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Brian De Palma Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (36)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 11 September 1940Newark, New Jersey, USA
Birth NameBrian Russell De Palma
Nickname Bri
Height 5' 11" (1.8 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Brian De Palma is the son of a surgeon. He studied physics but at the same time felt his dedication for the movies and made some short films. After seven independent productions he had his first success with Sisters (1972) and his voyeuristic style. Restlessly he worked on big projects with the script writers Paul Schrader, John Farris and Oliver Stone. He also filmed a novel of Stephen King: Carrie (1976). Another important film was The Untouchables (1987) with a script by David Mamet adapted from the TV series.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Volker Boehm

Brian De Palma is one of the well-known directors who spear-headed the new movement in Hollywood during the 1970s. He is known for his many films that go from violent pictures, to Hitchcock-like thrillers.

Born on the 11th of September in 1940, De Palma was born in New Jersey in an American-Italian family. Originally entering university as a physics student, de Palma became attracted to films after seeing such classics as Citizen Kane (1941). Enrolling in Sarah Lawrence College, he found lasting influences from such varied teachers as Alfred Hitchcock and Andy Warhol.

At first, his films comprised of such black-and-white films as Bridge That Gap (1965). He then discovered a young actor whose fame would influence Hollywood forever. In 1968, de Palma made the comedic film Greetings (1968) starring Robert de Niro in his first ever credited film role. The two followed up immediately with the film The Wedding Party (1969) and Hi, Mom! (1970).

After making such small-budget thrillers such as Sisters (1972) and Obsession (1976), De Palma was offered the chance to direct a film based on the Stephen King novel "Carrie". The story deals with a tormented teenage girl who finds she has the power of telekinesis. The film starred Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie and John Travolta, and was for De Palma, a chance to try out the split screen technique for which he would later become famous.

Carrie (1976) was a massive success, and earned the two lead females (Laurie and Spacek) Oscar nominations. The film was praised by most critics, and De Palma's reputation was now permanently secured. He followed up this success with the horror film The Fury (1978), the comedic Home Movies (1979) (both these films featured Kirk Douglas, the crime film Dressed to Kill (1980), and another crime thriller entitled Blow Out (1981) starring John Travolta.

His next major success was the controversial, ultra-violent film Scarface (1983). Written by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino, the film concerned Cuban immigrant Tony Montana's rise to power in the United States through the drug trade. The film, while being a critical failure, was a major success commercially.

Moving on from Scarface (1983), De Palma made two more movies before landing another one of his now-classics: The Untouchables (1987), starring old friend 'Robert de Niro' in the role of Chicago gangster Al Capone. Also starring in the film were Kevin Costner as the man who commits himself to bring Capone down, and Sean Connery, an old policeman who helps Costner's character to form a group known as the Untouchables. The film was one of de Palma's most successful films, earning Connery an Oscar, and gave Ennio Morricone a nomination for Best Score.

After The Untouchables (1987), De Palma made the Vietnam film Casualties of War (1989) starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn. The film focuses on a new soldier who is helpless to stop his dominating sergeant from kidnapping a Vietnamese girl with the help of the coerced members of the platoon. The film did reasonably well at the box office, but it was his next film that truly displayed the way he could make a hit and a disaster within a short time. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) starred a number of well-known actors such as Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman, yet it was still a commercial flop and earned him two Razzie nominations.

But the roller coaster success that De Palma had gotten so far did not let him down. He made the horror film Raising Cain (1992), and the criminal drama Carlito's Way (1993) starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn. The latter film is about a former criminal just released from prison that is trying to avoid his past and move on. It was in the year 1996 that brought one of his most well-known movies. This was the suspense-filled Mission: Impossible (1996) starring Tom Cruise and Jon Voight.

Following up this film was the interesting but unsuccessful film Snake Eyes (1998) starring Nicolas Cage as a detective who finds himself in the middle of a murder scene at a boxing ring. De Palma continued on with the visually astounding but equally unsuccessful film Mission to Mars (2000) which earned him another Razzie nomination. He met failure again with the crime/thriller Femme Fatale (2002) the murder conspiracy The Black Dahlia (2006) and the controversial film Redacted (2007) which deals with individual stories from the war in Iraq.

