Abel Ferrara: Wikis

  
  

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Abel Ferrara
Born July 19, 1951 (1951-07-19) (age 58)
The Bronx, New York
Occupation director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor, cinematographer
Years active 1971–present

Abel Ferrara (born July 19, 1951) is an American movie screenwriter and director. He is best known as an independent filmmaker of such films as The Driller Killer (1979), Ms. 45 (1981), King of New York (1990), Bad Lieutenant (1992), and The Funeral (1996).

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Early life

Ferrara was born in The Bronx of Italian and Irish descent.[1] He was raised Catholic, which had a later effect on much of his work.[2] At 15, he moved to Peekskill in Westchester, New York where he attended high school with Nicholas St. John, who has written most of his films. He attended the film conservatory at SUNY Purchase, where he directed several movies, which are all available on "The Short Films of Abel Ferrara" collection. Soon finding himself out of work, he directed a pornographic film titled 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy in 1976.[3]

Early career

Ferrarra first drew a cult audience with his notable grindhouse movie The Driller Killer (1979), an urban slasher in the mold of Taxi Driver (1976), about an artist (played by Ferrara himself) who goes on a killing spree with a drill in hand. The film attracted attention and retains something of a cult audience to this day. He followed it with the even more exploitive Ms. 45 (1981), a "rape revenge" film starring Zoë Tamerlis, who later scripted Bad Lieutenant. Critics surprisingly praised the latter film for its depiction of a gritty New York City and as an enjoyable exploitation flick. Due to the buzz around the two movies, Ferrara was hired to direct a big-budget version of his oeuvre called Fear City (1984). It starred Tom Berenger, Melanie Griffith, Billy Dee Williams, Rae Dawn Chong, and Maria Conchita Alonso. True to form, it depicted a seedy Times Square strip club, where a "kung fu slasher" stalks and murders the girls after work. Berenger portrayed a disgraced boxer who has to use his fighting skills to defeat the killer. Fear City got shelved and went straight to video. It is considered by some to be one of Ferrara's weaker efforts.

Ferrara then worked on two Michael Mann-produced television series, directing the 2-hour pilot for the cult classic Crime Story (aired 18 September 1986), starring Dennis Farina, along with two episodes of the popular series Miami Vice: "The Home Invaders" (aired 15 March 1985, in season 1) and "The Dutch Oven" (aired 25 October 1985, in season 2). In the pilot for the short-lived but highly-regarded Crime Story series, Ferrara's work includes a spectacular gunfight scene captured in a single sweeping crane shot, recalling the work of Howard Hawks or Sam Peckinpah.

Following his television work, Ferrara directed two feature films: China Girl (1987), a modern re-telling of West Side Story as a gang war between the Chinese tong and the Italian mafia; and Cat Chaser (1989), starring Peter Weller. China Girl brought Ferrara back to his heart, New York City. Cat Chaser did not fare as well, though based on a gritty Elmore Leonard novel.

Next, Ferrara created one of his most well-known films, King of New York (1990), starring Christopher Walken as gangster Frank White, who runs a group of black drug dealers, including one played by Laurence Fishburne. The cast also included Wesley Snipes and David Caruso. A highly-stylized, modern-day Robin Hood tale, this was Ferrara's most expensive film to date. Since then, it has become a cult classic, thanks to VHS and DVD. A favorite film of rappers, The Notorious B.I.G. adopted an alias of "Frank White" in homage to it. As with most of Ferrara's films, the screenplay was penned by Nicholas St. John.

Ferrara next directed Harvey Keitel in an acclaimed performance as the eponymous Bad Lieutenant (1992). Keitel plays a foul-mouthed, sex-addicted drug user who wrestles with guilt and eventually seeks redemption in a Catholic church. The script was written by Ms. 45 star Zoe Tamerlis (born Zoe Lund, she wrestled with drug addiction herself, and died from an overdose in 1999). Bad Lieutenant became one of the first films to receive an NC-17 rating. Although distributed among arthouse theaters with the NC-17 rating, the film was later cut to an R-rating for distribution in video outlets like Blockbuster. Both Ferrara and Keitel were nominated for Spirit Awards and despite its controversial content, the film was lauded by critics, including Roger Ebert.

