Cary Fukunaga

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Cary Fukunaga
Cary Fukunaga at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival
Cary Fukunaga at the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival
Born Cary Joji Fukunaga
(1977-07-10) July 10, 1977 (age 39)
Oakland, California, U.S.
Residence New York City, New York, U.S.
Education Grenoble Institute of Political Studies
Alma mater University of California, Santa Cruz
Tisch School of the Arts
Occupation Director
Years active 2003–present

Cary Joji Fukunaga (born July 10, 1977)[1] is an American film director, writer, and cinematographer. He is known for writing and directing the 2009 film Sin Nombre, the 2011 film Jane Eyre and for directing and executive producing the first season of the HBO series True Detective, for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. He has received acclaim for the 2015 war drama Beasts of No Nation, in which Fukunaga was writer, director, producer, and cinematographer.[2]

Early life[edit]

Fukunaga was born in Oakland, California. His father Anthony Shuzo Fukunaga was a third-generation Japanese-American, born in a Japanese internment camp during World War II,[3] who worked for a generator company and later for the University of California, Berkeley. His mother Gretchen May Grufman is Swedish-American,[4][5][6] who worked as a dental hygienist and later as a history teacher.[7] His parents divorced and remarried, his father to an Argentine woman, and his mother to a Mexican-American.[5]

Fukunaga said that his uncles and aunts are all elementary school teachers or scientists.[7] His family moved around a lot within the San Francisco Bay Area, moving to Berkeley, Albany, Vallejo, Benicia, Sebastopol and back to Oakland.[6]

Fukunaga originally wanted to be a pro snowboarder, but switched to filmmaking in his mid-twenties.[8] He got his start as a camera intern and later applied to film school.[9] He graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1999,[10][11] and attended Institut d'études politiques (IEP) de Grenoble. He enrolled in New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program.[12][13]


Short films[edit]

Fukunaga wrote and directed the short film Victoria para Chino (2004) while at NYU, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival and received a Student Academy Award in 2005.[14] The film won an Audience Award for Best Narrative Student Short film at the 2004 Austin Film Festival, a "Best Student Film" award at the 2006 Ashland Independent Film Festival, a "BAFTA/LA Award for Excellence – Honorable Mention" award at the 2005 Aspen Shortsfest, Best Student Film at the 2005 BendFilm Festival, Best Short Film and an Audience Award for Best Short Film at the 2005 Gen Art Film Festival, Best Short film at the 2005 Milan International Film Festival, and the Jury Prize for Best Student Short at the 2004 Woodstock Film Festival.

He wrote and directed the short films Kofi (2008) (shot in black and white) and more recently, Sleepwalking in the Rift (2012). Fukunaga wrote and directed a segment in the omnibus film project "Chinatown Film Project" (2009).

Feature films[edit]

Sin Nombre[edit]

Fukunaga made his feature film debut with Sin Nombre, which he wrote and directed. It received positive reviews.[15][16] The film received a number of awards, including the Directing award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and a "New Director's Award" for Fukunaga at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film won "Best Foreign Language Film" awards from the Austin Film Critics Association in 2009, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards in 2009, the Florida Film Critics Circle Awards in 2009, the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards in 2009 (2nd place for Best Foreign Language Film), and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards in 2009. The film's cinematographer, Adriano Goldman, won the Cinematography award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and at the 2009 Stockholm Film Festival, the film won a Best Actor award (for Edgar Flores), as well as a Best Directorial Debut and FIPRESCI Prize for Fukunaga. Fukunaga won a 2010 Premios ACE award for "Cinema – Best First Work." The film was nominated for Best Feature, Best Director and Best Cinematography from the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards, and was nominated by the 2009 British Independent Film Awards (Best Foreign Film), the 2010 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (Best Foreign Language Film), the 2009 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (Most Promising Filmmaker; Best Foreign Language Film), the 2010 Image Awards (Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture), the Bronze Horse at the 2009 Stockholm Film Festival and the 2009 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize.

Jane Eyre[edit]

In 2010, Fukunaga directed a new film adaptation of Jane Eyre starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench. The film was released in 2011 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Costume Design for Costume Designer Michael O'Connor and a 2012 Goya Award for Best European Film. The film was nominated for a 2012 BAFTA Award (Best Costume Design), a 2012 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award (Best Costume Design), the 2012 Costume Designers Guild Awards (Excellence in Period Film), the 2012 Evening Standard British Film Awards (Best Technical Achievement), the 2011 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards (Best Costume Design), the 2011 Satellite Awards (Best Costume Design). The 2012 Australian Film Institute awards as well as the 2011 British Independent Film Awards nominated Mia Wasikowska for a "Best Actress" award. The film's screenplay and screenwriter Moira Buffini (as well as author Charlotte Bronte) were nominated for a 2012 USC Scripter Award.

