Cary Joji Fukunaga

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Cary Joji Fukunaga
A picture of Fukunaga as he looks away from the camera
Fukunaga in 2018
Born (1977-07-10) July 10, 1977 (age 44)
Oakland, California, U.S.
ResidenceNew York City, U.S.
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
  • cinematographer
Years active2003–present

Cary Joji Fukunaga (born July 10, 1977)[1] is an American director, producer, screenwriter, and cinematographer. He first gained recognition for writing and directing the 2009 film Sin nombre and the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre. He was the first director of Asian descent to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, as the director and executive producer of the first season of the HBO series True Detective. He received acclaim for the 2015 war drama Beasts of No Nation,[2] and directed the 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die (2021). He also co-wrote the 2017 Stephen King adaptation It.

Early life[edit]

Fukunaga was born in Oakland, California. His father, Anthony Shuzo Fukunaga, was a third-generation Japanese-American, born in an internment camp during World War II.[3] His mother, Gretchen May (Grufman), is Swedish-American[4][5][6] and worked as a dental hygienist, and later as a college history instructor and university assistant professor of history, from whom Fukunaga got his original interest in history.[7] His parents eventually divorced.[5]

His family often relocated within the San Francisco Bay Area, moving to Berkeley, Albany, Vallejo, Benicia, Sebastopol and back to Oakland.[6]

Fukunaga attended Analy High School.[8] He graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1999[9][10] and attended the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies, where he studied geopolitics and international law.[11] Fukunaga originally wanted to be a pro snowboarder, but switched to filmmaking in his mid-twenties.[12] He got his start as a camera intern and later applied to film school.[13] He enrolled in New York University Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program.[14][15]


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.[16] It 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.

Fukunaga also wrote and directed the short films Kofi (2003) and Sleepwalking in the Rift (2012).[17][18] He wrote and directed a segment in the omnibus film Chinatown Film Project (2009).[19]

Feature films[edit]

Sin Nombre[edit]

Fukunaga made his feature film debut with Sin Nombre, which he wrote and directed. It received positive reviews[20][21] and 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. In 2009, it won Best Foreign Language Film awards from the Austin Film Critics Association, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards, the Florida Film Critics Circle Awards, the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards (2nd place for Best Foreign Language Film), and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards. 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, and Best Directorial Debut and FIPRESCI Prizes for Fukunaga. It also brought Fukunaga the 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. It was released in 2011 and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Costume Design for Michael O'Connor, and a 2012 Goya Award for Best European Film.

It 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. Screenwriter Moira Buffini (as well as author Charlotte Brontë) were nominated for a 2012 USC Scripter Award.

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.[22] The movie was picked up by Netflix for a reported $12 million as part of an effort to expand into original films.[23] 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.[24]

No Time to Die[edit]

On September 20, 2018, it was announced that Fukunaga would direct the 25th James Bond film, replacing Danny Boyle.[25] He is the first American filmmaker to direct an official Bond film for EON Productions.[a] The film, eventually titled No Time to Die, was co-written by Fukunaga alongside Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and was eventually released in October 2021 in the United States.[26]


Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of the first season of the 2014 HBO TV series True Detective, which was written and created by novelist and screenwriter Nic Pizzolatto.[27] 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.[12][28][29][30][31][32]

Fukunaga was originally slated to direct the 2018 TNT TV series The Alienist.[33][34] However, due to scheduling conflicts he was replaced by Jakob Verbruggen, although he retained a "created by" credit and remained as an executive producer.[35] Fukunaga served as executive producer for the follow-up series to The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness, based on the novel of the same name.[36]

Fukunaga directed all ten episodes of the dark comedy series Maniac for Netflix.[37] It premiered on September 21, 2018.[38][39]

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).

