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Abel Ferrara at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival
|Born||July 19, 1951|
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
|Other names||Jimmy Boy L, Jimmy Laine|
|Occupation||Director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor, cinematographer|
Abel Ferrara (born July 19, 1951) is an American filmmaker, known for the provocative and often controversial content in his movies, his use of neo-noir imagery and gritty urban settings. A long-time independent filmmaker, some of his best known movies include Ms .45 (1981), King of New York (1990), Bad Lieutenant (1992) and The Funeral (1996).
Ferrara was born in the Bronx of Italian and Irish descent. He was raised Catholic, which had a later effect on much of his work. At 8 years old, he moved to Peekskill in Westchester County, New York, where he started making movies at Rockland Community College. Later, he attended the film conservatory at SUNY Purchase, where he directed several short films.
Finding himself out of work after film school in 1976, Ferrara directed a pornographic film titled 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy using a pseudonym. Starring with his then-girlfriend, he recalled having to step in front of the camera for one scene to perform in a hardcore sex scene: "It's bad enough paying a guy $200 to fuck your girlfriend, then he can't get it up."
Ferrara first drew a cult audience with his grindhouse movie The Driller Killer (1979), an urban slasher film about an artist (played by the director himself) who goes on a killing spree with a power drill. In the United Kingdom, the movie made it on a list of "video nasties" created by moral crusaders that led to prosecutions under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and to the passing of new legislation which forced all video releases to appear before the British Board of Film Classification for rating.
The directors' next feature was Ms .45 (1981), a "rape revenge" movie about a mute garment worker turned murderer (Zoë Tamerlis). Reviewers called it "a provocative, disreputable movie, well worth seeing."
In 1984, Ferrara was hired to direct Fear City, starring Melanie Griffith, Billy Dee Williams, Rae Dawn Chong and María Conchita Alonso. When a "kung fu slasher" stalks and murders young women who work in a seedy Times Square strip club, a disgraced boxer portrayed by Tom Berenger has to use his fighting skills to defeat the killer.
Ferrara worked on two Michael Mann-produced television series, directing the two-hour pilot for Crime Story (aired 18 September 1986), starring Dennis Farina, and two episodes of the series Miami Vice.
King of New York (1990) stars Christopher Walken as gangster Frank White, Laurence Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, David Caruso and Giancarlo Esposito. The movie received overall mixed reviews, but Ferrara was praised for his strong command of mood and style. Roger Ebert wrote "What Ferrara needs for his next film is a sound screenplay."
Bad Lieutenant (1992) credits Ferrara and actress Zoë Tamerlis, who plays the woman who helps the Lieutenant freebase heroin in the movie, as co-writers of the script, but Tamerlis claimed that she wrote it alone. Bad Lieutenant received Spirit Awards nominations for Best Director and Best Actor, and despite its controversial content, the movie was lauded by critics. Martin Scorsese named it one of his top 10 films of the 1990s.
In 1993, Ferrara was hired for two Hollywood studio movies: a new remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, titled Body Snatchers (1993), for Warner Bros.; and Dangerous Game (1993), starring Keitel and Madonna, for MGM.
In the mid-1990s Ferrara directed two well-received independent movies:
The Addiction (1995), photographed in black-and-white, stars Lili Taylor as a philosophy student who succumbs to a vampire as she studies the problem of evil and philosophical pedagogy, represented by the most violent events of the 20th century. The movie also features Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, Kathryn Erbe and Michael Imperioli. It was co-produced by Russell Simmons.
The Funeral (1996), starring Walken, Sciorra, Chris Penn, Isabella Rossellini, Benicio del Toro, Vincent Gallo and Gretchen Mol, was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards including Best Director.
After making The Blackout (1997) with Matthew Modine and Dennis Hopper, he contributed to the omnibus television movie Subway Stories. Ferrara then made New Rose Hotel (1998), which reunited him with Christopher Walken.
After recording two commentaries for Driller Killer and King of New York, he made Mary (2005), the religious-themed movie starring Forest Whitaker, Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, Heather Graham, Stefania Rocca and Matthew Modine. The multi-plot movie concerns an actress (Binoche) who stars in a Passion of the Christ-like movie about Jesus, where she plays Mary Magdalene, with whom she subsequently becomes obsessed. Matthew Modine portrays the director of the movie, who bears similarities to Mel Gibson. Mary premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2005. It swept the awards ceremony, garnering the Grand Jury Prize, SIGNIS Award and two others. It was shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In 2007, he directed Go Go Tales, a comedy with Modine, Bob Hoskins and Willem Dafoe that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival but was not shown in the United States until a special screening at the Anthology Film Archives in 2011.