For his role in the film and other films that year, including Shame, A Dangerous Method, and X-Men: First Class, lead actor Michael Fassbender won "Best Actor" awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, the 2011 National Board of Review Awards, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards, the 2012 Evening Standard British Film Awards (also for Shame), and a 2012 Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor (also for A Dangerous Method and X-Men: First Class).

Beasts of No Nation[edit]

Fukunaga directed, wrote and filmed Beasts of No Nation, based on the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala, in which Idris Elba stars as Commandant, a lead character.[17] The movie was picked up by Netflix for a reported $12 million as part of an effort to expand into original films.[18] On November 25, 2015, Fukunaga was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Director and Best Cinematography for his work on Beasts of No Nation, and the film received a nomination for Best Feature.[19]


True Detective[edit]

Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of the first season of the 2014 HBO TV series True Detective, which was written and created by novelist, fiction writer and screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto.[20] The series stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan. Fukunaga served as an Executive Producer on the show. The series received critical praise and was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Directing for Fukunaga, who won. For the second season of True Detective, Fukunaga did not return as director, but continued to serve as executive producer.[8][21][22][23][24][25]

Writing and producing[edit]

Fukunaga has written most of the films he has directed. The short films that he has written the screenplays for include Kofi (2003) and Victoria para chino (2004). He wrote the screenplay to his feature film, Sin Nombre (2009), as well as his segment for the omnibus film, Chinatown Film Project (2009).

Fukunaga has produced or served as executive producer on most of the projects he has directed. He was the executive producer for his short films Kofi (2003) and Victoria para chino (2004). He was an executive producer on Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's feature film thriller, On the Ice, which won "Best Debut Film" and the "Crystal Bear" (Best Feature Film for the Generation 14+) at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, among other awards.

Fukunaga served as an executive producer for the HBO series he directed, True Detective.

Cinematography and other work[edit]

Fukunaga served as a cinematographer on a number of short film projects, including Handmade (2013) (a documentary short directed by Rob Meyer), Sikumi (2008) (also known as Sikumi (On the Ice) about an Inuit hunter on the frozen Arctic Ocean, directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean), Team Queen (2007) (a short film directed by Leah Meyerhoff), the feature documentary Death of Two Sons (2006) (directed by Micah Schaffer), the short films Clear Water (2005) (directed by Natalie Mooallem), White (2005) (directed by Sebastian Mantilla), Kinnaq Nigaqtuqtuaq (2005) (directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean), Two Men (2005) (directed by Ian Olds) and Mating Call (2004) (directed by Patricio Serna).

He served as a camera operator on the short Glory at Sea (2008) (directed by Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin), as a gaffer on the short film Just Make Believe (2008) (directed by Jadrien Steele), as an additional cinematographer on the TV documentary Small Steps: Creating the High School for Contemporary Arts (2007), assistant camera on the short film Dock (2004) (directed by Nina Martinek), additional photography for the documentary Lockdown, USA (about the "War on Drugs" campaign and directed by Rebecca Chaiklin and Michael Skolnik), additional camera for Autumn's Eyes (2006) (directed by Paola Mendoza and Gabriel Noble), a grip on the feature film Mango Kiss (2004) (directed by Sascha Rice), and as an additional film loader on the feature film Black Cadillac (2003) (directed by John Murlowski and starring Randy Quaid).

Future projects[edit]

Warner Bros. chose Fukunaga to develop, direct, and write a new adaptation of Stephen King's It, which would be split into two films and was due to start shooting in summer 2015.[26] Fukunaga was set to direct the first film and was expected to co-write the second.[26][27] Three weeks before production was slated to begin, Fukunaga left the project. New Line subsequently pushed production indefinitely.[28] A petition has been started on the website asking New Line Cinema and WB Entertainment to bring Cary back and meet his needs in order to finally put the films into production. The petition has over two thousand and five hundred signatures as of July 10, 2015.

His next feature was rumored to be a twist-filled science-fiction love story, Spaceless, from a well-known and long admired unproduced original script by I, Robot screenwriter Jeff Vintar, a favorite project of director Gore Verbinski, who would produce for Universal. Fukunaga's rewrite of Vintar's spec was too far removed from the original, and Fukunaga has since been removed as director. Verbinski is now set as the director of the original Vintar Spaceless draft.

