Mark Romanek

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mark Romanek
Mark Romanek Tokyo Intl Filmfest 2010.jpg
Romanek in 2010
BornMark Lee Romanek
(1959-09-18) September 18, 1959 (age 63)
Occupation(s)Director, photographer, screenwriter
Years active1985–present
Brigette McWilliams
(m. 2005; div. 2022)

Mark Lee Romanek (/rˈmænɪk/;[1] born September 18, 1959) is American filmmaker whose directing work includes feature films, television, music videos and commercials. Romanek is most known for having directed the films One Hour Photo (2002) and Never Let Me Go (2010). His most notable music videos include "Hurt" (Johnny Cash), "Closer" (Nine Inch Nails), "Can't Stop" (Red Hot Chili Peppers), "Rain" (Madonna), "Bedtime Story" (Madonna), "Scream" (Michael & Janet Jackson), "Criminal" (Fiona Apple), and "Shake It Off" (Taylor Swift). He also co-directed "Sandcastles" from Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. Romanek's music videos have won 20 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Direction for Jay-Z's "99 Problems" and the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. He has also won three Grammy Awards for Best Short Form Music Video – more than any other director.


Romanek was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Shirlee and Marvin Romanek.[2] He is Jewish.[3] He credits seeing Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey at the age of nine with inspiring him to become a film director.[4][5] He experimented with Super 8 and 16mm film as a teenager while attending New Trier High School. There, he studied first with Kevin Dole, a local filmmaker who was already creating a form of music video on his own in the mid-1970s, and then with Peter Kingsbury, a filmmaker who had studied with experimentalists Owen Land, John Luther Schofill, and Stan Brakhage at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Both teachers exposed students to works by significant figures of the American avant-garde cinema, such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, and Paul Sharits.

Romanek subsequently attended Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, and graduated from its Roy H. Park School of Communications with a degree in cinema and photography. He served as second assistant director for Brian De Palma on Home Movies, an autobiographical film De Palma conceived as an exercise for his students at Sarah Lawrence College (having returned to his alma mater as an instructor of film production). On set, Romanek met Keith Gordon, playing De Palma's alter ego. Gordon remembers Romanek's entrance into film production:

I actually met a lot of people who became important in my life, but Mark being one of the people who was really huge. Mark wasn't even officially one of the students in the class. Mark was kind of like me – he was a film geek. He was from Chicago. And he had followed Brian around on the set of The Fury and gotten a job as a production assistant on that movie. And when he heard that Brian was doing this project, he basically contacted him and said, 'Listen, can I come to New York and basically be like one of the students, even though I'm not technically in the class?' And Brian said, 'Fine.' So Mark became the second assistant director on the film. And he and I just hit it off pretty quickly. We had a similar passion for Stanley Kubrick. He showed me his short films, which I thought were really good and showed a lot of visual flair.

Romanek released his first film, Static, in 1985. It was co-written with Gordon and starred Gordon as a man who claimed he had invented a television set capable of showing a live picture of Heaven. The film achieved something of a cult following in London and led to Romanek's first job at the helm of a music video for the British new wave group The The, who were featured on the soundtrack for Static in 1986. Romanek later disowned the film, saying that he finds it an "embarrassing bit of juvenilia".


Music videos[edit]

After a few years writing screenplays, Romanek decided to focus on music videos and signed on with Satellite Films, a division of Propaganda Films. His subsequent work has come to be regarded as among the best of the medium. He has worked with many top-selling recording artists from different genres of popular music, and his videos have been given credit for making stars out of some. One of his notable videos was for the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer". Its critical acclaim was only matched by its controversy, with many accusing the video as being disturbing and demonic (a big reason why the video was so popular among fans). Romanek would again work with Nine Inch Nails for the song "The Perfect Drug".