In 2009, Napoli, Napoli, Napoli premiered out of competition at the 66th Venice International Film Festival. The docudrama received little attention and poor reviews but Werner Herzog's reboot Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was selected for competition at the prestigious festival. Asked about the Herzog film, Ferrara was quoted widely saying "I wish these people die in hell."
In 2014, a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case starring Gérard Depardieu and Jacqueline Bisset titled Welcome to New York was released on video on demand. 2014 also saw the release of Pasolini about the titular Italian director starring Willem Dafoe.
Ferrara is married to Cristina Chiriac and they have a daughter, Anna. He was previously married to Nancy Ferrara. Ferrara has two adopted children: Endira and Lucy. He was also in a relationship with actress Shanyn Leigh.
Raised Catholic, Ferrara started describing himself as Buddhist in 2007. When asked if he had converted, Ferrara responded,
It’s not a conversion, you’re not a card-carrying Catholic, you’re brought up Italian, so you’re brought up with those images. All the great art is financed by the Church so they have a monopoly on the paintings, and they’re powerful images, the whole nine yards of it. But Jesus was a living man, and so were Buddha and Muhammad. These three guys changed the fucking world, with their passion and love of other human beings. All these guys had was their word, and they came from fucking nowhere. I’m not saying Nazareth is nowhere – I’m sure Jesus came from a very cool neighbourhood.— Abel Ferrara
Artists and filmmakers who influenced Ferrara's work include "the Stones and Dylan...DaVinci, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen and all of the great New York film makers." He has also credited Pier Paolo Pasolini and Rainer Werner Fassbinder as influences.
|1971||Nicky's Film||Yes||Yes||short film|
|1972||The Hold Up||Yes||Yes||Yes||short film|
|1973||Could It Be Love||Yes||Yes||short film|
|1976||9 Lives of a Wet Pussy||Yes||Yes||pornographic movie|
credited as Jimmy Boy L.
|1977||Not Guilty: For Keith Richards||Yes||documentary, short film|
|1979||The Driller Killer||Yes||Yes||role: Reno|
performance credited as Jimmy Laine
|1981||Ms .45||Yes||Yes||role: 1st rapist|
performance credited as Jimmy Laine
|1986||The Gladiator||Yes||TV movie|
|Crime Story||Yes||TV pilot|
|1988||The Loner||Yes||TV movie|
|1990||King of New York||Yes|
|1996||Mylène Farmer: California||Yes||Music video|
|Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground||Yes||TV movie|
Segment "Love on the A Train"
|1998||New Rose Hotel||Yes||Yes|
|2004||Abenaa: "Rain"||Yes||Yes||music video|
|2007||Go Go Tales||Yes||Yes|
|2008||Chelsea on the Rocks||Yes||Yes||documentary|
|2009||Napoli Napoli Napoli||Yes||Yes||documentary|
|Daddy Longlegs||Yes||role: Robber|
|OneDreamRush: Dream Piece||Yes||short film|
|2011||4:44 Last Day on Earth||Yes||Yes|
|2012||Pizza Connection||Yes||web series|
|No Saints||Yes||short film|
|My Big-Assed Mother||Yes||Role: Charles Bukowski|
|2014||Welcome to New York||Yes||Yes|
|Don Peyote||Yes||role: Taxi cab driver|
|2017||Black Butterfly||Yes||role: Pat|
|Alive in France||Yes||Yes||Yes||documentary|
|Talking with the Vampires||Yes||Yes||Yes||documentary, short film|
Ferrara has recast many of the same actors in his movies, most notably Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe. Other actors he has recast include Annabella Sciorra and Matthew Modine as well as character actors such as Victor Argo, Paul Calderón and Giancarlo Esposito. David Caruso is another one of Ferrara's frequent film collaborators. M .45 (1981) star Zoë Lund collaborated with Ferrara again on Bad Lieutenant (1992), which she co-wrote. Gretchen Mol has worked with Ferrara twice. Forest Whitaker starred in Ferrara's movies Mary (2005) and Body Snatchers (1993).
|Actor||The Driller Killer
|King of New York
|New Rose Hotel
|Go Go Tales
|Chelsea on the Rocks
|Napoli Napoli Napoli
|4:44 Last Day on Earth
|Welcome to New York
Awards and nominations
|1993||Body Snatchers||Palme d'Or||Nominated|
|1993||Bad Lieutenant||Independent Spirit Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|1995||The Addiction||Golden Berlin Bear||Nominated|
|1996||The Funeral||Independent Spirit Award for Best Director||Nominated|
|1998||The Blackout||Worst Director - Yoga Awards||Won|||
|2001||R' Xmas||Un Certain Regard||Nominated|
- Nicole Brenez, Abel Ferrara, University of Illinois Press, 2007 page 2
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