Atom Egoyan

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Atom Egoyan
Egoyan at the Third Golden Apricot Film Festival, February 11, 2007
Born Atom Yeghoyan
(1960-07-19) July 19, 1960 (age 54)
Cairo, United Arab Republic (present-day Egypt)
Alma mater University of Toronto
Occupation film director, stage director, screenwriter, producer & actor
Years active 1984–present
Spouse(s) Arsinée Khanjian

Atom Egoyan, OC (born July 19, 1960) is a Canadian stage director and film director.[1][2] Egoyan made his career breakthrough with Exotica (1994), a film set primarily in and around the fictional Exotica strip club.[3]

Egoyan was born to Armenian parents in Egypt. His family moved to Canada when he was two years old. His work often explores themes of alienation and isolation, featuring characters whose interactions are mediated through technology, bureaucracy or other power structures. Egoyan's films often follow non-linear plot structures, in which events are placed out of sequence in order to elicit specific emotional reactions from the audience by withholding key information.[1]

Egoyan's most critically acclaimed film is the drama The Sweet Hereafter (1997),[4] and his biggest commercial success is the erotic thriller Chloe (2009).[5][6] Egoyan has been nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, both for The Sweet Hereafter. He also won several awards at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and Genie Awards. In 2008 Egoyan received the Dan David Prize for "Creative Rendering of the Past".[7]

Life and career[edit]

Egoyan was born Atom Yeghoyan (Western Armenian: Աթոմ Եղոյեան) in Cairo, Egypt, the son of Shushan (née Devletian) and Joseph Yeghoyan, artists who operated a furniture store.[8] His parents were Armenian-Egyptians, and he was named Atom to mark the completion of Egypt's first nuclear reactor.[9][10] In 1962, however, his parents left Egypt for Canada, where they settled in Victoria, British Columbia and changed their last name to Egoyan. Atom and his sister, Eve, now a concert pianist based in Toronto, were raised by their parents in British Columbia.

As a boy, Egoyan wished for assimilation into Canadian society and his struggle with his father led him to reject his family's Armenian culture.[citation needed] However, years later, when he attended the University of Toronto, he began to study Armenian history.[11]

As a teenager, he became interested in reading and writing plays. Significant influences included Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. Egoyan also attributes his future in the film industry to Ingmar Bergman's film Persona, which he viewed at age fourteen, according to an interview he had with journalist Robert K. Elder for The Film That Changed My Life.

It gave me an incredible respect for the medium and its possibilities. To me, Persona marries a pure form and a very profound vision with absolute conviction. It’s very inspiring. I felt that it was able to open a door that wasn’t there before.[12]

He graduated from Trinity College at the University of Toronto. It was at Trinity College that Egoyan came into contact with Harold Nahabedian, the Armenian-Canadian Anglican Chaplain of Trinity College. In interviews Egoyan credited Nahabedian for introducing him to the language and history of his ethnic heritage. Egoyan also wrote for the University of Toronto's independent weekly, The Newspaper, during his time at the school.

Egoyan is now based in Toronto, where he lives with his wife Arsinée Khanjian, a trilingual (English, French and Armenian) Armenian-Canadian actress who appears in many of Egoyan's films, and their son, Arshile (named after the Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky), who attends the Toronto French School. In 1999, Egoyan was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Egoyan has directed a dozen full-length films, several television episodes, and a few shorter pieces. His early work was based on his own material. In 1984, his debut film "Next of Kin" worldpremiered at the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg and won a major prize. He received some notice for the film Exotica (1994). He received the Grand Prix (Belgian Film Critics Association) in Brussels and held on this occasion a conference at Ric's Art Boat. But it was Egoyan's first attempt at adapted material that resulted in his best-known work, The Sweet Hereafter (1997), which earned him an Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

He also directed Sarabande featuring Khanjian, Lori Singer, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma's performance of Bach's Fourth Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, as part of the latter's Inspired by Bach film series for Sony Classical.

The film Ararat (2002) generated much publicity for Egoyan. After Henri Verneuil's French-language film Mayrig (1991), it was the first major motion picture to deal directly with the Armenian Genocide. Ararat later won the Best Picture prize at the Genie Awards.

In 2004 Egoyan opened Camera Bar, a 50-seat cinema-lounge on Queen Street West in Toronto.