Romanek directed the music videos for David Bowie's 1993 singles "Jump They Say" and "Black Tie White Noise".[6]

Romanek was given his first Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video in 1996 for "Scream", a collaboration between the pop superstar siblings Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. The video, which cost $7 million to make, is cited as one of the most expensive ever made. Romanek won his second Grammy two years later, again with Janet Jackson, for her video "Got 'til It's Gone". In 2002, Romanek shot a video for Audioslave's "Cochise" in which the band performed in the midst of a prolonged pyrotechnic display of the intensity usually seen only during fireworks finales. The explosions were so loud during the night shoot in the San Fernando Valley that local police and fire departments received hundreds of calls from residents who feared that a terrorist attack was under way.

Romanek's 2002 music video for Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" has been hailed by many critics and fans alike as the most personal and moving music video ever made. The song expresses self-loathing and the futility of worldly accomplishments; this content took on a new poignancy when sung by Cash near the end of his life, quietly performing in his memorabilia-filled home, with shots of the flood-ravaged "House of Cash" museum and archival shots of a younger, cockier Cash edited in. The video was nominated for seven VMAs, winning one for cinematography, and also won Romanek his third Grammy.

Other Romanek videos that have received accolades and awards include the VMA winners "Free Your Mind" (En Vogue), "Are You Gonna Go My Way" (Lenny Kravitz), "Rain" (Madonna), "Devil's Haircut" (Beck), "99 Problems" (Jay-Z), and "Criminal" (Fiona Apple). Many others have also received nominations. In 1997, Romanek received the VMA Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for his contribution to the medium. Two of his music videos, "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails and "Bedtime Story" by Madonna, have been made part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

In an interview for IndieWire, when asked if he would direct another music video, Romanek said:

I'm kind of over it. I think I made about 100 music videos or more and that was a young man's challenge. I’m still a rabid music fan and I have ideas for music videos once in a while, but it's just not my focus. I have two children and a wife and a mortgage, if you want to be a filmmaker you need to be paying for your life someway. I can’t make a film every five years and send my kids to a nice school.[7]

Despite this, Romanek returned to music video directing with Jay-Z's performance art piece "Picasso Baby", which aired on HBO on August 2, 2013. The video was shot inside the Pace Gallery in New York and featured a group of personalities from the world of art, including Marina Abramović, whose 2010 performance art work "The Artist is Present" inspired the video.[8][9] This marked Romanek's first music video in eight years, his last being Coldplay's video for "Speed of Sound" in 2005.

Romanek then directed "Filthy" by Justin Timberlake and "Rescue Me" by Thirty Seconds to Mars, which both premiered in 2018.

In 2022, Romanek directed a 180-degree virtual reality concert for Foo Fighters, featuring a song by the group never before played.[10]

Film and TV work[edit]

In 2002, Romanek wrote and directed his second feature film, One Hour Photo, about a department store photo processor played by Robin Williams who becomes obsessed with a family through their snapshots. The film proved to be only a moderate hit, but still established Romanek as a respected film director. Rumors spread that the studio, Fox Searchlight, had forced changes on Romanek that seriously altered the film from how he had intended it. He has dismissed this story, however, stating that there never was a "director's cut" of One Hour Photo and that the studio did not exercise any editorial control.[11]

In 2008, after Romanek left as the director of The Wolfman due to creative differences, he accepted the offer to work on Never Let Me Go.[12] Romanek was glad to get the opportunity to shoot the film, saying "From the moment I finished the novel, it became my dream to film it. [Kazuo] Ishiguro's conception is so daring, so eerie and beautiful. Alex Garland's adaptation is sensitive and precise. The cast is perfect, the crew superb."[13] The film was released in 2010 to mostly positive reviews and was the 28th highest grossing film at the box office for that week.

