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Joe Wright

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Joe Wright
Wright in 2015
Joseph Wright

(1972-08-25) 25 August 1972 (age 51)
London, England
OccupationFilm director
Years active1997–present
(m. 2010; div. 2019)
Partner(s)Haley Bennett

Joseph Wright (born 25 August 1972) is an English film director. His motion pictures include the literary adaptations of Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), Anna Karenina (2012), and Cyrano (2021), the action thriller Hanna (2011), the Peter Pan origin story Pan (2015),[1] and Darkest Hour (2017), a political drama following Winston Churchill during World War II nominated for Best Picture.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Wright always had an interest in the arts, especially painting.[3] He also made films on his Super 8 camera and spent 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 he also worked part-time as a roadie for Vegetable Vision, who created visuals for electronic music bands such as Chemical Brothers, Darren Emerson, Underworld and Andrew Weatherall. Wright 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, Wright 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.

In 2022, Wright began directing an eight-part adaptation of the bestselling novel M: Son of the Century, a historical novel by Antonio Scurati recounting the rise of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.[8]

In 2023, Wright was developing an adaptation for HBO of the bestselling non-fiction book Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune about heiress Huguette Clark, daughter of copper baron and United States Senator William A. Clark.[9]

Feature films[edit]

In 2005, Wright made the transition to feature films with his critically acclaimed adaptation of Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. It received numerous accolades, nominations and awards, including four Academy Award nominations (including Best Actress) and six BAFTA nominations (Wright won for Most Promising Newcomer).

Wright's next feature was an adaptation of Ian McEwan's Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Atonement (2007), which reunited Wright with Keira Knightley, and also stars James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. It was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, more than any other film that year. Though Wright 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 won Best Film and Best Production Design.

Wright's next film was The Soloist, starring 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."[10] It was to be released on 21 November 2008, but 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. It received mostly positive reviews, with Roger Ebert calling it a "first-rate thriller".[11] It received an aggregate score of 65 from Metacritic ("generally positive" reviews).[12]

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.[13][14] Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively.[15][16][17]

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.[18] The film was negatively received by critics and was considered a commercial flop, failing to recoup its budget at the box office.[19][20] Rooney Mara's casting as Tiger Lily caused a controversy, due to her being of European ancestry, while Tiger Lily is traditionally portrayed as Native American.[21]

Wright's 2017 film Darkest Hour covers a pivotal month in the life of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, along with Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, David Schofield, Kristin Scott Thomas, Samuel West and Lily James.[22] Wright said the film was a rebuke to Donald Trump.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26][27]

Wright was married to sitarist Anoushka Shankar from 2010 until 2019. They have two sons, Zubin and Mohan, born in 2011 and 2015.[28][29] They separated in December 2017 and their divorce was finalized in September 2019 as a judge concluded that Wright had committed adultery and that his wife found living with him "intolerable".[30][31]

Since 2017, Wright has been in a relationship with American actress Haley Bennett. Their daughter was born in 2018 in Brooklyn Heights.[32][33][34] As of 2019, the family resides in the UK in Somerset.[35]


Short film

  • Crocodile Snap (1997)
  • The End (1998)
  • "Coco Mademoiselle: Chanel" (2014)
  • Princess & Peppernose (2021)

Feature film[edit]


Year Title Distribution
2005 Pride & Prejudice Focus Features / Universal Pictures
2007 Atonement Universal Pictures
2009 The Soloist Paramount Pictures / Universal Pictures
2011 Hanna Focus Features / Sony Pictures Releasing
2012 Anna Karenina Focus Features
2015 Pan Warner Bros. Pictures
2017 Darkest Hour Focus Features / Universal Pictures
2021 The Woman in the Window Netflix
Cyrano United Artists Releasing / Universal Pictures

Executive producer


Year Title Notes
2001 Bob & Rose 4 episodes
2016 Black Mirror Episode "Nosedive"
TBA Empty Mansions [9]


Commercial work[edit]

