Joe Wright

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Joe Wright
Joe Wright by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Wright at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con
Born (1972-08-25) 25 August 1972 (age 49)
London, England
OccupationFilm director
Years active1997–present
(m. 2010; div. 2019)
Partner(s)Haley Bennett

Joseph Wright (born 25 August 1972) is a British film director residing in Somerset, England. His motion pictures include the literary adaptations Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Anna Karenina (2012), the romantic war drama Atonement (2007), the action thriller Hanna (2011), Peter Pan origin story Pan (2015),[1] and Darkest Hour (2017), a political drama following Winston Churchill during World War II.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Wright always had an interest in the arts, especially painting.[3] He would also make films on his Super 8 camera as well as spend time in the evenings acting in a drama club. Wright is dyslexic. He went to Islington Green Secondary School, but left without any GCSEs.[4]

He began his career working at his parents' puppet theatre, the Little Angel Theatre in islington. He also took classes at the Anna Scher Theatre School and acted professionally on stage and camera. He spent an art foundation year at Camberwell College of Arts, before taking a degree in fine art and film at Central St Martins[5] where he was tutored by Malcolm Le Grice and Vera Neubauer. In his last year of studies he received a scholarship to make a short film for the BBC that won several awards.

During the 1990s, he worked at Oil Factory, a music video production company based in Caledonian Road, Kings Cross. He worked on a variety of productions in numerous roles, including casting director. Here he was able to get the opportunity to direct some music videos. Alongside this, particularly on the strength of his short film work, he was also developing The End, his second short film. During this decade Wright also worked part-time as a roadie for Vegetable Vision who created visuals for various electronic music bands, such as Chemical Brothers, Darren Emerson, Underworld and Andrew Weatherall. He attributes some of the aesthetic and emotion of the UK rave scene as an influence on his work.[6]

On the success of his first short film, he was offered the script for the serial Nature Boy (2000).[7] He followed this up with the serials Bodily Harm (2002) with Timothy Spall and the highly acclaimed Charles II: The Power and the Passion (2003) with Rufus Sewell which won the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Serial.

Feature films[edit]

Pride & Prejudice[edit]

In 2005, he made the transition to feature films with the critically acclaimed adaptation of Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. The film received numerous accolades including 4 Academy Award nominations (including Best Actress), 6 BAFTA nominations (Wright won the BAFTA for most promising newcomer) among other nominations and wins.


Wright's next feature was an adaptation of Ian McEwan's Booker Prize shortlisted novel Atonement, which was released in 2007, reuniting Wright with Keira Knightley, and also stars James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. On 13 December 2007, the film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, more than any other film that year. Though Wright himself was not nominated for director, the film received seven Academy Award nominations, winning only for Best Original Score. At the BAFTA Awards it received 14 nominations and went on to win for Best Production Design and Best Film.

The Soloist[edit]

His next film was The Soloist which stars Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. It is about the "true story of musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers, who developed schizophrenia in his second year at Juilliard and ended up homeless on the streets of downtown L.A. where he performs the violin and cello."[8] It was to be released on 21 November 2008; however the release date was pushed back to 24 April 2009.


Wright reunited with Atonement star Saoirse Ronan for the 2011 action thriller Hanna. The title character is a 15-year-old girl trained since birth to be an assassin by her father (Eric Bana), a rogue CIA asset. The movie received mostly positive reviews with Roger Ebert calling it a "first rate thriller" in his review[9] The film received an aggregate score of 65 from Metacritic, meaning it received generally positive reviews.[10]

Anna Karenina[edit]

Wright directed the 2012 screen adaptation by Sir Tom Stoppard of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel Anna Karenina. The cast included Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her young love, Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Levin, as well as Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, and Michelle Dockery.[11][12] Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast in the film, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively.[13][14][15]


Wright then directed the 2015 prequel to Peter Pan for Warner Bros. The film starred Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried and Levi Miller as Peter. The screenplay by actor-turned-screenwriter Jason Fuchs was from the 2013 Hollywood Black List, a selection of popular unproduced scripts.[16]