Throughout the 2010s, Romanek circled numerous projects that never materialized including a remake of The Boston Strangler,[14] the Shining prequel The Overlook Hotel,[15] the David Mamet-penned conspiracy thriller Blackbird,[16] and a film about the Norco shootout,[17] amongst others. "I wish I had made ten films by now," Romanek said in 2020, "It's not for lack of trying... I have a lot of movies that I worked on that didn't come together."[18] Romanek has however directed several episodes for television, including the HBO series Vinyl and the Amazon Prime series Tales from the Loop, which he also executive produced.

On April 6, 2021, it was reported that Romanek would direct the horror film Mother Land which would have been his first feature film in over a decade.[19] In December of the following year, Romanek revealed that he was no longer attached to it and was replaced by Alexandre Aja.[20]

Unrealized projects[edit]

Romanek's dream project was an adaptation of Philip Gourevitch's A Cold Case starring Tom Hanks as chief investigator Andy Rosenzweig. The film went into development hell due to scheduling conflicts and issues with life rights.[21] In 2013, Romanek said he still hoped to make the film someday, "The character in the film is a bit older and I think someday, in the next eight years or something, maybe it'll be the right time to do."[7]

Year Title and description Ref.
1990s Arbus, a biopic about 1960s photographer Diane Arbus written by Romanek adapted from Patricia Bosworth's biography [22]
Paradise Falls, an afterlife thriller written by Darren Lemke about a fallen angel who must solve the murder of Heaven's top angel
2000s A film adaptation of Philip Gourevitch's novel A Cold Case written by John Sayles and Eric Roth starring Tom Hanks [23][21]
The Omen [24]
The Strangers [25]
A film adaptation of James Frey's novel A Million Little Pieces [26]
A Parking Ticket, retitled from In Deep, a black comedy written by Steve Conrad starring Ben Stiller [27][28]
The Voices starring Ben Stiller as Jerry Hickfang [28][29]
The Wolfman [30][31][32]
2010s The Wolverine [33][34]
Cinderella [35][36][32]
A film adaptation of Dan Brown's novel The Lost Symbol with Tom Hanks returning as Robert Langdon [37]
Untitled FX true crime limited series [38]
An original "psychological war" screenplay [7]
An original screenplay about "a man who's defined by his job"
Boston Strangler, a remake of the 1968 film written by Chuck MacLean starring Casey Affleck [14]
The Overlook Hotel, a prequel to The Shining written by Glen Mazzara set at the turn of the 20th century [15][39]
Blackbird, a conspiracy thriller written by David Mamet starring Cate Blanchett [16]
Norco, a heist film written by Adair Cole inspired by the true story of the 1980 Norco bank robbery [17]
Septillion to One, a romantic comedy written by Adam R. Perlman and Graham Sack [40][41]
2020s Untitled Kyle Fried collaboration [18]
Mother Land, a horror thriller written by Kevin Coughlin and Ryan Grassby about a family haunted by an evil spirit [19][20]
Untitled Gulf War screenplay [42]


Throughout his career in music and film, Romanek has been recognized for his photographing skills, taking pictures of numerous celebrities he has befriended over the years, which include Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Lenny Kravitz, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Robin Williams, Harmony Korine, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola and Jay-Z.[43][44][45] Romanek has said that while the photographs are all of famous people, he still considers them personal.

In 2017, 30 of Romanek's photographs were unearthed for an exhibition at the French luxury retailer Colette for the series entitled, SNAPSHOTS.[46]

Personal life[edit]

In 2005, Romanek married R&B singer Brigette McWilliams. The couple have two daughters.[47] On March 16, 2022, she filed a family marriage dissolution/divorce lawsuit against Romanek.[48]

Favorite films[edit]

In 2012, Romanek participated in the Sight & Sound film polls. Held every ten years to select the greatest films of all time, contemporary directors were asked to select ten films of their choice. Romanek gave the following ten, in alphabetical order:[49]



Year Title Director Writer Notes
1985 Static Yes Yes Co-written with Keith Gordon
2002 One Hour Photo Yes Yes
2010 Never Let Me Go Yes No


