loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s "White Nights".[18] The film made it's premiere at that year's Cannes Film Festival.

2010sEdit

 
From left: Anthony Katagas, Greg Shapiro, Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard, Gray and wife Alexandra Dickson at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival

Gray co-wrote the screenplay for Guillaume Canet's film Blood Ties, a remake of the French thriller Rivals.[19] This collaboration with Canet led Gray to meeting his wife Marion Cotillard, whom he would cast in his next film The Immigrant.[20] It tells the story of a nurse from Poland who immigrates to America, is separated from her sister at Ellis Island and forced into prostitution by a theater manager, played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film, which was previously titled Lowlife and The Nightingale, marked Gray’s fifth collaboration with Phoenix. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[21]

In 2015, Gray directed a television commercial for Chanel men's fragrance, Bleu de Chanel, starring Gaspard Ulliel.[22] It was filmed in Los Angeles and released on February 5, 2015.[23]

In October 2016, Gray's film The Lost City of Z premiered at the New York Film Festival. The film, based on the book by David Grann, depicts the life of explorer Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam.[24]

While at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival promoting The Lost City of Z, Gray announced plans to direct his long-gestated sci-fi space epic Ad Astra.[25] Brad Pitt signed on to star in April 2017 and the rest of the cast joined later that year. Ad Astra premiered at the Venice Film Festival on August 29, 2019 and was theatrically released in the United States on September 20, 2019 by 20th Century Fox.[26] Gray later stated that the film that was released to theaters wasn't his cut.[27]

2020sEdit

On June 17, 2020, it was officially confirmed that his next film, titled Armageddon Time, would be a coming-of-age drama story loosely based on Gray's childhood memories, with Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong cast in the film.[28] The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2022 and was released in the United States on October 28, 2022 by Focus Features.

Unrealized and upcoming projectsEdit

After Little Odessa, Gray was offered the script for The Devil's Own by Brad Pitt, a friend of his. Gray turned it down and the film was ultimately directed by Alan J. Pakula.

In 1999, Gray was in talks to direct Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston in Waking Up in Reno for Miramax. The film was made three years later but without the involvement of Gray, Pitt or Aniston.[29]

It was reported on September 18, 2000 that Gray would direct and co-write Edgardo Mortara, a film based on the widely documented 1858 kidnapping of the 6-year-old Jewish boy by the Papal police.[30] Gray was to collaborate with writer Rob Eshman on the screenplay.

In 2003, it was rumored that Gray had written an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novelette "Paycheck". Prior to John Woo being selected to direct, Brett Ratner was in talks.[31] A film was released later that year, but Gray had no involvement.

In January 2011, it was reported that Gray would be directing a film adaptation of Mark Greaney's novel The Gray Man written by Adam Cozad. The project was first set up at New Regency.[32][33] Brad Pitt was initially cast to star, but by October 2015 he and Gray were no longer involved with the film.

In April 2011, Jeremy Renner commissioned Gray to write a Steve McQueen biopic with Renner in the role under his production banner, The Combine.[34] "I did it more or less as a favor to Jeremy and to honor Steve McQueen," Gray said.[35] Heavily researched and based on two books by Marshall Terrill, Portrait of an American Rebel and The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon, the film was initially going to be directed by Ivan Zachariáš. "I got into [it] very seriously," said Gray, "I was spending a lot of time with Steve McQueen's ex-wife and sort of started to live the Steve McQueen thing and began to really get involved with the subject. And then I realized I can't get so attached." However, Gray stated in a 2013 interview that he may end up directing the film himself at some point.[36]

In August 2013, it was announced that Warner Bros tapped Gray to write and direct White Devil, a film based on the life of John Willis.[37]

On April 8, 2015, Variety reported that Gray was to executive produce and creatively supervise Hard Apple, an "adult-skewing" animated series inspired by New York-born author Jerome Charyn's Isaac Sidel novels.[38]

In April 2018, MGM closed a deal for Gray to direct I Am Pilgrim, an adaptation of the espionage novel by Terry Hayes.[39]

In April 2022, Gray announced plans to develop a miniseries about Norman Mailer based on J. Michael Lennon's biography Norman Mailer: A Double Life.[40]