Rooney Mara's casting as Tiger Lily caused a controversy, due to her being of European ancestry, while Tiger Lily is traditionally portrayed as being Native American.[17]

Darkest Hour[edit]

Wright's 2017 film Darkest Hour covers a pivotal month in the life of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The film stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, along with Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, David Schofield, Kristin Scott Thomas, Samuel West and Lily James.[18] Wright said the film is a rebuke to Donald Trump.[19]

Directorial trademarks[edit]

Wright won a BAFTA award for best newcomer for Pride & Prejudice and was the youngest director to have a film open the Venice Film Festival with Atonement.[20] According to the director's commentary on Pride & Prejudice, Wright is influenced by the work of British film director David Lean, and possessing a certain knowledge of art history, tries sometimes to compose his shots after classical paintings.

Charles II: The Power and The Passion, Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Hanna all have long tracking shots in them. Atonement has a continuous 5-minute and 5 second shot of the Dunkirk evacuation. "Basically, I just like showing off", Wright told the audience at the Hay Festival.[21]

Personal life[edit]

After meeting on the set of Pride & Prejudice, Wright began a relationship with actress Rosamund Pike. They were engaged from 2007 to 2008.[22][23]

Wright was married to sitarist Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar and half-sister of Norah Jones, from 2010 until 2019. They have two sons: Zubin Shankar Wright,[24] who was born in February 2011, and Mohan Shankar Wright, who was born in February 2015. They separated in December 2017 and their divorce was finalized in September 2019.[25][26]

Since January 2018, Wright has been in a relationship with American actress Haley Bennett. Their daughter, Virginia Willow, was born on 27 December 2018 in Brooklyn Heights. As of March 2021, they reside in Somerset, United Kingdom.[27][28][29][30]



Year Title Notes
1997 Crocodile Snap Short film
1998 The End Short film
2005 Pride & Prejudice BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Filmmaker
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association for Most Promising Filmmaker
Nominated – Empire Awards for Best Director
Nominated – London Film Critics' Circle for British Newcomer of the Year
2007 Atonement Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated – London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
Nominated – Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards for Best Director
Nominated – Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
2009 The Soloist
2011 Hanna
2012 Anna Karenina Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best British Film
2015 Pan
2017 Darkest Hour Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best British Film
2021 The Woman in the Window
2021 Cyrano Post-production


Year Title Notes
2000 Nature Boy 4 episodes
2001 Bob & Rose 4 episodes
2002 Bodily Harm Miniseries
2003 Charles II: The Power and the Passion Miniseries;
4 episodes
2016 Black Mirror Episode: "Nosedive"

Commercial work[edit]

Casting and crew[edit]

Artist Pride & Prejudice (2005) Atonement (2007) The Soloist (2009) Hanna (2011) Anna Karenina (2012) Pan (2015) Darkest Hour (2017) The Woman in the Window (2021) Cyrano (2022)
Nonso Anozie checkY checkY
Brenda Blethyn checkY checkY
Michelle Dockery checkY checkY
Brian Tyree Henry checkY checkY
Tom Hollander checkY checkY checkY
Keira Knightley checkY checkY checkY
Matthew Macfadyen checkY checkY
Jena Malone checkY checkY
Ben Mendelsohn checkY checkY
Gary Oldman checkY checkY
Saoirse Ronan checkY checkY
Peter Wight checkY checkY
Olivia Williams checkY checkY
Valerio Bonelli checkY checkY checkY
Bruno Delbonnel checkY checkY
Jacqueline Durran checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
Sarah Greenwood checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
Dario Marianelli checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
Seamus McGarvey checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
Thomas Napper checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
Katie Spencer checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY
Paul Tothill checkY checkY checkY checkY checkY

Directed Academy Award performances

Year Performer Film Result
Academy Award for Best Actor
2018 Gary Oldman Darkest Hour Won
Academy Award for Best Actress
2006 Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice Nominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
2008 Saoirse Ronan Atonement Nominated