Year Title Director Executive
2011 Locke & Key Yes No Unaired TV pilot
2015 The Whispers Yes Yes "X Marks the Spot" (S1 E1)
2016 Vinyl Yes No "Whispered Secrets" (S1 E3)
2020 Tales from the Loop Yes Yes "Loop" (S1 E1)

Further reading[edit]

  • Henry Keazor, Thorsten Wübbena: Video Thrills The Radio Star. Musikvideos: Geschichte, Themen, Analysen. Bielefeld 2005, p. 335ss., p. 344ss.
  • "'(...) an unforgettable emotional impact' – Jay-Z/Mark Romanek: '99 Problems'", in: Klaus Herding/Antje Krause Wahl (Eds.), Wie sich Gefühle Ausdruck verschaffen – Emotionen in Nahsicht, Taunusstein: Driesen 2007, p. 321 – 342


  1. ^ "NIN: The Making of the "Closer" Video". Nine Inch Nails. March 16, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  2. ^ "Ithaca College Quarterly, 2003/No. 1". 2003-04-28. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  3. ^ dmichaels (4 June 2013). "Out in the Cold – Jewish Exponent". Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  4. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ [2] Archived December 12, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2016). The Complete David Bowie (Revised and Updated ed.). London: Titan Books. pp. 39–40, 144–145. ISBN 978-1-78565-365-0.
  7. ^ a b c Jagernauth, Kevin (May 7, 2013). "Interview: Mark Romanek Talks Making 'One Hour Photo,' What Happened With 'Cinderella' & What Might Be Up Next". IndieWire. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  8. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (2014-08-19). "The Inside Story of Jay Z's 'Picasso Baby' Video". Vulture. Retrieved 2014-08-23.
  9. ^ JAY Z's Life+Times (2013-08-02). "JAY Z "Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film" – YouTube". Archived from the original on 2013-08-03. Retrieved 2014-08-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Chan, J. Clara (February 7, 2022). "Foo Fighters to Perform VR Concert After Super Bowl". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  11. ^ Hochman, David (August 18, 2002). "FILM; A Pop Image Maker Ponders the Snapshot". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  12. ^ Cybergosh (18 December 2008). "Mark Romanek Will Never Let It Go". Movie Blog. Archived from the original on 3 July 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  13. ^ Brad Brevet (14 April 2009). "Mark Romanek's 'Never Let Me Go' Gains Four New Names as Filming Begins in the UK". Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  14. ^ a b Child, Ben (January 9, 2014). "Mark Romanek in talks to direct Boston Strangler movie". The Guardian. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  15. ^ a b Goldberg, Matt (July 18, 2014). "Mark Romanek to Direct THE SHINING Prequel OVERLOOK HOTEL". Collider. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  16. ^ a b Allen, Clark (January 14, 2015). "{TB EXCLUSIVE} Mark Romanek Will Direct Cate Blanchett In "Blackbird"". The Tracking Board. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  17. ^ a b McNary, Dave (June 15, 2015). "North Corona Bank Shootout Movie in the Works With Director Mark Romanek". Variety. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  18. ^ a b Perez, Rodrigo (April 21, 2020). "'Tales From The Loop': Mark Romanek Discusses Krzysztof Kieslowski & Arthouse Sensibilities Applied To The 'Twilight Zone' [Interview]". Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  19. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 6, 2021). "Director Mark Romanek Returns To Movies With 'Mother Land' At Lionsgate & 21 Laps". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  20. ^ a b Ruimy, Jordan (December 28, 2022). "Mark Romanek No Longer Directing 'Mother Land'". World of Reel. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  21. ^ a b Dang, Simon (February 16, 2010). "Mark Romanek Still Hopes To Make 'A Cold Case,' Talks 'Parking Ticket' With Ben Stiller; New 'Never Let Me Go' Trailer". Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  22. ^ "Romanek eyes 'Paradise'". Variety. September 17, 1998. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  23. ^ "Hanks, Roth to pair on 'Cold Case'". United Press International. June 19, 2003. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  24. ^ "Mark Romanek - IMDb". Was considered by 20th Century Fox as a potential director for the 2006 The Omen (2006) remake, however John Moore eventually got the job.
