Penelope Spheeris after an interview with The Diamondback student newspaper.
December 2, 1945 |
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Occupation||Film director, film producer, screenwriter|
Penelope Spheeris (born December 2, 1945) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She is best known as a documentary film director whose works include the trilogy titled The Decline of Western Civilization. She has also directed feature films, including Wayne's World, her highest grossing film.
Spheeris was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a Greek immigrant father who owned the Magic Empire Shows circus carnival and was a side-show strong man. Her mother was a ticket taker for a traveling circus side show. Spheeris is a sister of singer Jimmie Spheeris and a first cousin of musician Chris Spheeris, and the Greek-French director Costa Gavras, who she says makes her consider that there is something to the genetic aspects to the job description. Spheeris spent her first seven years traveling around the American South and American Midwest with her father's carnival. She majored in film and has a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theater Arts from UCLA in Los Angeles, California.
Spheeris launched her career by producing short subjects for comedian Albert Brooks, many of them being highlights in the first season of the television series Saturday Night Live. Her first feature film was The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), a punk rock documentary that she produced as well as directed. She followed up with The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, this time about the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of 1988, with footage and interviews of legendary metal bands such as Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Megadeth and Motörhead. She later returned to the streets of Los Angeles and the punk rock scene in 1998 for the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part III. She was offered the chance to direct This is Spinal Tap, but declined as she was unwilling to take part in making fun of music she genuinely enjoyed.
In addition, she worked as a writer for the television series Roseanne (1988-1997). In the 1990s, Spheeris directed Wayne's World, a comedy based on Mike Myers's skits from Saturday Night Live. The movie grossed over $183 million and became a popular hit. She directed the Wayne's World music video work for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", which earned a Grammy Award nomination. She had difficulty working with Myers, while acknowledging him as "profoundly talented," and in an Entertainment Weekly article stated she believes Myers dissuaded Paramount Pictures from hiring her for the sequel.
Other films Spheeris has directed include The Beverly Hillbillies; The Little Rascals (for which she co-wrote the screenplay); the Chris Farley comedy Black Sheep; the Marlon Wayans-David Spade team-up Senseless; and The Kid & I starring Tom Arnold. In 2006, she was set to direct the still-unfilmed Gospel According to Janis, about Janis Joplin.
In 2010, she directed the comedy Balls to the Wall.
- Synthesis (1968)
- Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales (1968) (unfinished)
- Naked Angels (1969)
- Bath (1969)
- Shit (1969)
- The National Rehabilitation Center (1969)
- I Don't Know (1970)
- Hats off to Hollywood (1972)
- Saturday Night Live (1975–1976) (TV) (Producer of Albert Brooks segments only)
- Real Life (1979) (Producer Only)
- The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
- Suburbia (a.k.a. "Rebel Streets" and "The Wild Side") (1984) (also Writer)
- The Boys Next Door (1985)
- Hollywood Vice Squad (1986)
- Dudes (1987)
- Summer Camp Nightmare (1987) (co-writer only, with Bert L. Dragin)
- The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988)
- Thunder and Mud (1990)
- Banned in the U.S.A. (1990)
- Roseanne (1990) (TV) (Writer Only)
- Rap's Most Wanted (1991)
- Prison Stories: Women on the Inside (1991) (TV)
- Wayne's World (1992)
- The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)
- Danger Theatre (1993) (TV) (also Writer/Executive Producer)
- The Little Rascals (1994) (also Co-Writer, with Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur)
- Black Sheep (1996)
- The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (1998)
- Senseless (1998)
- No Use Walkin' When You Can Stroll (1998)
- Hollyweird (1999)
- We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n Roll (2001)
- The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron (2003) (TV)
- Cracking Up (2004) (TV)
- The Kid & I (2005)
- Balls to the Wall (2010)
- Five (2011) (TV)
- BBC. "BBC – Radio 4 Woman's Hour – Penelope Spheeris".
- Diamond, Jamie (April 12, 1992). "FILM; Penelope Spheeris: From Carny Life To 'Wayne's World'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
- "Penelope Spheeris Biography (1945?-)".
- "Penelope Spheeris Yahoo! Biography". Yahoo. 2008. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Penelope Spheeris Biography". PenelopeSpheeris.com. 2008. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- "Penelope Spheeris interview 2011".
- "Mike Myers: Man of Mystery". ew.com.
- "Interview: Wayne's World director Penelope Spheeris". wwweek.com.