  1. ^ "Garrett Hedlund Offered Captain Hook Role in 'Pan'". Archived from the original on 30 January 2014.
  2. ^ Keene, Allison (29 March 2016). "Director Joe Wright May Return to WWII with Winston Churchill Drama". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Joe Wright bio". Retrieved 25 December 2009. Quote: "He took improv workshops at the Anna Scher Theatre, and with his portfolio of paintings and Super 8 films, was accepted into Camberwell School of the Arts."
  4. ^ "Joe Wright: I asked Keira Knightley to rein in her pout for Anna Karenina". 6 September 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  5. ^ "It's all about bums on seats – interview with Joe Wright". The Guardian. London. 10 February 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  6. ^ Solomons, Jason It's all about bums on seats The Observer. 10 February 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Joe Wright Biographer". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on 7 January 2010. Retrieved 25 December 2009. Quote: "Wright started working in British television, beginning with the cult hit miniseries Nature Boy." (BBC, 2000)
  8. ^ Fleming, Michael (16 August 2007). "Jamie Foxx tunes up for 'Soloist': Oscar winner to star in DreamWorks drama". Variety. Archived from the original on 10 August 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  9. ^ "Hanna". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Critic Reviews for Hanna". Metacritic. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  11. ^ Germain Lussier (4 June 2011). "Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' Welcomes Saoirse Ronan, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams And More". Slashfilm. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Domhnall Gleeson Lands Role in Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina'". IFTN. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  13. ^ Patrick Collinson (29 July 2011). "Fancy owning a piece of film history". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  14. ^ Nigel M Smith (18 August 2011). "Andrea Riseborough Talks Madonna, RADA and "Brighton Rock": What's Next". Indie Wire. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Tannishtha Chatterjee joins Jude Law's film". The Times of India. 10 October 2011. Archived from the original on 13 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  16. ^ Kroll, Justin (16 December 2013). "The Black List Announces 2013 Screenplays (Complete List)". Variety. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  17. ^ Perlman, Jake (13 March 2014). "Rooney Mara as 'Peter Pan's' Tiger Lily: A look at the controversy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (6 September 2016). "Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill Film 'Darkest Hour' Gets Release Date, Rounds Out Cast". Variety. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Winston Churchill of Darkest Hour a rebuke to Trump, says film's director". 28 September 2017.
  20. ^ Vo, Alex (14 September 2007). "Toronto Film Fest: An Interview with Atonement Director Joe Wright". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  21. ^ Brooks, Xan (3 June 2007). "Hay festival: Atonement looks mightily impressive". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  22. ^ Barber, Lynn (23 May 2009). "I don't sleep around, if that's what you mean ... Would you like some more cake?". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Joe Wright Turned Down Dinner at George Clooney's So He Could Propose to Rosamund Pike". InStyle. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  24. ^ "Anoushka Shankar's pregnant!". The Times of India. TNN. 27 August 2010. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  25. ^ "Anoushka Shankar & Joe Wright's marriage comes to an end". The Times of India. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  26. ^ Farmer, Brian (4 May 2018). "Court grants end to Anoushka Shankar Marriage to Joe Wright". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  27. ^ Merrett, Robyn (9 October 2018). "The Girl on the Train's Haley Bennett and Director Joe Wright Expecting First Child Together". People. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Instagram post by Haley Bennett • May 15, 2019 at 3:13pm UTC". Instagram.[non-primary source needed]
  29. ^ "Haley Bennett on Instagram: "Being a momma has changed me and my life in ways that I never could have imagined. I am so grateful. I can't imagine life without this…"". Instagram.[non-primary source needed]
  30. ^ "How a New Generation of Designers Is Shaking Up Storied Fashion Houses", Vogue, 13 February 2018. Retrieved 12 February 2019. "Back in Brooklyn Heights with her rescue dog, River, Bennett’s personal goal is about 'transforming and decorating my house. I have 60 pairs of shoes—and no forks.'"

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