In 2005 Egoyan joined the faculty of the media and communications division at European Graduate School (EGS) in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducts intensive summer seminars.[1] Beginning in September 2006, Egoyan taught at the University of Toronto for three years.[13] He joined the faculty of arts and science as the dean's distinguished visitor in theatre, film, music and visual studies.

In 2006, he received the Master of Cinema Award of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg.

Later, he directed the erotic thriller Chloe (2009), theatrically released by Sony Pictures Classics on March 26, 2010. This film grossed $3 million in the United States theatrically and became one of the higher-grossing specialty films in the United States in 2010[14](according to Variety, "$3 million is the new $10 million" for specialty films' box office in 2010[15]). Several months after the DVD/Blu-ray release of Chloe, Atom Egoyan said that Chloe had made more money than any of his previous films.[5] The success of Chloe led Egoyan to receive many scripts of erotic thrillers.[16] As of 2011 after the release of the West Memphis Three from 18 years in prison, Egoyan is to direct a movie about the case called Devil's Knot starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, based on a book on the case, Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt.

Egoyan has won four awards each at the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

In 2012, he directed a production of Martin Crimp's Cruel and Tender, starring Khanjian, at Canadian Stage in Toronto.[17]

Egoyan appeared at Luminato Festival in June 2013 for TimesTalks Luminato, and directed the Chinese opera Feng Yi Ting, which had its Canadian premiere at the festival.


Feature films[edit]

Year Film Notes
1984 Next of Kin First met Arsinée Khanjian
1987 Family Viewing
1989 Speaking Parts Best Motion Picture nomination, including five others, at the 1989 Genie Awards
1991 The Adjuster Won the Special Silver St. George at the 17th Moscow International Film Festival[18]
1993 Calendar
1994 Exotica Won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes and nominated for the Palme d'Or.[19]
1997 The Sweet Hereafter Won three awards at Cannes and nominated for the Palme d'Or.[20]
1999 Felicia's Journey Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes[21]
2002 Ararat Best Picture at the 2003 Genie Awards for best Canadian film; Also won Genies for costume design and original score; in addition, Arsinée Khanjian won the best actress award and Elias Koteas best supporting actor at the 2003 Genie Awards.
2005 Where the Truth Lies Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes[22]
2008 Adoration Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes
2009 Chloe
2013 Devil's Knot
2014 The Captive Palme d'Or nomination at 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[23]
2015 Remember

TV films[edit]

Short films[edit]

Documentary films[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "Atom Egoyan Faculty Page at European Graduate School (Biography, bibliography and video lectures)". European Graduate School. Archived from the original on 23 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  2. ^ Nestruck, J. Kelly (February 23, 2011). "Canstage lures Atom Egoyan back to the stage - The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Clarke, Cath (January 21, 2010). "The double life of Atom Egoyan". The Guardian (London). 
  5. ^ a b Pevere, Geoff (December 7, 2010). "The Digital Revolution: Part 1". The Star (Toronto). 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dan David Prize Official site, Atom Egoyan
  8. ^
  9. ^ Charles Rawlings-Way, Natalie Karneef (2007). Toronto (3rd ed. ed.). Footscray, Vic., Australia: Lonely Planet. p. 28. ISBN 9781740598354. 
  10. ^ "ATOM EGOYAN - BIOGRAPHY". European Graduate School. Retrieved 25 August 2013. Atom Egoyan’s name was a symbolic choice by his parents, named after the new nuclear reactor in Egypt. 
  11. ^ Interview with Eleanor Wachtel on CBC Radio One's programme Ideas on February 9, 2010. cf. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  12. ^ Egoyan, Atom. Interview by Robert K. Elder. The Film That Changed My Life. By Robert K. Elder. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. N. p179. Print.
  13. ^ Teaching gig just another way to be creative, Egoyan says, August 17, 2006, CBC Arts
  14. ^
  15. ^ Stewart, Andrew (April 24, 2010). "Specialty pics face reduced expectations". Variety. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Filmmaker Atom Egoyan loving his return to directing live theatre". Toronto Star, January 25, 2012.
  18. ^ "17th Moscow International Film Festival (1991)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  19. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Exotica". Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  20. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Sweet Hereafter". Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  21. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Felicia's Journey". Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  22. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Where the Truth Lies". Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  23. ^ "2014 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 

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