During the summer of 2015, Fukunaga is producing, via his Parliament of Owls production company, the film Black Lung, a supernatural thriller that is set to star Amanda Seyfried and Theo James.[29]

In April 2015,[30] reported that Fukunaga was pairing again with Anonymous Content Productions to direct the TV series The Alienist , based upon the best selling novel of the same name by author Caleb Carr. The series is to be aired on TNT.[31] In September 2016, Jakob Verbruggen replaced Fukunaga as director due to scheduling conflicts, although he will retain "created by" credit and will remain an executive producer.[32]

Fukunaga's latest directorial effort is the dark comedy series Maniac for Netflix,set to be released in late 2017. Principal photography will begin on 15th of August 2017 and will wrap up by the end of November.[33]

In February 2017, it was reported Fukunaga was in talks to direct Shockwave, a drama about the lead-up to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Fukunaga lives in New York City. Fukunaga has lived in France, Japan, and Mexico City.[5] He is fluent in French and Spanish.[5] He counts screenwriter Naomi Foner as a mentor.[35] In February 2017 Fukunaga released a short promotional video he directed for the 2017 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George", starring Foner's son Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role.

He has received several grants, including a USA Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, the John H. Johnson Film Award / Princess Grace Foundation Fellowship, and a Katrin Cartlidge Foundation bursary.[citation needed]


Year Title Director Screenwriter Cinematographer Producer Notes
2003 Kofi Yes Yes Yes Short film
2003 Black Cadillac Additional film loader
2004 Victoria para chino Yes Yes Yes Short film
2004 The Adventures of Supernigger: Episode I – The Final Chapter Yes Short film
2004 Mating Call Short film
Assistant camera
2004 Mango Kiss Grip
2005 Two Men Yes Short film
2005 Kinnaq Nigaqtuqtuaq Yes Short film
2005 White Yes Short film
2005 Clear Water Yes Short film
2006 Death of Two Sons Yes Documentary
2006 Autumn's Eyes Documentary
Additional camera
2006 Lockdown, USA Documentary
Additional photography
2007 Team Queen Yes Short film
2007 Small Steps: Creating the High School for Contemporary Arts Yes Television documentary
2008 Sikumi (On the Ice) Yes Short film
2008 Just Make Believe Short film
2008 Glory at Sea Short film
Camera operator
2009 Sin Nombre Yes Yes Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Directing Award[36]
Edinburgh International Film Festival Skillset New Directors Award
Nominated—Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Filmmaker
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Nominated—Golden Eye Award for Best International Feature Film
2009 Chinatown Film Project Yes Yes Yes Kiwi Lotion[37][38]
2011 On the Ice Yes
2011 Jane Eyre Yes Nominated—Goya Award for Best European Film
2012 Sleepwalking in the Rift Yes Short film
2013 Handmade Yes Documentary short
2014 True Detective Yes Yes Television series
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
2014 Sikumi Yes Short film
2015 Beasts of No Nation Yes Yes Yes Yes Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography[19]
2017 Maniac Yes Television series.Also creator and executive producer
It Yes
The Alienist Creator, executive producer


