Mike Mills (director)

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Mike Mills
Michael Chadbourne Mills

(1966-03-20)20 March 1966 (age 57)
  • Director
  • writer
  • designer
Years active1995–present
(m. 2009)

Michael Chadbourne Mills (born March 20, 1966) is an American film and music video director, writer and graphic designer. He made his directorial debut with the independent film Thumbsucker (2005). His followup films include Beginners (2010), 20th Century Women (2016), and C'mon, C'mon (2021). Mills received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay nomination for 20th Century Women.

Early life and education[edit]

Michael Chadbourne Mills[1] was born in Berkeley, California,[2] the son of Paul Chadbourne Mills, an art historian and museum director, and Janet L. Dowd, a draftsperson.[3][4][5]

He graduated from Cooper Union in Lower Manhattan, New York City.[6]


Mike Mills has created music videos for acts including Moby, Yoko Ono and Air. Air named the fifth song on their album Talkie Walkie after Mills.[7][failed verification] He has also worked as a graphic designer on promotional material and album covers for such acts as Beastie Boys, Beck, Sonic Youth, They Might Be Giants, and Ol' Dirty Bastard. In addition he has created graphics for X-Girl, Marc Jacobs, and produces his own line of posters and fabrics called Humans by Mike Mills.[8] Mills played guitar and performed background vocals with the short-lived indie rock band Butter 08 along with Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto, Russell Simins of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Rick Lee of Skeleton Key. The band released one self-titled album in 1996 on the now defunct Grand Royal record label.[9]

Thumbsucker (2005) was his feature-film directorial debut, for which he also created the film posters. In 2007, Mills filmed the feature-length documentary Does Your Soul Have A Cold?, which explored the issues around the introduction of anti-depressants to Japanese culture. The film premiered at SXSW Festival and was part of IFC's documentary film series.[10] In 2010 he directed the Focus Features independent comedy Beginners which starred Ewan McGregor, Mélanie Laurent, and Christopher Plummer. The film is both a romantic comedy and a film about a son reflecting on his memories of his father. Amy Taubin of Film Comment praised Mills calling it a breakthrough, writing, "Mike Mills treats love and loss with a disarming tenderness and a refusal of sentimentality that make Beginners, his second feature, something of an anomaly among male identity flicks."[11] Plummer went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.[12][13]

His next feature film was the A24 coming-of-age drama 20th Century Women (2016) which starred Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Billy Crudup.[14][15][16] The film had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, and was released on December 28, 2016.[17][18] The Hollywood Reporter film critic David Rooney praised the film saying, "Mills uses some of the same devices as Beginners to illuminate his characters' cultural formation, notably historic montages of their birth years or backgrounds prior to coming together. And he also glances ahead to their future lives, after the arc of the movie. But the quilting is more seamless here because the eccentricities are so integral to the writing and performances."[19]

He has released some of his art/documentary photography works with the two books, Gas Book 11 (2003) and Humans (2006). In 2009, the Berlin-based culture magazine 032c devoted an issue to Mills. For the occasion Mills was interviewed by Nick Currie, best known for his work as Momus, in a piece called "Getting Through the New Depression".[20] In 2019, he directed the short film I Am Easy to Find starring Alicia Vikander, which accompanied the album of the same name by The National.[21]

Mills' latest directorial feature film was the 2021 black-and-white drama film entitled C'mon C'mon starring Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, and Gaby Hoffmann. The film was distributed by A24 and had its world premiere on 2 September 2021 at Telluride Film Festival.[22][23] Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent praised Phoenix's performance noting it as "a career best", and further applauded Mills as "a master of intimate, unforced emotion and the kind of simple wisdom that always sounds best when it’s coming from the minds of children".[24]


Mills has cited as his cinematic influences, Alain Resnais, François Truffaut, Yasujirō Ozu, Ermanno Olmi, Woody Allen, and Jim Jarmusch.[25][26][27]

Personal life[edit]

Mills' mother died of brain cancer in 1999. Six months after she died, his father Paul came out as gay at the age of 75 and after 45 years of marriage. Five years later, his father died of cancer.[6]

Mills is married to fellow artist and film director Miranda July,[28] with whom he has a child, born in February 2012.[29][30]



Year Title Distribution
2005 Thumbsucker Sony Pictures Classics
2010 Beginners Focus Features
2016 20th Century Women A24
2021 C'mon C'mon

Documentary film

  • (Air): Eating Sleeping Waiting & Playing (1999)
  • Does Your Soul Have A Cold? (2007)

