February 28, 1948
Carlisle, Cumberland, England, UK
Figgis was born in Carlisle, England and grew up in Africa. Figgis for several years had a relationship with the actress Saffron Burrows and cast her in several films. He is cousin to Irish filmmakers Jonathan Figgis and Jason Figgis who run the award-winning film production company October Eleven Pictures in Ireland. His sons Arlen Figgis and Louis Figgis have also followed their father in to the film industry, as editor and producer respectively.
Figgis's early interest was in music and he played keyboards for Bryan Ferry's first band. In 1983 he directed a theatre play, produced in Theatre Gerard-Philipe (Saint-Denis, Paris, France). This play performed with great success at Festival de Grenada and in Theatre der Welt (Munich, Germany).
After working in theatre (he was a musician and performer in the experimental group People Show) he made his feature film debut with the low budget Stormy Monday in 1988. The film earned him attention as a director who could get interesting performances from established Hollywood actors. He initially made a splash in America in the 1990s with the gritty thriller Internal Affairs that helped to revive the career of Richard Gere. His next Hollywood feature Mr. Jones was misunderstood by the studio who attempted to market the downbeat story as a feelgood movie resulting in a box office flop. Figgis poured his disenchantment with the film industry into Leaving Las Vegas, creating star turns for Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue which earned Figgis Academy Award nominations for Best Directing and Best Screenplay. His most ambitious film to date is the low budget film The Loss of Sexual Innocence, a loosely based autiobiographical movie of the director himself.
Forays into digital video technology led him to conceive of and direct Timecode, which took advantage of the technology to create an ensemble film shot simultaneously with four cameras all in one take and also presented simultaneously and uncut, dividing the screen into four quarters. Since then, his work output has almost exclusively been on the cutting edge of creative digital filmmaking, with the exception of star-laden Cold Creek Manor. He returned to the Timecode quad-screen approach for his section of Ten Minutes Older, but has also worked on documentary pieces including a segment of The Blues (called Red, White, and Blues) and a short piece on flamenco. His curiosity with the cinematic use of time has led him to cite Robert Enrico's film version of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge as an influential film for him. Figgis has a well-documented love-hate relationship with the Hollywood system which leads him to often be an outspoken critic of the system while also despairing the lack of a better alternative, in his mind, at the moment. At an appearance at Camerimage in 2005, he expressed the view that filmmaking had become "boring and perhaps need[ed] to become even worse before anything better can emerge" successfully at least in reaction.
He was the founding patron of the independent filmmakers online community Shooting People. At one of their events in 2005 he said that filmmaking with a small digital camera made the experience more like painting or novel writing than the movie industry. His fascination with camera technology has also led him to create a camera stabilization rig for smaller video cameras, called the Fig Rig which places the camera on a platform held within a steering wheel-like system and has since been released by Manfrotto Group.
In 2007, Figgis shot his newest feature "Love Live Long" set between Istanbul and Bratislava on the infamous Gumball 3000 Rally, starring Sophie Winkleman and Daniel Lapaine.
In 2008, Figgis was called upon by Transport for London to help shoot a PIF entitled A Little Thought From Each of Us, A Big Difference For Everyone, encouraging more considerate behaviour on London's public transport systems, which was then shown in London cinemas. The ad comprised the screen split into four sections, each section showing one of four scenarios all on the same double-decker bus. At the end of the ad, the friction-creating scenarios were resolved and the ad ended on "A little thought from each of us. A big difference for everyone."
To promote a new camera phone, Sony Ericsson commissioned Mike Figis to create Life Captured - a short film made out of mobile phone snapshots taken by fourteen people from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, who were selected to submit a series of photos after winning the global Life captured competition.