  1. ^ "Cary J Fukunaga – California Birth Index". FamilySearch. Retrieved June 18, 2015. 
  2. ^ Polowy, Kevin (September 18, 2015). "15 Early Oscar Contenders Coming Out of Toronto, Telluride, and Venice". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved September 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Film Captures the Joy and Terror of Immigrants' Trip North Through Mexico". 2009. Archived from the original on August 27, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Anthony Shuzo Fukunaga mentioned in the record of Anthony Shuzo Fukunaga and Gretchen May Grufman". FamilySearch. Retrieved June 18, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d Johnson, Reed (March 8, 2009). "Crossing borders with 'Sin Nombre'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Stone, Judy (March 15, 2009). "Cary Joji Fukunaga on the (Very) Bay Area Story Behind 'Sin Nombre'". SF360. Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Brown, Emma (January 2014). "True Director". Interview Magazine. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Stern, Marlow (February 26, 2014). "True Detective Director Cary Fukunaga's Journey from Pro Snowboarder to Hollywood's Most Wanted". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  9. ^ Coombs, Molly J. (March 12, 2011). "Jane Eyre director Cary Fukunaga and star Mia Wasikowska – The Blast Interview". Blast. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  10. ^ Rappaport, Scott (January 25, 2009). "UCSC alumnus wins 2009 Sundance directing award for first feature film". UCSC Newscenter. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Alumnus Wins Film Award". UC Notes – Campus News. September 2005. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Featured Guest: Cary Fukunaga". Focus Features. August 21, 2008. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  13. ^ "66th Primetime Emmy® Nominees". NYU Tisch. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  14. ^ Rappaport, Scott (June 27 – July 10, 2005). "Awards and Honors: Alumnus wins Student Academy Award". Currents Online. Vol. 9, No. 42: UC Santa Cruz. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  15. ^ McCarthy, Todd (March 12, 2009). "Review: 'Sin Nombre' – A big new talent arrives on the scene with "Sin Nombre."". Variety. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  16. ^ Hill, Logan (March 23, 2009). "Sin Nombre Director Cary Fukunaga on Poverty Porn and Why His Next Film Might Be a Musical". Vulture. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  17. ^ Prudom, Laura (August 25, 2014). "'True Detective' Emmy Winner Cary Fukunaga Talks HBO Drama". Variety. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  18. ^ Kit, Borys (March 2, 2015). "Netflix Picking Up Cary Fukunaga's African Drama 'Beasts of No Nation'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 
  19. ^ a b "'Carol,' 'Spotlight,' 'Beasts of No Nation' lead Spirit Awards nominations". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  20. ^ St. John, Allen (February 9, 2014). "'Let The Actors Do Their Work:' A Conversation With 'True Detective' Director Cary Joji Fukunaga". Forbes. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  21. ^ Couch, Aaron (August 25, 2014). "Emmys: Cary Fukunaga Wins Outstanding Directing for 'True Detective'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  22. ^ Finnegan, Leah (August 25, 2014). "Cary Fukunaga: Hottest Straight Guy at the Emmys". Gawker. Archived from the original on August 27, 2014. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  23. ^ Dobbins, Amanda (March 5, 2014). "Are You into Cary Fukunaga Yet? You Should Be". Vulture. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  24. ^ Dobbins, Amanda (August 25, 2014). "And Now, Cary Fukunaga's Beautiful Man-Braids". Vulture. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  25. ^ Nessif, Bruna (August 25, 2014). "Oh, Hello, Cary Joji Fukunaga! Internet Gushes Over True Detective Director After 2014 Emmys Win". E! Online. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Buchanan, Kyle (December 5, 2014). "Cary Fukunaga Will Shoot Stephen King's It Next Summer". Vulture. Retrieved December 5, 2014. 
  27. ^ Squires, John (March 3, 2015). "Re-Adaptation of Stephen King's It Looking for New Pennywise". Dread Central. Retrieved March 3, 2015. 
  28. ^ Robinson, Will (May 25, 2015). "Cary Fukunaga leaves Stephen King adaptation 'It'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 18, 2015. 
  29. ^ Evry, Max (February 4, 2015). "Amanda Seyfried and Theo James to Headline Black Lung". Retrieved March 3, 2015. 
  30. ^ Ali Jaafar. "'The Alienist' TV Series: Cary Fukunaga Aboard To Direct & Produce – Deadline". Deadline. 
  31. ^ Cynthia Littleton. "'The Alienist' Lands Big Bucks Series Order From TNT". Variety. 
  32. ^ McLehman, Cindy (September 26, 2016). "The Alienist: Jakob Verbuggen Replaces Cary Fukunaga as Director of TNT Series". Retrieved September 30, 2016. 
  33. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2017-02-01). "Emma Stone-Jonah Hill Series 'Maniac' For Netflix & Paramount TV Gets Production Start Date With Cary Fukunaga Directing". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-02-12. 
  34. ^ Kit, Borys (2017-02-16). "Cary Fukunaga in Talks to Direct Atomic Bomb Drama 'Shockwave'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  35. ^ Greco, Patti (March 29, 2012). "Cary Fukunaga Is Addicted to Cabin Porn". Vulture. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  36. ^ "2009 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards: We Live in Public, Push, Rough Aunties and The Maid (La Nana) Earn Top Jury Prizes; Audience Favorites Feature Afghan Star, An Education, The Cove and Push". Sundance Film Festival. January 24, 2009. Archived from the original on November 26, 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  37. ^ "MOCA Monday: Chinatown Film Project". Museum of Chinese in America. December 19, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Chinatown Film Project". Museum of Chinese in America. Retrieved August 26, 2014. 

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