In October 2022, Gray said he was interested in wrangling back the cast for a semi-sequel to Armageddon Time, to focus solely on his mother, who was portrayed by Anne Hathaway. "The story goes in a very unexpected place," Gray added, "Because my father actually did achieve some financial success but wound up getting it all confiscated by the government when he got into legal trouble. At the same time, my mother found out she was dying. And so, it's going to be, I think, something about that period."[41]

That same month, Deadline reported that Gray's next film would be a biopic for MadRiver Pictures about a young John F. Kennedy. In addition to directing, Gray will rewrite the script, which was originally penned by Samuel Franco and Evan Kilgore. It would depict how Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States, particularly focusing on his time in World War II where he saved his crew from a patrol boat that was sunk by a Japanese destroyer.[42][43]

In November 2022, Gray revealed in an interview for Collider that a film he always wanted to make was an epic about the Russian Revolution called The Dream of a Thousand Men,[44] but that it was unlikely to be made anytime soon, if at all, due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Gray also turned down the role played by Noah Taylor in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.[45] He did however appear in a brief cameo in a deleted scene from Love Jones.[46]

OperaEdit

In 2019, it was reported that Gray was to stage Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, his first opera, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris that November. French fashion designer Christian Lacroix did the costumes for the production.[47]

Personal lifeEdit

Gray married Alexandra Dickson in 2005. The couple have three children.[48]

InfluencesEdit

Gray, who frequently cites his inspirations, mentioned Francis Ford Coppola, Claude Chabrol,[49] Luchino Visconti,[50] Jean Renoir, John Ford, François Truffaut, Stanley Kubrick,[51] David Lean,[52] Robert Bresson, Federico Fellini, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Michael Cimino, John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese,[53] William Friedkin, Akira Kurosawa,[54] and Valerio Zurlini all as filmmakers who have influenced his work. His influences however, are not only limited to film as Gray also admitted he has taken influence from classical paintings as well as opera, specifically in the verismo tradition.[55][56]

Mikhail Kalatozov's I Am Cuba (1964), Mervyn LeRoy's I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Josef von Sternberg's The Scarlet Empress (1932), Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992),[57] Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), Richard Quine's Strangers When We Meet (1960), Ted Kotcheff's Wake in Fright (1971),[58] Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and America America (1963),[59] Francesco Rosi's Hands over the City,[60] Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970),[61] Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God[62] and Fitzcarraldo (1982),[63] Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Lina Wertmüller's Seven Beauties (1975), Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), and Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927).[64]

In 2022, Gray participated in the Sight and Sound film polls. Held every ten years to select the greatest films of all time, contemporary directors were asked to select ten films of their choice. Gray chose the following, in no order:[65]

FilmographyEdit

As directorEdit

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1991 Cowboys and Angels Yes No No Student short film, unconfirmed release[66]
1994 Little Odessa Yes Yes No
2000 The Yards Yes Yes No Co-written with Matt Reeves
2007 We Own the Night Yes Yes No
2008 Two Lovers Yes Yes Yes Co-written with Richard Menello
2013 The Immigrant Yes Yes Yes
2016 The Lost City of Z Yes Yes Yes Based on the book by David Grann
2019 Ad Astra Yes Yes Yes Co-written with Ethan Gross
2022 Armageddon Time Yes Yes Yes

Other film workEdit

Year Title Writer Executive
producer
Notes
2013 Blood Ties Yes Yes Co-written with Guillaume Canet
2016 Swift Current No Yes Documentary film

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Episode
2014 The Red Road "Arise My Love, Shake Off This Dream" (S1 E1)

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Title Result
2000 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or The Yards Nominated
2007 We Own the Night Nominated
2008 Two Lovers Nominated
2013 The Immigrant Nominated
2022 Armageddon Time Nominated
2008 César Awards Best Foreign Film We Own the Night Nominated
2009 Two Lovers Nominated
1996 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Little Odessa Nominated
Best First Screenplay Nominated
2010 Best Director Two Lovers Nominated
1994 Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Little Odessa Nominated
Silver Lion Won
2019 Golden Lion Ad Astra Nominated