Through his production company, Parliament of Owls,[40] 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. Warner Bros. chose Fukunaga to develop its adaptations of Stephen King's It (2017 and 2019), the first of which was initially due to start shooting in summer 2015.[41] Fukunaga was set to direct the first film and was expected to co-write the second.[41][42] Three weeks before production was slated to begin, Fukunaga left the project.[43]

Cinematography and other work[edit]

Fukunaga served as a cinematographer on a number of short film projects, including Handmade[44] (2013; 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]

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.[45] In March 2021, he signed on to direct and produce Tokyo Ghost, based on the science fiction comic book series of the same name.[46]

Since May 2016, it was reported that Fukunaga, alongside Spielberg, could finalize the long-sought epic film about Napoleon that Stanley Kubrick worked on until the last days of his life.[47] In September 2018, Fukunaga confirmed the reports, saying that he is already working with HBO on the film. In the same interview he said he was working on a project about Hiroshima and another on a book written by Alexandre Dumas.[48][49]

Personal life[edit]

Fukunaga lives in New York City. He has lived in France, Japan, Mexico City, and London,[50][5] and is fluent in English, French and Spanish. He considers screenwriter Naomi Foner as a mentor.[51]



Year Title Director Writer Producer DoP
2009 Chinatown Film Project Yes Yes No Yes
Sin nombre Yes Yes No No
2011 Jane Eyre Yes No No No
2015 Beasts of No Nation Yes Yes Yes Yes
2017 It No Yes No No
2021 No Time to Die Yes Yes No No

Producer only

Executive producer

Short films[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Producer
2003 Kofi Yes Yes Executive
2004 Victoria para chino Yes Yes Yes
2012 Sleepwalking in the Rift Yes Yes Executive

As cinematographer only[edit]

Year Title Notes
2004 Mating Call Short film
The Adventures of Supernigger:
Episode I – The Final Chapter
2005 Two Men
Kinnaq Nigaqtuqtuaq
Clear Water
2006 Death of Two Sons Documentary film
2007 Team Queen Short film
2008 Sikumi (On the Ice)
2013 Handmade


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2014–19 True Detective Yes No Yes Director (8 episodes)
Executive producer (24 episodes)
2018 The Alienist No Yes Yes Writer (2 episodes)
Executive producer (10 episodes)
Maniac Yes Yes Yes Director (10 episodes)
Writer (1 episode)
Executive producer (10 episodes)
2020 The Alienist: Angel of Darkness No No Yes Executive producer (10 episodes)
2022 Masters of the Air Yes No Yes Director (3 episodes)
Executive producer (10 episodes)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Work Result
2005 Sundance Film Festival Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking Victoria para Chino Won
Aspen Shortsfest Jury Award for Best Student Film Won
Austin Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Short Won
Britannia LA Award for Excellence Won
Student Academy Award for Best Narrative Short Won
Ashland Independent Film Award for Best Student Film Nominated
2009 Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Directing Award Sin Nombre Won
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Nominated
Edinburgh International Film Festival New Director's Award Won
Deauville Jury Special Prize Won
Deauville Grand Special Prize Nominated
Stockholm Bronze Horse Nominated
Golden Venice Lion Nominated
2010 Independent Spirit Award for Best Director Nominated
2012 Goya Award for Best European Film Jane Eyre Nominated
2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series True Detective Won
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series Nominated
2015 Producers Guild of America Award for Best Episodic Drama Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series Nominated
British Academy Television Award for Best International Programme Won
Golden Lion Beasts of No Nation Nominated
2016 Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature Nominated
Independent Spirit Award for Best Director Nominated
Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography Nominated
American Society of Cinematographers Spotlight Award Nominated
Peabody Award Won
2017 Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay It Nominated
2018 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series The Alienist Nominated
IndieWire Honors Auteur Award Won
2019 Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Long Form – Adapted Maniac Nominated
Producers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Producer of Limited Series Television Nominated
Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Miniseries or TV Film Nominated


  1. ^ The American directors John Huston and Robert Parrish were two of six directors who worked on the 1967 adaptation of Casino Royale, and Irvin Kershner directed the 1983 film Never Say Never Again. However, neither film was produced by Eon Productions or part of the EON series canon.[citation needed]


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External links[edit]