Ferrara was then hired for two big-budget projects: a second remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dangerous Game, starring Keitel and Madonna.

Dangerous Game was met with largely negative reviews. Ticket sales may have been further damaged by Madonna, who broke with film business norms by criticizing Dangerous Game in the media. In retrospect, the film is notable for being the first of Ferrara's films to abandon the conventional editing style of Bad Lieutenant and King of New York in favor of a more unique, hyper-kinetic and energetic aesthetic. The style combines the John Cassavetes-inspired realism which has always separated Ferrara from other "crime" directors like Martin Scorsese, with an aggressive and disorienting style of shooting and editing, comparable perhaps to some Oliver Stone films, such as Natural Born Killers and Any Given Sunday. This particular hallucinogenic aesthetic would reappear in later flms The Blackout and Mary.

Body Snatchers received praise from Roger Ebert and other critics as an effective horror movie. But after its premiere at Cannes -- where it was nominated for the Golden Palm -- Body Snatchers received only a limited theatrical release from its Warner Bros studio distributor.

In the mid-nineties, Ferrara returned to independent filmmaking, directing two well-received movies: The Addiction (1995), and The Funeral (1996). The Addiction, photographed in ominous black-and-white, starred Lili Taylor as an NYU philosophy student who succumbs to a vampire as she studies the problem of evil, represented by the most violent events of the 20th century. The Funeral featured an all-star cast of Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Isabella Rossellini, Benicio del Toro, Vincent Gallo, and others. Both were met with favorable receptions by critics, and were particularly praised for the edgy cinematography of Ken Kelsch. Ferrara was nominated again by the Spirits for "Best Director" for The Funeral, which was also nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice, where it won another award. The Berlin Film Festival nominated The Addiction for Best Film, and that year Ferrara won a Best Filmmaker award from the Gotham Awards.

Later career

After making The Blackout (1997) with Matthew Modine and Dennis Hopper, he contributed to the omnibus HBO-television movie Subway Stories. Ferrara then made New Rose Hotel (1998), which reunited him with Christopher Walken. Also starring Willem Dafoe, it was nominated at Venice for the Golden Lion and won two of their awards.

Ferrara returned three years later with 'R Xmas (2001), which starred Drea de Matteo and Ice-T. It drew mixed reviews, but is considered a return to form by fans of the director. After recording two commentaries for Driller Killer and King of New York, he finally made Mary (2005). The religious epic starred Forrest Whitaker, Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, Heather Graham, Stefania Rocca and Matthew Modine. The multi-plot film concerns an actress (Binoche) who stars in a Passion of the Christ-like movie about Jesus, where she plays Mary Magdalene, with whom she subsequently becomes obsessed. Ferrara received some of his most enthusiastic buzz in years for Mary, which premiering at the Venice Film Festival in 2005. It swept the awards ceremony, garnering the Grand Jury Prize, SIGNIS Award, and two others. It was also nominated for the highest achievement, the Golden Lion. It was Ferrara's third nomination. Despite much positive attention, the critics who attended the festival divided sharply down the middle regarding its merits. It was also seen at the Toronto Film Festival, but has so far not been released on US DVD. In 2007, he directed a comedy with Modine, Bob Hoskins, and Willem Dafoe called Go Go Tales.

The director has recently completed a documentary called Chelsea on the Rocks (which will premiere out of competition at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival), and has another documentary Mulberry St. being released later this year. Later in 2009 he will begin production on his first feature film since Go Go Tales; an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The film will be called Jekyll and Hyde and will take place in the modern day. The film stars Forrest Whitaker as Dr. Jekyll and 50 Cent as Mr. Hyde. This will be Whitaker's third film with Ferrara after Mary and Body Snatchers but 50 Cent's first. Meanwhile, another Ferrara film, this time a "docu-drama" will premiere at the Rome Film Festival called Napoli Napoli Napoli. Ferrara has been working on and off on the film since 2007.

Ferrara is married and has two daughters.

Filmography

References

External links








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