Everyone has start somewhere. Famous directors, now with long, impressive credits, will be honored by film buffs and historians for their most famous films. But sometimes their first film is not so well known. Sometimes it is, depending on the anticipation of the particular release. This series will look at the first films of various first directors.
While Steven Spielberg’s films don’t bring the press they used to from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, nevertheless he is one of the most well known directors of all time. His major films, such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, are some of the most original and exciting movies ever made. But in 1974, after cutting his teeth with several television films (including most famously, 1971’s Duel), Steven Spielberg was given his first major theatrical film The Sugarland Express, which starred Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, William Atherton, and Michael Sacks. Based on a true story, Hawn plays a wife/mother who breaks her husband (Johnson) out of jail to find their son, who has been placed with foster parents in Sugar Land, . They end up kidnapping a patrolman who joins them on a cross-country trip, with the police and news crews following their every move. The movie was released on April 5, 1974 and made $12.8 million at the box office.
Ron Howard, best known today for directing smart, effecting films like Cocoon, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind, first started in acting as the child Opie Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show, and then as the young adult Richie Cunningham in Happy Days. He also appeared in several famous films, including The Music Man, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, American Graffiti, and The Shootist. While he was still on Happy Days in 1977, Ron Howard was given the chance to direct the movie he was starring in, Grand Theft Auto. In Grand Theft Auto, rich Paula (Nancy Morgan) introduces her boyfriend/fiancée poor Sam (Howard) to her parents, who think he is a “fortune hunter” and only after her for her money. Sam is thrown out, but Paula escapes with her parents expensive Rolls Royce (hence the title) and they begin a cross country chase to Las Vegas to get married, with their angry parents chasing them. The movie was released on July 16, 1977 and made $15 million at the world wide box office.
Peter Jackson name will be forever linked to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy, though he was also known for directing a remake of King Kong (2009) and the adaptation of The Lovely Bones. In the late 1980s, however, Peter Jackson was a young filmmaker, who had only directed one short, The Valley. For his feature film debut, over a period of four years Peter Jackson pretty much did every single role he could: writing, producing, directing, and acting in the movie Bad Taste, filmed in and around Pukera Bay, near Wellington, New Zealand. In Bad Taste, which certainly lives up to its name, three AIDS investigators (Astro Investigation and Defense Services) go to the fictional town of Kaihoro, New Zealand to investigate the disappearance of the entire town. Once there, they battle aliens who harvest humans as fast food. The movie features a huge amount of comedic gore, giving the title a double meaning. The movie was released on December 11, 1987 and made $150,000 at the world wide box office.
These three filmmakers will probably not be remembered for their first theatrical feature films, but nevertheless by learning their talents with these movies, not nearly as well known, they were able to hone their skills to make some of the most famous movies of all time. Check out these first theatrical films by famous directors.