Brian De Palma may be down for the moment, but if his box office history has taught us anything, it is that he always returns with a major success that is remembered for years and years afterwards.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bob Stage

Spouse (3)

Darnell Gregorio-De Palma (11 October 1995 - 18 April 1997) (divorced) (1 child)
Gale Anne Hurd (20 July 1991 - 1993) (divorced) (1 child)
Nancy Allen (12 January 1979 - 1983) (divorced)

Trade Mark (8)

[Split screen] Often uses split screens (created optically or using a split diopter while shooting) to build suspense and/or convey story information. This allows the audience to choose what to look at and engages them further in the story (Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Carrie (1976), Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Mission: Impossible (1996), Snake Eyes (1998), Femme Fatale (2002) and The Black Dahlia (2006)).
[Alfred Hitchcock homage] Films frequently reference the work of Alfred Hitchcock, using similar locations, camera techniques/compositions, musical scores by Bernard Herrmann (a frequent Hitchcock collaborator), and blondes as leading ladies.
The "LONG TAKE" which is usually complimented by a series of elaborate tracking shots or dolly movements
Dopplegangers (or evil twin), and femme fatales appear frequently in De Palma's films.
Often shoots "tense" moments without any widening lens or zoom. When coupled with his trademark extended shot, it creates a feeling the viewer is in the scene.
Safari Jacket
[Voyeurism] Films often feature a protagonist who is voyeuristic by nature (Dressed to Kill (1980)), profession (Blow Out (1981)) or circumstance (Body Double (1984)).

Trivia (26)

Won top prize in regional Science Fair in high school. Project was "An Analog Computer to Solve Differential Equations." Cf. computer nerd in Dressed to Kill (1980).
De Palma graduated from Friends' Central School, a small quaker school outside of Philadelphia
De Palma bases his most famous cinematic predilection, voyeurism, on a specific childhood incident. When he was a child, his parents split up, his mother accusing his father of infidelity. The young De Palma spent several days stalking his dad with recording equipment, hoping to find evidence to confirm his mother's suspicions.
Uncle of actor Cameron De Palma.
In the 1970s, De Palma helped a close friend on a film project. He helped audition and interview actors. When the film was shot, DePalma did some uncredited writing on an opening "scrawl," a device the friend thought of at the last minute to help explain events in the film, so the audience would not be confused. The friend was George Lucas and the film was Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
First child with Gale Anne Hurd, Lolita, born September 19, 1991.
Second daughter, Piper De Palma, born October 21 1996 in Palo Alto, California.
Younger brother of photographer Bart DePalma.
Italian-American.
Is a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and directed him in the music video "Dancing in the Dark".
Wrote the role of the call girl in Dressed to Kill (1980) specifically with his then wife Nancy Allen in mind.
Has never contributed an audio commentary track to his DVDs.
Ex-stepfather of The O.C. (2003) actress Willa Holland and Brianna Holland.
Received a special thanks credit in Mean Streets (1973) for introducing Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro to one another.
His three favorite films are Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Red Shoes (1948) and Vertigo (1958).
Revealed in an interview with French TV that a dream project since he started making movies has been an adaptation of the Alfred Bester novel "The Demolished Man". He said it's still a dream project because of its incalculable cost to produce.
Has directed 3 actors to Oscar nominations: Sissy Spacek (Best Actress, Carrie (1976)), Piper Laurie (Best Supporting Actress, Carrie (1976)), and Sean Connery (Best Supporting Actor, The Untouchables (1987)). Connery won an Oscar for his performance.
In Bulgaria, looking for locations for his current project - The Black Dahlia (2006). [November 2004]
Holds the dubious distinction of being the director with the most nominations for Worst Director at the Razzie Awards. He was nominated for Dressed to Kill (1980), Scarface (1983), Body Double (1984), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) and Mission to Mars (2000), but failed to win for any of these films.
Two of Brian De Palma's films, Sisters (1973) and Blow Out (1981), are in the Criterion Collection.
Has said that Scarface (1983) and Body Double (1984) are the two films of his that have been attacked the most. Dressed to Kill (1980) also received a lot of negative attention as well.
Is a democrat.
Brian De Palma is the godfather of Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving's son Max.
Though it's already known he assisted George Lucas several times while Lucas was making Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), he was a little skeptic and critical about the final product, after seeing for the first time, quoting "What is this crap about the force?". Source: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (2003).
Two of Brian De Palma's films are based on television shows: The Untouchables (1987) and Mission Impossible (1996).
Brian De Palma was one of film critic Pauline Kael's favorite directors, and she was also a fan of many of his films.

