Boorman at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, 24 September 2006
18 January 1933 |
Shepperton, Surrey, England
John Boorman (born 18 January 1933) is an English filmmaker who is a longtime resident of Ireland and is best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory, The General and The Tailor of Panama.
Early life 
Boorman was born in Shepperton, Surrey, England, the son of Ivy (née Chapman) and George Boorman. He was educated at the Salesian School in Chertsey, Surrey, even though his family was not Roman Catholic. He has directed a total of 22 movies.
Boorman first began by working as a drycleaner and journalist in the late 1950s. He ran the newsrooms at Southern Television in Southampton and Dover before moving into TV documentary filmmaking, eventually becoming the head of the BBC's Bristol-based Documentary Unit in 1962.
Capturing the interest of producer David Deutsch, he was offered the chance to direct a film aimed at repeating the success of A Hard Day's Night (directed by Richard Lester in 1964): Catch Us If You Can (1965) is about competing pop group Dave Clark Five. While not as successful commercially as Lester's film, it drew good reviews from distinguished critics such as Pauline Kael and Dilys Powell and smoothed Boorman's way into the film industry. Boorman was drawn to Hollywood for the opportunity to make larger-scale cinema and in Point Blank (1967), a powerful interpretation of a Richard Stark novel, brought a stranger's vision to the decaying fortress of Alcatraz and the proto-hippy world of San Francisco. Lee Marvin gave the then-unknown director his full support, telling MGM he deferred all his approvals on the project to Boorman.
After Point Blank, Boorman re-teamed with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune for the robinsonade of Hell in the Pacific (1968), which tells a fable story of two representative soldiers stranded together on an island.
Returning to the UK, he made Leo The Last (US/UK, 1970). This film exhibited the influence of Federico Fellini and even starred Fellini regular Marcello Mastroianni, and won him a Best Director award at Cannes.
Boorman achieved much greater resonance with Deliverance (US, 1972, adapted from a novel by James Dickey), the ordeal of four urban men, played by Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty, who encounter danger from an unexpected quarter while whitewater rafting through the Appalachian backwood. This film became Boorman's first true box office success, earning him several award nominations.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Boorman was planning to film The Lord of the Rings and corresponded about his plans with the author, J. R. R. Tolkien. Ultimately the production proved too costly, though some elements and themes can be seen in Excalibur.
A wide variety of films followed. Zardoz (1973), starring Sean Connery, was a post-apocalyptic science fiction piece, set in the 24th century. According to the director's film commentary, the 'Zardoz world' was on a collision course with an "effete" eternal society, which it accomplished, and in the story must reconcile with a more natural human nature.
Boorman was selected as director for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), but the resultant film was widely ridiculed and regarded by many as a failure.
Excalibur (UK, 1981), a long-held dream project of Boorman's, is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, based on Le Morte D'Arthur. Boorman cast actors Nicol Williamson and Helen Mirren against their protests, as the two disliked each other intensely, but Boorman felt their mutual antagonism would enhance their characterizations of the characters they were playing. The production was based in the Republic of Ireland, where Boorman had relocated. For the film he employed all of his children as actors and crew and several of Boorman's later films have been 'family business' productions.
Hope and Glory (1987, UK) is his most autobiographical movie to date, a retelling of his childhood in London during The Blitz. Produced by Goldcrest Films with Hollywood financing the film proved a Box Office hit in the US, receiving numerous Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. However his 1990 US produced comedy about a dysfunctional family, Where the Heart Is, was a major flop.
The Emerald Forest (1985) saw Boorman cast his actor son Charley Boorman as an eco-warrior, in a rainforest adventure that included commercially-required elements — action and near-nudity — with authentic anthropological detail. Rospo Pallenberg's original screenplay was adapted into a book of the same name by award winning author Robert Holdstock.
When his friend David Lean died in 1991, Boorman was announced to be taking over direction of Lean's long planned adaptation of Nostromo, though the production collapsed. Beyond Rangoon (US, 1995) and The Tailor of Panama (US/Ireland, 2000) both explore unique worlds with alien characters stranded and desperate.
