Friday, October 21, 2016

Famous Directors’ First Theatrical Movies, Part 3

                You know what they say about sequels: they just keep coming and coming.  In this third installment in this series, we look at three more famous directors, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood and J.J. Abrams, and their first theatrical movies. 
Christopher Nolan is a director well known for his big budget movies, most famously for The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar.  But in 1997, he had none of those movies under his belt. Nolan started shooting Following, which he also wrote, co-produced and filmed much of it himself.  Nolan used available light and friends’ houses to save production costs and had the actors rehearse the scenes many times before filming so he could get as few takes as possible.  The movie was filmed on weekends over a year so that the actors and crew could keep their regular jobs and only cost a total of $6,000.  On September 12, 1998, Following was released in Toronto and starred Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, and Lucy Russell.  It focused on an unnamed Young Man who follows (hence the title) people as inspiration for his novel.  Unfortunately, he chooses to follow a man who robs houses for the thrill of the crime, not for monetary gain.  This intrigues the man, and the robber convinces him to commit similar crimes….  The movie has a non-linear plot structure, which Nolan returned to for later films.  The movie earned critical accolades and grossed $240,495. 
Clint Eastwood, best known for both acting and directing in his movies, for such movies as Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, (both of which he won the Academy Award for Best Movie and Best Director) and being an action hero in movies such as in the Dollars Trilogy and the Dirty Harry films.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clint Eastwood was already an established actor, having been an action hero in movies such as “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (released in 1966).  As part of a deal with the production company Malpaso Productions, he was given the opportunity to direct Play Misty for Me.  For his first movie, Eastwood convinced the production to film on location at places Carmel-By-the-Sea and Monterey instead of in Los Angeles.  Eastwood finished the movie under his budget $1 million (it actually cost $950,000) and four or five days ahead of schedule.  Play Misty for Me was psychological thriller focusing on Dave Garber (Eastwood) a disk jockey (an everyman type in sharp contrast to his usual action heroes).  Garber has a “chance meeting” with a woman named Evelyn at a bar, and the two hit it off.  But Evelyn soon reveals that she sought him out because he mentioned the bar on the radio.  At first, the two hit it off, but soon the woman becomes possessive, not willing to leave Dave alone and becoming jealous of any interaction with other women.  Garber tries to break it off that only makes Evelyn worse… The movie was released on November 3, 1971, and grossed $10.6 million at the box office. 
                J.J. Abrams, an established writer/producer for his trifecta of TV Shows (Felicity, Alias, and Lost, see here: ).  Abrams had already started to branch out in directing with two episodes of Felicity, three episodes of Alias and the pilot from Lost.  Meanwhile, production had stalled on the third Mission Impossible movie because the second director attached to the project had left.  Tom Cruise, after binge-watching Alias, asked Abrams to take over as director.  Abrams agreed, but production had to be halted for a year because of Abrams’ commitments to Alias and Lost.  Production finally started on July 18, 2005, with an entirely new cast, save for Cruise, who also took a pay cut.  Unlike many directors’ first movies, the movie was a high-profile big-budget production, costing $150 million to make. Production went around the world, to China, Germany, Italy and the Vatican City.  In this third Mission Impossible movie, Ethan Hunt, along with a new team of Impossible Mission Force agents, try to stop an arms dealer named Owen Davian from obtaining the “Rabbit’s Foot”, an object of unknown properties.  The movie was released on May 5, 2006, and made $397.9 million at the worldwide box office. J.J. Abrams went on to direct two Star Trek movies and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Each of these directors went on to bigger and better things after their debut movie they directed, but they honed their skills and showed off their talents in their first one.  Check out these first theatrical releases of the famous directors Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, and J.J. Abrams. 

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