Personal Quotes (36)

The camera lies all the time; lies 24 times/second.
[on why he would not add rap songs to the soundtrack of Scarface (1983)] They said it would help promotion, presenting the film in a different way, but Giorgio's [composer Giorgio Moroder] music was true to the period, I argued - and no one changes the scores on movies by Martin Scorsese, John Ford, David Lean. If this is the "masterpiece" you say, leave it alone. I fought them tooth and nail and was the odd man out, not an unusual place for me. I have final cut, so that stopped them dead.
I'm astounded there aren't more American political films. I'm amazed, when you can make movies for nothing, there are not people out there making these incredibly angry anti-war movies. How come? [Sept.2006]
I've never been accepted as that conventional artist. Whatever you say about David Lynch or Martin Scorsese, they are considered major film artists and nobody can argue with that. I've never had that. I've had people say it about me. And I've had people say that I'm a complete hack and, you know, derivative and all those catchphrases that people use for me. So I've always been controversial. People hate me or love me.
My films deal with a stylized, expressionistic world that has a kind of grotesque beauty about it.
I like stylization. I try to get away with as much as possible until people start laughing at it.
I have a reputation as an action director because I know how to kill, how to shoot people, how to spill blood.
[on Alfred Hitchcock] He is the one who distilled the essence of film. He's like Webster. It's all there. I've used a lot of his grammar.
[on Sissy Spacek] Sissy's a phantom. She has this mysterious way of slipping into a part, letting it take over her. She's got a wider range than any young actress I know.
It's hard to make movies where you put women in peril any more. You can't really stalk women around anymore. It's very difficult. It's sort of unsettling to field a lot of hostile questions about why you keep doing this and why you dislike women so much. You say, "It's a murder mystery, I'm running out of victims." It's all right to kill men, but women are out. No one complained when I killed a man in "Sisters."
[1987 comment on Robert De Niro] He's very low-key and concentrated when he's working. The thing that gets in the way of his work is people staring at him. So what you have to do on the set when he's working is to get people who are just going to gawk out of his eyeline. With the other actors, he's very tuned, very responsive.
So much of shooting sex scenes in movies you a see are naked people sort of humping each other on a bed, shot in the most unflattering way just because they happen to be naked and mimicking making love. They don't really dramatize their particular sexual attraction to each other. And it's very difficult. You have to find a way, a visual way to approach scenes like that.
Women are more sympathetic creatures in jeopardy, plus they're more interesting to photograph. I'd rather photograph a woman walking around with a candelabra than a guy. It's as simple as that. Somebody once said that the history of cinema was made photographing women, and I think one could truthfully say that.
I'm not interested in a lot of talk. Talk to me is very boring and a lot of people just put that up there all the time. You have many films with these long character scenes, with extremely in-depth analysis, and what you have is a lot of characters sitting around talking to each other. Which does little to excite me in terms of the possibilities of what you can do with cinema. So I have those sequences in when they're necessary, but I certainly don't structure my film around them. And most of cinema today is driven by television, which is all talk - I tend to be the counterprogramming director.
[on The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)] The initial conception of it was incorrect. If you're going to do The Bonfire of the Vanities you would have to make it a lot darker and a lot more cynical, but because it was such an expensive movie we tried to humanise the Sherman McCoy character - a very unlikeable character, much like the character in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). We could have done that if we'd been making a low budget movie, but this was a studio movie with Tom Hanks in it. I think John Lithgow would have been a better choice for Sherman McCoy, because he would have got the blue-blood arrogance of the character. But I mean, nobody realised it was going wrong when we were making it. We were very enthusiastic about what we were doing. I thought we were going to get away with it, but we didn't. I knew that the people who had read the book were going to be extremely unhappy. I think if you look at the movie now, and you don't know anything about the book, and you get it out of the time that it was released, I think you can see it in a whole different way.
I don't think I do referencing, I use ideas which I think are effective in this particular piece at the moment. If they've been used before, fine. I mean, who cares? To me, it's all grammar. If I've got that word available and it was used before and if I can use it again more effectively for my piece - why not? It's the history of art from the beginning of time. Why do you think painters still paint Chartres Cathedral? Do you think they should be painting some rock in a garden? But they have this incredible architectural thing in front of them! Are they copying, are they simulating it? Well, maybe they have a different interpretation of the piece of art that's in front of them. I mean, how unusual...
[on Al Pacino] One of the many things that makes Pacino such a fine actor is the way he moves. He's an incredible mover. When we were making Carlito's Way (1993) I couldn't wait to get out and start shooting, just to see him walk around while shooting a scene.
[on why he made The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)] Making movies is not some very organic development. You're at a certain time in your life with twenty thousand reasons to make that decision. At a different time, you wouldn't make that same decision. It's where you are in your career, in your life. With The Bonfire of the Vanities, I read the book and loved it and wanted to try to adapt a book into a movie. I had made a particular sorrowful movie before, and I wanted to make something that was kind of cynical and sarcastic and not as emotional. There's a whole swirl of emotions that go into that decision. A lot of times you make movies because you don't want to think about what's happening with the movie you just made. You don't want to think about the reviews out there or about how you're going to survive the pummeling that you're getting. That's how I made the decision to make 'Bonfire'. It may not have been the right decision, but it still feels to me like it was the right decision.
