Gregg Araki

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This article is about the American director. For the photographer, see Nobuyoshi Araki.
Gregg Araki
Gregg Araki Deauville 2014.jpg
Gregg Araki in 2014 at the Deauville American Film Festival
Born (1959-12-17) December 17, 1959 (age 54)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Director, screenwriter, editor, producer, cinematographer
Years active 1987–present
Partner(s) Kathleen Robertson (1997-1999)

Gregg Araki (born December 17, 1959) is an American independent filmmaker. He is involved in New Queer Cinema.[1]

Early life[edit]

Araki was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Santa Barbara, California. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies at UC Santa Barbara and an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California in 1985.[2]


Araki made his directorial debut in 1987 with Three Bewildered People in the Night. With a budget of only $5,000 and using a stationary camera, he told the story of a romance between a video artist, her sweet-heart and her gay friend.

Two years later, Araki made a name for himself on the festival circuit with The Long Weekend (O' Despair). Produced, directed, written, photographed and edited by Araki (for his own Desperate Pictures Company), this very small-scale Big Chill derivation involved a group of recent college graduates brooding over their futures during one woozy, boozy evening.

He followed this up in 1992 with The Living End, a road movie about two HIV-positive men whose paths cross one fateful day and the tumultuous relationship which ensues. The film starred Craig Gilmore and Mike Dytri, and featured Mary Woronov (who appeared in several "underground" films by Andy Warhol) and cult favorite Paul Bartel. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.

Araki's next three films comprised his "Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy."

Totally Fucked Up (1993) (Totally F***ed Up in publicity) chronicled the dysfunctional lives of six gay adolescent people who have formed a family unit and struggle to get along with each other and with life in the face of various major obstacles. Araki himself classified it as "A rag-tag story of the fag-and-dyke teen underground....A kinda cross between avant-garde experimental cinema and a queer John Hughes flick". The movie explored the young people's depression and misery. He also said of the film, “It’s my most Godard-damaged movie to date. It’s really inspired, or heavily influenced, by Masculin, feminin.”[3]

The Doom Generation (1995) was a black comedy brimming with graphic violence, cultural symbolism and relentless eroticism. The film starred Rose McGowan, Johnathon Schaech and James Duval (who had starred in Totally Fucked Up), with cameos by indie favorite Parker Posey, comedienne Margaret Cho, 21 Jump Street actor Dustin Nguyen, The Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight, The Love Boat star Lauren Tewes, Hollywood madame Heidi Fleiss, musician Perry Farrell and industrial band Skinny Puppy. While largely trashed by critics, the piece won a measure of respect in a number of circles and is available on DVD and VHS in both rated and unrated versions due to several sex scenes as well as the violent climax.

Nowhere (1997) was described by its director as "A Beverly Hills, 90210 episode on acid". It centered around a group of bored, alienated adolescent people in Los Angeles during a typical day of kinky sex, drugs, and the requisite wild party. Duval, Rachel True, Nathan Bexton, Debi Mazar, Christina Applegate, Heather Graham, Ryan Phillippe, Jaason Simmons, Scott Caan and Mena Suvari starred in the film, with cameos by Beverly D'Angelo, Facts of Life star Charlotte Rae, Traci Lords, Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowan, John Ritter and International Male and fitness model Brian Buzzini.

Araki's subsequent effort, the romantic comedy Splendor, tells the story of a woman (Kathleen Robertson) who cannot choose between two men (Johnathon Schaech and Matt Keeslar) and so decides to live with them both. Splendor was both a response to the controversy surrounding his relationship with Robertson and an homage to screwball comedies of the 1940s and 1950s. Hailed as the director's most optimistic film to date, it made its premiere at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.

Araki's next venture was the ill-fated MTV series This Is How the World Ends (2000), which was meant to have a budget of $1.5 million. The network only gave him $700,000 and hoped to find partners to finance the difference. Araki offered to make the pilot episode for $700,000, and MTV took him up on it, but after the pilot was shot it was not picked up for broadcast. There are, however, bootleg copies of the pilot circulating the internet.[4]

Following a short hiatus, Araki returned with the critically acclaimed Mysterious Skin (2004) based on a novel by Scott Heim, which tells the story of a teenage hustler and a withdrawn young man obsessed with alien abductions, and how they both deal with the sexual abuse they suffered from their Little League coach when they were children. With this film, Araki found critical acclaim and a generally good public reaction.

Araki's ninth feature, made in 2007, was the stoner comedy Smiley Face, starring Anna Faris, which he directed with a screenplay by Dylan Haggerty. Araki wanted to make a comic film after shooting the more serious and darker Mysterious Skin. Critics have mentioned the potential of this film in becoming a "cult classic".[5][6]

Araki's tenth film Kaboom made its premiere at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, and was awarded the first ever Queer Palm for its contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. The film was released in America on January 28.[7]

One consistent feature of Araki's work to date is the presence of music from the shoegazer genre as film soundtracks, first seen on Totally Fucked Up and heavily so on the films Nowhere and Mysterious Skin (even going so far as to employ Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins to oversee the latter's score). Both The Living End and Nowhere are named after tracks by shoegazing bands (The Jesus and Mary Chain and Ride respectively).


In 2006, Araki was honored with the Filmmaker on the Edge Award at the Provincetown International Film Festival.

Personal life[edit]

Araki self-identified as gay until 1997, when he entered a relationship with actress Kathleen Robertson, whom he directed in Nowhere.[8] The relationship ended in 1999. Araki has since mainly dated men. He now identifies as bisexual.[citation needed]


Gregg Araki at the Deauville American Film Festival in 2010.


Yutani, Kimberly (1996). "Gregg Araki and the Queer New Wave". In Leong, Russell. Asian American sexualities: dimensions of the gay & lesbian experience. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 175–180. ISBN 978-0-415-91437-6. 

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