  • "Chanel No. 5: Wherever I Go" (2012)
  • "Chanel No. 5: There You Are" (2012)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Title Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
2005 Pride & Prejudice 4 6 1 2
2007 Atonement 7 1 14 2 7 2
2012 Anna Karenina 4 1 6 1 1
2017 Darkest Hour 6 2 9 2 1 1
2021 Cyrano 1 4 2
Total 22 4 39 6 13 3
Year Title Award Category Result
2005 Pride & Prejudice BAFTA Awards Most Promising Newcomer Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Best New Filmmaker Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Filmmaker Nominated
Empire Awards Best Director Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle British Newcomer of the Year Nominated
2007 Atonement BAFTA Awards Best Direction Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Director Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Director Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle Best Director Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards Best Director Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Director Nominated
2021 The Woman in the Window Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Director Nominated

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". Colider.com. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Joe Wright bio". tribute.ca. 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. ^ Goodfellow, Melanie (18 October 2022). "'The Eight Mountains' & 'Martin Eden' Star Luca Marinelli To Play Benito Mussolini In Joe Wright's 'M. Son Of The Century'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  9. ^ a b White, Peter (7 February 2023). "'Empty Mansions' Series Adaptation In The Works At HBO From Ido Fluk, Joe Wright & Fremantle". Deadline.com. Retrieved 7 March 2023.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Hanna". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Critic Reviews for Hanna". Metacritic. 8 April 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  13. ^ Germain Lussier (4 June 2011). "Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina' Welcomes Saoirse Ronan, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams And More". Slashfilm. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Domhnall Gleeson Lands Role in Joe Wright's 'Anna Karenina'". IFTN. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  15. ^ Patrick Collinson (29 July 2011). "Fancy owning a piece of film history". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  16. ^ Nigel M Smith (18 August 2011). "Andrea Riseborough Talks Madonna, RADA and "Brighton Rock": What's Next". Indie Wire. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ Kroll, Justin (16 December 2013). "The Black List Announces 2013 Screenplays (Complete List)". Variety. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Pan (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  20. ^ Brent Lang (10 February 2016). "Time Warner Reports Mixed Quarterly Results Due to Movie Flops". Variety. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  21. ^ Perlman, Jake (13 March 2014). "Rooney Mara as 'Peter Pan's' Tiger Lily: A look at the controversy". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  22. ^ McNary, Dave (6 September 2016). "Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill Film 'Darkest Hour' Gets Release Date, Rounds Out Cast". Variety. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Winston Churchill of Darkest Hour a rebuke to Trump, says film's director". TheGuardian.com. 28 September 2017.
  24. ^ Vo, Alex (14 September 2007). "Toronto Film Fest: An Interview with Atonement Director Joe Wright". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  25. ^ Brooks, Xan (3 June 2007). "Hay festival: Atonement looks mightily impressive". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "Joe Wright Turned Down Dinner at George Clooney's So He Could Propose to Rosamund Pike". InStyle. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  28. ^ "Anoushka Shankar's pregnant!". The Times of India. TNN. 27 August 2010. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  29. ^ @anoushkashankarofficial (22 February 2020). "Happy Birthday". Retrieved 9 June 2023 – via Instagram.
  30. ^ "Anoushka Shankar & Joe Wright's marriage comes to an end". The Times of India. 16 January 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  31. ^ Farmer, Brian (4 May 2018). "Court grants end to Anoushka Shankar Marriage to Joe Wright". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Juneau, Jen (31 December 2020). "Jameson! Faith! Epik! See Which Celeb Babies Celebrate Their Birthdays in December". People.com. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  34. ^ "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.'"
  35. ^ Wakeham, Amy (21 January 2022). "Portrait of a Lady: Haley Bennett". Country and Townhouse. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  36. ^ Yossman, K. J. (18 October 2022). "Luca Marinelli Cast as Mussolini in Joe Wright Series 'M. Son of the Century'". Variety. Retrieved 25 October 2022.

External links[edit]