James Marsh (director)

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James Marsh
James Marsh seminar (3890686677).jpg
Marsh in 2009
Born (1963-04-30) 30 April 1963 (age 58)
Truro, Cornwall, England
Alma materSt Catherine's College, Oxford
OccupationDirector and author

James Marsh (born 30 April 1963) is a British film and documentary director best known for his work on Man on Wire, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and The Theory of Everything, the multi-award-winning biopic of physicist Stephen Hawking released in 2014.[1]

Early life[edit]

Marsh was born in Truro, Cornwall and raised in Sennen, a Cornish village, and Woolwich, a district in southeast London. In Woolwich, he lived in a "miserable council flat" with his family.[2]

Marsh won a scholarship to the University of Oxford.[2] As an undergraduate, he studied at St Catherine's College, Oxford and graduated with a degree in English.[3]


Marsh began his early career in directing with several documentaries made for the BBC. His first TV documentary was the 90-minute Troubleman – The Last Years of Marvin Gaye, and was followed by the 26-minute 1990 documentary The Animator of Prague starring Jan Švankmajer and his works. Later came The Burger and the King: The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley, which was made in 1995 and released in 1996, and the Welsh musician John Cale, which was made in 1998 and released in 1999. His relationship continued with the BBC as a director and producer for three Arena series episodes, including the celebrated film Wisconsin Death Trip (1999).[4]

In 2005 he directed the film The King which was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.[5]

In 2008 he made the documentary Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit's walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Marsh based Man on Wire, in part, on Philippe Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds. Man on Wire won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 81st annual Oscars, the BAFTA Award for Best British film, the Independent Spirit Award, and many others. The film, called "exhilarating", has had a hugely positive audience response and was among the Top Ten Films of 2008 on many critics' lists.

In 2009, he directed the "1980" episode of Red Riding, which aired on Channel 4 in the UK.

He also directed Project Nim in 2010, which is based on the book Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess. It is a documentary about the landmark study conducted by Herbert S. Terrace on the subject of animal language acquisition and the subject of the study is a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky. Marsh watched different films to gain inspiration before making Project Nim. He watched E.T., Frederick Wiseman's Primate, and the Bresson film Au hasard Balthazar. He gained the most information from Au hasard Balthazar which is a fictional account of a donkey as it passes through various human owners. The structure of Project Nim reflects a lot from this film as we see the drama of the human world through the eyes of the chimpanzee.[6]

In 2012, he directed Shadow Dancer,[7] a joint Irish/UK production about the Irish republican movement, which was filmed in Dublin and London. The film features Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough, Gillian Anderson, Domhnall Gleeson and Aidan Gillen.

Marsh directed The Theory of Everything released in 2014, a biopic on Stephen Hawking starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.[8] Marsh received a nomination for the BAFTA for Best Director and the film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Personal life[edit]

Marsh currently lives in Denmark (Copenhagen) With his 2 daughters and his wife [2][9]


Narrative films and television

Year Title Director Writer Notes
2005 The Team No Yes
The King Yes Yes
2009 Red Riding: 1980 Yes No Feature film trilogy, Part 2
2012 Shadow Dancer Yes No
2014 The Theory of Everything Yes No BAFTA nomination for Best Direction
2016 The Night Of Yes No Miniseries, "The Art of War";
Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
2017 The Mercy Yes No
2018 King of Thieves Yes No

Documentary films

Year Title Director Writer Producer
1999 Wisconsin Death Trip Yes Yes Yes
2008 Man on Wire Yes No No
2011 Project Nim Yes No No


List of awards and nominations
Year Award / film Festival Category Work Result Ref(s)
2000 San Sebastian Film Festival San Sebastián International Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize – Special Mention Wisconsin Death Trip Won
Stockholm Film Festival Stockholm Film Festival Bronze Horse Nominated
2001 BAFTA Award BAFTA TV Award for Specialised Programme or Series Nominated
2006 Gotham Awards Breakthrough Director The King Nominated
Philadelphia Film Festival Philadelphia Film Festival American Independents Award Won
2008 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Documentary Man on Wire Won [10]
Directors Guild of America Best Director - Documentary Nominated
European Film Awards Best Documentary Nominated
Gotham Independent Film Awards 2008 Best Documentary Nominated
2009 Academy Awards Best Documentary Man on Wire Won [11]
BAFTA Award Best British Film Won [12]
Cinema Eye Honors Best Film-Making Won [13]
Best Director Nominated
Audience Choice Prize Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Documentary Won [14]
2011 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Documentary Project Nim Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 2011 Best Documentary Won [15]
Directors Guild of America Best Director - Documentary Won [16]
2012 BAFTA Award Best Documentary Project Nim Nominated
Cinema Eye Honors Best Film-Making Nominated
Audience Choice Prize Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Documentary Nominated
Dinard British Film Festival Golden Hitchcock Award Shadow Dancer Won [17]
Audience Award Won [17]
Edinburgh International Film Festival Best Feature Film Nominated
Film by the Sea International Film Festival Film Award Nominated
2013 Humanitas Prize Best Documentary Man on Wire Nominated
2015 BAFTA Award Best British Film The Theory of Everything Won [18]
Best Director Nominated
2016 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special The Night Of Nominated


  1. ^ "THE Q&A: JAMES MARSH, FILM DIRECTOR". 24 September 2013. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Interview: James Marsh". RadioTimes. 12 August 2011. Archived from the original on 27 May 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  3. ^ "12TH BELFAST FILM FESTIVAL : JAMES MARSH". 24 September 2013. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013.
  4. ^ Marcus, Greil (28 November 1999). "`Wisconsin Death Trip': A Record of Despair Born of a Single Image". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The King". festival-cannes.com. Archived from the original on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 12 December 2009.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "'Shadow Dancer' Begins Filming in Ireland". IFTN. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  8. ^ Child, Ben (13 June 2013). "Eddie Redmayne set to play Stephen Hawking in biopic". The Guardian.
  9. ^ James Marsh talks about Red Riding and the Ripper
  10. ^ "2008 EDA Awards". AWFJ.org. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Academy Awards". CNN.com. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  12. ^ "2009 Bafta". Bafta.org. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  13. ^ Willmore, Alison (19 January 2009). "2009 Cinema Eye". IFC.com. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  14. ^ Brooks, Brian (21 February 2009). ""The Wrestler" Leads 2009 Spirit Award Winners". Indiewire.com. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  15. ^ "BFC Award". Bostonfilmcritics.org. Archived from the original on 8 October 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  16. ^ "DGA Awards". Dga.org. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  17. ^ a b "2012 Festival du Film". Festivaldufilm. Archived from the original on 7 March 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  18. ^ "2015 BAFTA Awards". BAFTA.org. Retrieved 12 February 2015.

External links[edit]