Boorman won the Best Director Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for The General, his black-and-white biopic of Martin Cahill. The film is about a glamorous, yet mysterious, criminal in Dublin who was killed, apparently by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Boorman himself had been one of Cahill's burglary victims, having the gold record awarded for the score to Deliverance stolen from his home.
In 2004, Boorman was made a Fellow of BAFTA.
Released in 2006, The Tiger's Tail was a thriller set against the tableau of early 21st century capitalism in Ireland. At the same time, Boorman began work on a long-time pet project of his, a fictional account of the life of Roman Emperor Hadrian (entitled Memoirs of Hadrian), written in the form of a letter from a dying Hadrian to his successor. In the meantime, a re-make/re-interpretation of the classic The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz with Boorman at the helm has been announced in August 2009.
In 2007 and 2009 he has taken part in a series of events and discussions as part of the Arts in Marrakech Festival along with his daughter Katrine Boorman including an event with Kim Cattrall 'Being Directed'.
Personal life 
Boorman lives in Annamoe, County Wicklow, Ireland, close to the famous Glendalough twin lakes. He has seven children. His son Charley Boorman has a career as an actor but reached a wider audience when he and actor Ewan McGregor made a televised motorbike trip across Europe, Central Asia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and the Midwest USA during 2004. His daughter Katrine (Igrayne in Excalibur) works as an actress in France. John Boorman's daughter Telsche wrote the screenplay for Where the Heart Is. She died of ovarian cancer in 1997 at the age of 39. She was married to the journalist Lionel Rotcage, the son of French singer Régine. John Boorman also has a daughter, Daisy Boorman, who is the twin sister of Charley, and three other children: Lola, Lee and Lily Mae. He was recently divorced.
|Film||Year||Oscar nominations||Oscar wins||Notes|
|Catch Us If You Can||1965|
|Hell in the Pacific||1968|
|Leo the Last||1970||Also Writer|
|Exorcist II: The Heretic||1977||Also Producer|
|The Emerald Forest||1985||Also Producer|
|Hope and Glory||1987||5||Also Writer/Producer|
|Where the Heart Is||1990||Also Writer/Producer|
|Beyond Rangoon||1995||Also Producer|
|The General||1998||Also Writer/Producer|
|The Tailor of Panama||2001||Also Writer/Producer|
|In My Country||2005||Also Producer|
|The Tiger's Tail||2006||Also Writer|
Further reading 
- Boorman, John (2003). Adventures of a Suburban Boy. London: Faber and Faber.
- Boorman, John (1985). Money Into Light: The Emerald Forest: A Diary. London: Faber and Faber.
- Boorman, John (1992). "Bright Dreams, Hard Knocks: A Journal for 1991". Projections: A Forum for Film Makers. London: Faber and Faber.
- Ciment, Michel (1986). John Boorman. London: Faber and Faber.
- John Boorman Biography (1933-)
- "Festival de Cannes: The General". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- "John Boorman - A very English visionary is back". Article in The Independent (London). 21 August 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- Flynn, Arthur. The Story of Irish Film, Currach Press, 2005, ISBN 978-1-85607-914-3, p.131
- Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1261213/Charley-Boorman-I-ve-scary-moments-biking-world--prepared-cancer.html
- John Boorman at the Internet Movie Database
- John Boorman at the British Film Institute's Screenonline
- That's all, folks, article by Boorman in The Guardian arguing that the current Hollywood studio system promotes mediocrity and is unsustainable
- Zardoz: Out of the Vortex Infos, timeline, special files, pics and much more about 'Zardoz' (1973)
- Boorman's plans for The Lord of the Rings
- Boorman's attempted trip to Middle-earth
- More info on Boorman's LOTR, from the theonering.com message board
- John Boorman at the Grand Action A documentary about John Boorman who came in Paris (France), in 2006, to present Point Blank with the French critic Michel Ciment.
- John Boorman Interview of John Boorman for Boulevard du Classic