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Tatiana Siegel (May 20, 2007). "Dialogue: James Gray". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  2. ^ CANNES 2000: Embracing Indiewood, Cannes 2000 Lineup Selected from Nearly 1,400 Films; 15 Countries|IndieWire
  3. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (November 5, 2013). "James Gray, Nicolas Winding Refn & More Giving Masterclasses At 2013 Marrakech International Film Festival". IndieWire. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  4. ^ Hirschon, Nicholas (December 23, 2011). "James Gray's Films Explore Underdog Living in Qns." Daily News (New York, New York). p. p. 35.
  5. ^ Kilday, Gregg (May 21, 2013). "Cannes: James Gray on 'The Immigrant,' Marion Cotillard and Returning to the Fest (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (October 17, 2016). "Director James Gray goes on his own search while creating 'The Lost City of Z'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2018. And he is. He's also a grade-A kibitzer, a gregarious character, whose chatty and self-effacing wit bespeaks his Queens upbringing and Eastern European-Jewish heritage.
  7. ^ Jeng, Jonah (April 20, 2017). "Of Immigrants and the City: A James Gray Retrospective". Paste Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  8. ^ Applebaum, Stephen (March 27, 2017). "James Gray: Exploring the dark and personal". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "James Gray Interview For 'The Immigrant'". Flicks and Bits. May 23, 2013. Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  10. ^ "James Gray's New York of underdogs and dreamers". Le Monde.fr. May 19, 2022.
  11. ^ Transcript of Online Conference with Little Odessa Writer/Director James Gray, Fine Line Features, 1995, Accessed May 11, 2008.
  12. ^ Hanson, Peter (June 28, 2010). The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study of Films and Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8078-4.
  13. ^ James, Caryn (May 19, 1995). "Little Odessa (1994) – Film Review; Russian Emigre Family With a Son in the Mob". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Anastasia, George; Macnow, Glen, eds. (2011). The Ultimate Book of Gangster Movies. Running Press. pp. 293, 294.
  15. ^ The Yards (2000) - Filming & Production - IMDb
  16. ^ "Festival de Cannes: We Own the Night". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  17. ^ We Own the Night (2007) - IMDb
  18. ^ "Two Lovers: James Gray Interview". At the Movies. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on August 23, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  19. ^ Halligan, Fionnuala (May 20, 2013). "Blood Ties – Reviews". Screen International.
  20. ^ "Marrakech '12: James Gray Still Hoping To Visit 'Lost City of Z,' Talks 'Blood Ties' & Jeremy Renner's Steve McQueen Biopic". indiewire.com. December 10, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  21. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. April 20, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  22. ^ "James Gray directs the latest Chanel Bleu campaign". Fashion Network. February 2, 2015.
  23. ^ "Gaspard Ulliel in a vertigo in the new Bleu De Chanel film". Vogue India. February 5, 2015.
  24. ^ "The Lost City of Z" Resuscitates Cinema's Classic Adventure Tale|The New Yorker
  25. ^ Lang, Brent (May 12, 2016). "Cannes: James Gray Making Sci-Fi Epic 'Ad Astra'". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  26. ^ Pallotta, Frank (September 20, 2019). "'Ad Astra' could be the hit that 20th Century Fox desperately needs". CNN. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  27. ^ Ruimy, Jordan (October 18, 2022). "James Gray Finally Admits His Cut of 'Ad Astra' Was "Taken" From Him During The Edit". worldofreel.com. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  28. ^ "Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong Join 'Armageddon Time'". October 12, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  29. ^ "Pitt, Aniston may be 'Waking Up in Reno'". Variety. May 19, 1999. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  30. ^ "Gray's papal project". Variety. September 18, 2000. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  31. ^ "Ratner collecting his 'Paycheck'". Variety. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  32. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr (January 14, 2011). "James Gray To Direct 'The Gray Man'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  33. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr (August 15, 2011). "Brad Pitt To Star In Regency's 'The Gray Man'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  34. ^ "Jeremy Renner Developing Steve McQueen Biopic As Star Vehicle, James Gray To Write The Script". theplaylist.net. April 28, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  35. ^ "Marrakech '12: James Gray Still Hoping To Visit 'Lost City of Z,' Talks 'Blood Ties' & Jeremy Renner's Steve McQueen Biopic". indiewire.com. December 10, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  36. ^ "James Gray May Direct Jeremy Renner's Steve McQueen Biopic; Calls 'Lost City Of Z' Epic & Hallucinogenic". indiewire.com. October 9, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  37. ^ "Warner Bros. Lines Up Director James Gray For Boston Mafia Crime Drama White Devil". Boston Magazine. 21 August 2013.
