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John Schlesinger Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (11) | Personal Quotes (12) | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 16 February 1926Hampstead, London, England, UK
Date of Death 25 July 2003Palm Springs, California, USA  (complications from a stroke)
Birth NameJohn Richard Schlesinger

Mini Bio (1)

Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger, who was born in London, on February 16, 1926, was the eldest child in a solidly middle-class Jewish family. Berbard Schlesinger, his father, was a pediatrician, and his mother, Winifred, was a musician. He served in the Army in the Far East during World War II. While attending Balliol College at Oxford, Schlesinger was involved with the Undergraduate Dramatic Society and developed an interest in photography. While at Oxford, he made his first short film, "Black Legend," in 1948. He took his degree in 1950 after reading English literature and then went into television. From 1958 through 1961, he made documentaries for the British Broadcasting Corp.

His 1960 documentary, Terminus (1961), which was sponsored by British-Transport, won him a British Academy Award and the Gold Lion at the Venice Film Festival. He made the transition to feature films in 1962, with the "kitchen sink" drama A Kind of Loving (1962), which got him noticed on both sides of the Atlantic. His next film, the Northern comedy Billy Liar (1963), was a success and began his association with actress Julie Christie, who had a memorable turn in the film. Christie won the Best Actress Academy Award and international superstardom and Schlesinger his first Oscar nomination as Best Director with his next film, the watershed Darling (1965), which dissected Swinging London. Subsequently, Schlesinger and Christie collaborated on Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic novel, in 1967. The movie was not a success with critics or at the box office at the time, though its stature has grown over time. His next film, Midnight Cowboy (1969), earned him a place in cinema history, as it was not only a huge box office hit but also widely acclaimed as a contemporary classic. It won the Oscar for Best Picture and garnered Schlesinger an Oscar for Best Director.

Schlesinger earned his third, and last, Oscar nomination for the highly acclaimed Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). He continued to operate at a high state of aesthetic and critical achievement with The Day of the Locust (1975), Marathon Man (1976) and Yanks (1979), but his 1981 comedy, Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), was one of the notable flops of its time, bringing in only $2 million on a $24-million budget when breakeven was calculated as three times negative cost. Although Schlesinger continued to work steadily as a director in movies and TV, he never again tasted the sweet fruits of success that he had for more than a decade, beginning in the mid-'60s.

Schlesinger's artistic fulfillment increasingly came from directing for the stage and, specifically, opera. He directed William Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens" for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 1964, and after his movie career faded, he directed plays, musicals, and opera productions. After Laurence Olivier was eased out of the National Theatre in 1973, Schlesinger was named an associate director of the NT under Olivier's successor, Sir Peter Hall of the RSC.

Schlesinger suffered a stroke in December 2000. His life partner, Michael Childers, took him off life support, and he died the following day, July 24, 2003, in Palm Springs, Claifornia. He was 77 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Trivia (11)

He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1970 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to film.
Older brother of Susan Maryott.
Directed eight different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, Peter Finch, Glenda Jackson, Burgess Meredith and Laurence Olivier. Christie won an Oscar for Darling (1965).
Schlesinger envisioned a cast of Al Pacino, Julie Christie and Laurence Olivier for Marathon Man (1976). Pacino has said that the only actress he had ever wanted to work with was Christie, who he claimed was "the most poetic of actresses". Producer Robert Evans, who disparaged the vertically challenged Pacino as The Midget when Francis Ford Coppola wanted him for The Godfather (1972) and had thought of firing him during the early shooting of the now-classic film, vetoed Pacino for the lead. Instead, Evans insisted on the casting of the even-shorter Dustin Hoffman! On her part, Christie -- who was notoriously finicky about accepting parts, even in prestigious, sure-fire material -- turned down the female lead, which was then taken by Marthe Keller (who, ironically, became Pacino's lover after co-starring with him in Bobby Deerfield (1977)). Of his dream cast, Schlesinger only got Olivier, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. "Marathon Man" was his last unqualified hit as a film director.
Was a member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival in 1985.
Profiled in "Conversations with Directors: An Anthology of Interviews from Literature/Film Quarterly", E.M. Walker, D.T. Johnson, eds. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008.
Was offered A Clockwork Orange (1971) to direct but passed on the project because of the violence.
While shooting Marathon Man (1976), Schlesinger realized he had no idea of how to stage a fight, so he watched other films to see how it was done.
He was awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars on January 10, 2003.
Parents are Bernard Edward and Winnifred Henrietta Schlesinger.
His brother, the publisher and literary agent Roger Schlesinger married into Peggy Ashcroft's family and had an actress daughter Katharine Schlesinger.

Personal Quotes (12)

Making a film is like going down a mine--once you've started you bid a metaphorical goodbye to the daylight and the outside world for the duration.
What I tend to go for, and what interests me, is not the hero but the coward . . . not the success, but the failure.
[on his acting days] I wasn't a very good actor. I wouldn't have cast myself if I'd come to see myself.
A lot of claptrap is talked about The Method as though the British actor didn't have one. It's just that we tend to be quieter about it.
The days of dealing with one despot are over. Now it's clearly with a whole group of frightened committee people.
[on Hollywood] An extraordinary kind of temporary place.
To be a director, you have to be a very good actor, because you've got to leave actors with a shred of pleasure at doing what they're doing, and if they think you admire them and like them in the role, that's all for the good.
[on "Method" acting] [Dustin Hoffman] is a great believer in physical acting. Whenever we had to do a running scene--you know, most actors would just say, "Well, just dab a bit of glycerin on my face, and I'll look sweaty." Not so with Dustin. He had to run right round the 91st Street area of Central Park, so that he was really out of breath, which has always made me curious as to what they do when they're going to enact someone murdering somebody. Or having sex.
I like making films that have question marks in them and are not all tied up beautifully with a pink ribbon, even though that's what the audience seems to want, and if you give it to them there's more assurance of commercial success, perhaps. But that's never the way I've seen life or reflected life in what I want to put on the screen.
[on the stars of Darling (1965)] [Dirk Bogarde] was wonderful and was very nice to [Julie Christie] during the shoot. He became rather a bitter older man, I don't know why. But he was very embittered. We rather fell out as friends, which is sad, but it happens. Julie still remains a good friend of mine. As was Laurence Harvey, who died far too young.
[In 1981 interview] . . . I quite like the idea of wiping the smiles off people's faces . . .
[in a 1981 interview] I think the business is getting tougher, no question. It is an extraordinary fight to make something different. So it tends not so much to be films that you think are commercial, but films that people seem to want to make. [on Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)] EMI said, "We love the script. It's very original. We want to make it.".

Salary (1)

Colonel March of Scotland Yard (1956) 15 pounds / day

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