  25. ^ "Bryan Bertino Interview, The Strangers". MoviesOnline. Archived from the original on July 8, 2008.
  26. ^ Pearson, Ben (August 8, 2019). "'A Million Little Pieces' Trailer: Aaron Taylor-Johnson Stars In Film Adaptation Of Controversial Book". /Film. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  27. ^ "Ben Stiller is 'In Deep'". June 20, 2007. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  28. ^ a b Quigley, Adam (September 17, 2010). "Never Let Me Go's Mark Romanek To Direct Ben Stiller In 'A Parking Ticket'". /Film. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  29. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (August 7, 2012). "Persepolis' Director Marjane Satrapi Takes On 'The Voices' Formerly Linked To Mark Romanek & Ben Stiller". IndieWire. Los Angeles, California: Penske Business Media. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  30. ^ Borys Kit (2007-02-08). "Romanek stalks Del Toro 'Wolfman'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
  31. ^ Michael Fleming (2008-01-29). "Romanek drops out of 'Wolf Man'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  32. ^ a b Chitwood, Adam (May 7, 2013). "Director Mark Romanek Talks One Hour Photo Blu-ray, His Vision for The Wolfman, Cinderella, His Desire to Work on a Larger Canvas, and More". Collider. Archived from the original on September 23, 2016. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  33. ^ Abrams, Rachel (May 25, 2011). ""Fox's 'Wolverine' helmer search down to 8"". Variety. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  34. ^ Uddin, Zakia (June 8, 2011). "Mark Romanek will not direct 'The Wolverine'". Digital Spy. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
  35. ^ "Disney Courting Mark Romanek To Direct Re-Imagined Cinderella". Deadline Hollywood. August 12, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  36. ^ Dibdin, Emma (January 8, 2013). "Disney's new Cinderella loses director Mark Romanek". Digital Spy.
  37. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (October 19, 2011). "Mark Romanek Frontrunner For Sony's 'The Lost Symbol". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 6, 2022.
  38. ^ Chitwood, Adam (May 3, 2013). "Mark Romanek Developing a True Crime Limited Series at FX". Collider. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  39. ^ Squires, John (April 10, 2020). "'The Overlook Hotel': Mark Romanek Reflects On the Ambitious 'Shining' Prequel He Almost Made". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved October 15, 2022.
  40. ^ "Mark Romanek To Helm 'Septillion To One'". Deadline Hollywood. September 15, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  41. ^ "Mark Romanek Set to Direct Romantic Comedy 'Septillion to One'". Collider. September 15, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  42. ^ @markromanek (16 February 2022). "A few years ago, I was writing a script about the Gulf War. I found a whole box of these trading cards on eBay. I bought them as research. I found them today, as I was doing some Spring cleaning". Retrieved 4 March 2023 – via Instagram.
  43. ^ "Photographers in Focus: Mark Romanek". Nowness. March 30, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  44. ^ "Never Let Me Go Director Mark Romanek on How to Take the Perfect iPhone Photo". Vulture. September 24, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  45. ^ "Rachel Portman Scoring Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek Photographs Ben Stiller". /Film. February 24, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  46. ^ "Filmmaker Mark Romanek's Photos of Kanye West, Paul McCartney and More Available Now at colette". Hypebeast. January 9, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2023.
  47. ^ "We Go Inside Brigette and Mark Romanek's Family Home in Los Angeles". Architectural Digest. September 8, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  48. ^ "ROMANEK, BRIGETTE VS ROMANEK, MARK". March 16, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  49. ^ "Mark Romanek - BFI".

External links[edit]