  38. ^ "Canal Plus Bites Into 'Hard Apple' With James Gray (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. April 8, 2015. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  39. ^ "James Gray To Direct MGM's 'I Am Pilgrim' Spy Franchise From Terry Hayes Novel". Deadline. April 16, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  40. ^ "James Gray To Write & Direct Drama Series About Norman Mailer". Deadline. April 4, 2022. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  41. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (October 19, 2022). "James Gray Wants To Do An 'Armageddon Time' Sequel Focusing On Anne Hathway's Character". The Playlist. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  42. ^ "'Armageddon Time's James Gray To Direct Biopic Of Young John F Kennedy For MadRiver Pictures". Deadline Hollywood. October 28, 2022. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  43. ^ "James Gray to Direct John F. Kennedy Biopic". indiewire.com. October 28, 2022. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  44. ^ "'Armageddon Time' Director James Gray on Filming His Own Coming-of-Age Story and Being Honest With His Audience". Collider. November 4, 2022. Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  45. ^ "James Gray's Journey from the Outer Boroughs to Outer Space". The New Yorker. September 9, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  46. ^ "Cinephile Trivia: James Gray Had His Role Cut From 'Love Jones'". theplaylist.net. February 16, 2018. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  47. ^ "'Hollywood's James Gray to direct first opera in Paris'". thejakartapost.com. March 26, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  48. ^ "Cannes: James Gray on 'The Immigrant,' Marion Cotillard and Returning to the Fest (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. May 21, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  49. ^ "James Gray: "I stole everything from Coppola"". elpais.com. September 18, 2019. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  50. ^ Anderson, Jason (October 18, 2000). "INTERVIEW: James Gray's American Opera, "The Yards"". IndieWire. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  51. ^ Baron, Zach (December 20, 2022). "James Gray Made the Movie of His Life. Here's What Happened Next". gq.com. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  52. ^ "James Gray May Direct Jeremy Renner's Steve McQueen Biopic; Calls 'Lost City Of Z' Epic & Hallucinogenic". indiewire.com. October 9, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  53. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (May 15, 2014). "Interview: James Gray Discusses Harvey Weinstein, Cinematic Influences, His Career, 'Die Hard' & More". indiewire.com. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  54. ^ Bowen, Peter (June 7, 2007). "James Gray: good cop, bard cop". screen daily.com. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  55. ^ Sachs, Ben (April 21, 2017). "James Gray talks about The Lost City of Z, re-creating history, and online writing trends that piss him off". Chicago Reader. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  56. ^ Anderson, Jason (October 18, 2000). "INTERVIEW: James Gray's American Opera, "The Yards"". IndieWire. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  57. ^ Formo, Brian (September 17, 2019). "James Gray's Five Favorite Films". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  58. ^ "IN THE CINÉMA CLUB OF... JAMES GRAY".
  59. ^ "James Gray: 5 Films That Are Worth Rediscovering".
  60. ^ Bowen, Peter (June 7, 2007). "James Gray: good cop, bard cop". screen daily.com. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  61. ^ Cook, Adam (October 5, 2013). "Love & Sincerity: A Conversation with James Gray". mubi.com. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  62. ^ Sachs, Ben (April 21, 2017). "James Gray talks about The Lost City of Z, re-creating history, and online writing trends that piss him off". Chicago Reader. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  63. ^ "James Gray May Direct Jeremy Renner's Steve McQueen Biopic; Calls 'Lost City Of Z' Epic & Hallucinogenic". indiewire.com. October 9, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  64. ^ Perez, Rodrigo (May 15, 2014). "Interview: James Gray Discusses Harvey Weinstein, Cinematic Influences, His Career, 'Die Hard' & More". indiewire.com. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  65. ^ Ruimy, Jordan (December 7, 2022). "S&S Directors' Individual Lists: Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Del Toro, Aster, Eggers, Safdie, Inarritu, Gray, Guadagnino, Bong, Mann … [Final Update]". worldofreel.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  66. ^ Hanson, Peter (June 28, 2010). The Cinema of Generation X: A Critical Study of Films and Directors. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8078-4.

External linksEdit