Tony Kaye (director)

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Tony Kaye
Tony Kaye 2011 Shankbone.JPG
Kaye at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Detachment
Born (1952-07-08) 8 July 1952 (age 68)
London, England
OccupationDirector, cinematographer, producer, screenwriter, actor, writer, poet, singer/songwriter, painter
Years active1979–present
Spouse(s)Eugenia Volosinovici
Yan Lin Kaye

Tony Kaye (born 8 July 1952) is an English director of films, music videos, advertisements, and documentaries. He is best known as the director of American History X (1998).

Life and career[edit]

Kaye was born to an Haredi Jewish family in Stamford Hill, London, United Kingdom.[1]

He has made several well-known music videos, including the video for "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash, which won a Grammy Award, "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "What God Wants" by Roger Waters, and "Help Me" and "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum. Kaye is a nine-time Grammy nominated music video director.

His feature film debut was American History X (1998), a drama about racism starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong. Kaye disowned the final cut of the film and unsuccessfully attempted to have his name removed from the credits.[2][3] The film was critically lauded and Norton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film. The battle over artistic control of the film, which has become part of Hollywood folklore, all but destroyed Kaye's career. He delivered his original cut on time and within budget – but when the producer, New Line Cinema, insisted on changes, the arguments began. The debate quickly escalated. Kaye spent $100,000 of his own money to take out 35 full-page ads in the Hollywood trade press denouncing Norton and the producer, using quotations from a variety of people from John Lennon to Abraham Lincoln. He attended a meeting at New Line to which (to ease negotiations) he brought a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Tibetan monk. When the company offered him an additional eight weeks to re-cut the film, he said he had discovered a new vision and needed a year to remake it, and flew to the Caribbean to have the script rewritten by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott. Finally, when the Directors Guild refused to let him remove his name from the New Line version of the film, he demanded it to be credited to "Humpty Dumpty" instead, and filed a $200 million lawsuit when the company refused.[3]

Kaye's second feature, a documentary called Lake of Fire, was about the abortion debate in the United States. It opened in Toronto in September 2006. The movie was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (though it did not win a nomination), and was nominated for Best Documentary Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, and the Satellite Awards. Lake of Fire took Kaye 18 years to make.

Kaye's third feature film was a crime drama titled Black Water Transit starring Laurence Fishburne, Karl Urban, Evan Ross, Brittany Snow, and Stephen Dorff. The film was shot in New Orleans during the summer of 2007. A rough cut was reportedly screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival but the film was never released to cinemas. As of 2017 the film is considered unfinished due to the production company's bankruptcy and the ensuing litigation.

Kaye's fourth feature film, Detachment (2011), starring Adrien Brody, as well as featuring Kaye's daughter Betty, is a drama about the decline of the education system in American high schools. It premiered in April 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film screened and won awards at the following film festivals: Deauville American Film Festival, Woodstock film festival (Honorary Maverick Award for Kaye) Valenciennes International Festival of Action and Adventure Films in France, Tokyo International Film Festival, São Paulo International Film Festival, and Ramdam Film Festival in Tournai, Belgium.

On 24 January 2016, Kaye announced on his Facebook page that he will be directing Joe Vinciguerra's screenplay titled Stranger Than the Wheel. The upcoming film features Shia LaBeouf and potentially Alec Baldwin about a young man who revisits his past, and his relationship with this abusive father.[citation needed][4]

Kaye also began filming a documentary in 2016 called The Hell of Compromise which he is making about the struggle over American History X, composed chiefly of videos he shot of himself at the time. Kaye said that it is meant to be a personal portrait of the process and the trauma that he encountered in his first experience as a Hollywood filmmaker. He also pointed out that the point of the movie was to help creative people to not get in their own way.

Personal life[edit]

Kaye has been married twice.[1] His first wife was a Romanian woman named Eugenia Volosonovici. They have two daughters.[citation needed] His second wife is Chinese-American artist Yan Lin Kaye.[5] They have two daughters: Shanghai [1] and Eema Emet Kaye.[citation needed]

Kaye enjoys singing, songwriting and playing guitar. He is frequently found at various open mic nights around London, most notably Redrock Jam at Dublin Castle, Camden and Ant Henson's Open Mic London in Clerkenwell.



  1. ^ a b c Higginbotham, Adam (10 June 2007). "I did abominable things". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  2. ^ McCarthy, Todd (22 October 1998). "American History X". Variety. Archived from the original on 23 July 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2009. It is possible that some otherwise well-disposed critics may restrain their praise, even unwittingly, in knee-jerk sympathy with director Kaye, who disowns this cut and lost his bid to take his name off the picture.
  3. ^ a b Kaye, Tony (25 October 2002). "Losing it". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  4. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (24 January 2016). "Tony Kaye Returns With 'Stranger Than The Wheel' Starring – The Playlist". The Playlist.
  5. ^ Pulverz, Andrew (6 July 2012). "Tony Kaye: 'I hope I'm having a moment now' – Nearly 15 years after American History X made him a Hollywood pariah, Tony Kaye has returned to feature films with the star-studded Detachment. So what's changed?". The Guardian. London.

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