[on filming Passion (2012), with Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams] We had a pretty easy time casting the Isabelle part [Noomi], but it was difficult to get people to want to play the heavy - to play Christine. Because, I don't know, people don't always like to play bad, manipulative characters, even though they are the most interesting characters there are sometimes. Fortunately they had just finished [Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)] and liked working together, so were fortunate to get Rachel to play this part.
Some of my films that have gotten the worst reviews are the ones they keep talking about today, so it's hard for me to really assess the long-term effect of them. I can't take it too seriously. Basically, you're being judged against the fashion of the day and, of course, the fashion of the day changes all the time. So what endures is what's important, I guess, and I'm just very fortunate that I've made movies that seem to have endured.
My films deal with a stylized, expressionistic world that has a kind of grotesque beauty about it.
[on whether he saw the film Hitchcock (2012)] Yes, I bought the book to see if it was actually real, what happened? I don't remember Hitchcock having problems with his marriage during the making of Psycho (1960). So, I thought it was interesting, but is it true?
A year ago, I saw Bruno Dumont's Flanders (2006), and that really got me thinking about war movies. I find his stuff extremely inventive and very compelling. So I went back and looked at all his movies.[Nov.15 2007]
[on De Palma (2015)] I tend to be attracted to filmmakers who are not like me at all. I met Noah [Noah Baumbach] almost 20 years ago - I immediately liked him, he's very bright. Because we approach cinema from different directions, we were fascinated by our different views on how to tell a story. They did their interview with me five years ago, in Jake Paltrow's living room, shooting on this digital camera, with Noah doing the sound. It was like the old cinema school days - you had three people and that was your crew.[2015]
[on The Untouchables (1987)] I got the script from Paramount, the David Mamet script. And I liked it quite a lot.
I am one of the rare directors to have had his negatives stolen.
[on De Palma (2015)] Noah [Noah Baumbach] and Jake [Jake Paltrow'] were interested in this new digital camera, so Jake bought one. They wanted to make a record of all these stories that I'd told them over the years when we'd had dinner together, so they sat me down in Jake's living room. Jake operated the camera, Noah did the sound, and they would just ask me questions. [2016]
[on De Palma (2015)] I hope that, much like the book ['The Devil's Candy'] about The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), you just have an honest portrayal of what the process is like, you don't pull any punches, you say exactly what happened. That's the only way to convey to young audiences or people interested in movies how the system works. As you know, film journalism is mostly spin. You talk to people, they say the experience was great, I love working with so and so, it's the best experience I ever had. And not until you're in the Hollywood old-age home do you have anybody tell you the truth. [2016]
Well, the bigger the budgets, the more meetings you have. And if you have a very small budget you have a lot of control, and you don't have any meetings. So, it depends on the material and what you need in order to make the story effective. [2016]
I go to film festivals and see movies, and I watch a lot of stuff on TCM, and I'm exploring an actor that I might think might be right for something I'm working on, I go and look at all their movies. [2016]
You try to do the best you can under the circumstances it's intended with. And if you're fortunate, and if everything is clicking that day, you might come up with something remarkable. I can't think of many instances where I left the playing field and not accomplishing what I set out to do. [2016]
A movie is a work of art. It either exists and people keep looking at it, or it vanishes. So, I have very little to do with it, and a movie has basically got to find its own way. And many of my movies, people are still looking at 30 or 40 years later, so I guess there's some value in it, because they've existed through the ages. [2016]
[on directing] Well you have to be incredibly prepared, because you have to have a plan when you go to shoot. But things happen: The weather, how the actor feels, what somebody ate the night before. You have to be aware and you have to be able to improvise, depending on what is happening in the moment. There's nothing like preparation for dealing with situations like that, so that you can shift from one thing to another painlessly. (...) For The Fury (1978) there was a very complicated panning shot that Carrie [Carrie Snodgress] didn't want to do, because she had to hit certain marks for it to work. She just couldn't get her head around why she had to be at a certain place at a certain time, because it didn't seem natural to her. So I had to sort of carefully adjust the shot to something that she understood in order to make it work, so that what I wanted to do and what she wanted to do was in harmony. And it all worked out fine. And she didn't quite understand it until she saw the rushes. [2016]
[on acting for cinema] I don't think anybody had to give Steve McQueen any acting concepts, he was just a presence. And a lot of that works in cinema, when you crowd material around a certain movie star. But you have to be very patient and loving with your actors, because they're putting everything on the line, and you have to try to get everything out of the way to not hurt their performances or distract them. [2016]
[On Martin Scorsese] I think Marty gets these incredible performances from actors mainly because he spends a lot of time in developing kind of deep character relationships.
What's unique to cinema, unlike any other art form, is that you can show the audience and the character the same piece of information. They see what the character is seeing.

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