Short films[edit]

Year Title Notes
1995 An Introduction to Harmolodics short
1995 Skating with Dave and Jared short
1998 Hair Shoes Love and Honesty short
1999 The Architecture of Reassurance Short film
2000 Not How Or When Or Why But Yes Short film
2000 Deformer Short film
2001 Paperboys Documentary short
2019 I Am Easy to Find short

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist(s)
1995 "Men in Black" Frank Black
1996 "2 Kindsa Love" Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
1997 "Le soleil est près de moi" Air
"Hey Hey You Say" Papas Fritas
"Spokes" Pond
1998 "Afrodiziak" Bran Van 3000
"All I Need" Air
"Kelly Watch the Stars" Air
"Sexy Boy" Air
"Party Hard" Pulp
"Legacy" Mansun
1999 "Temperamental" Everything but the Girl
"Sometimes" Les Rhythmes Digitales
"Run On" Moby
"1, 2, 3, 4" Titán
2001 "Bad Ambassador" The Divine Comedy
"It's Automatic" Zoot Woman
2002 "Concrete Sky" Beth Orton
2003 "Stardust" Martin Gore
"Walking on Thin Ice" Yoko Ono
2007 "The Dress" Blonde Redhead
"My Impure Hair" Blonde Redhead
"Silently" Blonde Redhead
"Top Ranking" Blonde Redhead
2019 "Light Years" The National
"Hairpin Turns" The National
"Hey Rosey" The National

Other works[edit]

Record sleeves[edit]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref
2001 Santa Fe Film Festival Best Documentary Paperboys Won
2005 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Thumbsucker Nominated
2005 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Nominated
2006 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Nominated
2011 SXSW Film Festival Audience Awards Beginners Nominated
2011 Independent Spirit Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
2011 Gotham Awards Best Feature Won
2011 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2011 Detroit Film Critics Society Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2011 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Original Screenplay Won
2011 Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2011 San Diego Film Critics Society Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2011 Utah Film Critics Association Awards Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2016 Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay 20th Century Women Nominated [31]
2016 Independent Spirit Award Best Screenplay Nominated
2016 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2016 Austin Film Critics Association Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2016 Florida Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay Nominated
2016 Dorian Awards Screenplay of the Year Nominated
2016 Hawaii Film Critics Society Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2016 North Carolina Film Critics Association Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2021 SCAD Savannah Film Festival Auteur Award Won [32]


  • Gas Book 11 (2003)
  • Thumbsucker (2005)
  • Humans (2006)
  • Fireworks (2008)
  • Graphics Films (2009)
  • Drawings From the Film Beginners (2011)


  1. ^ Who's Who in the West, 1982-1983. Marquis Who's Who. May 17, 1982. ISBN 9780837909189 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Del Barco, Mandalit (November 19, 2021). "Mike Mills' 'C'mon C'mon' feels like a shared memory". NPR. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  3. ^ Bradshaw, James (September 10, 2011). "Beginners: A late dash out of the closet". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on September 18, 2010. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  4. ^ "Thomas Reynolds Gallery - San Francisco". www.thomasreynolds.com.
  5. ^ "Mike Mills' tribute to women who made him a man". Jewish Journal. December 21, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Mills, Mike (May 3, 2011). "Beginners: Director's Statement". Focus Features. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  7. ^ Apfelbaum, Sue (June 10, 2011). "The Designer as Filmmaker: An Interview with Mike Mills". Aiga.org. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  8. ^ "Mike Mills, Graphic Artist". Focus Features. May 26, 2011. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  9. ^ Hillis, Aaron (July 30, 2010). "Interview: Mike Mills on Beautiful Losers". IFC. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  10. ^ "Mike Mills". mikemillsmikemills.com. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  11. ^ "Review: Beginners". Film Comment. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  12. ^ Olsen, Mark (September 5, 2010). "'Beginners' has a piece of Mike Mills' soul". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  13. ^ Lavallée, Eric (September 12, 2010). "TIFF 2010 Day 3: Mike Mills' Beginners". IONCINEMA.com. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  14. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 16, 2015). "Megan Ellison's Annapurna to Produce Mike Mills' '20th Century Women'". thewrap.com. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (May 14, 2015). "Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning Join '20th Century Women'". variety.com. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  16. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 3, 2015). "Billy Crudup Lands Lead In '20th Century Women'". deadline.com. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  17. ^ Society, Film (July 27, 2016). "Mike Mills's 20th Century Women is NYFF54 Centerpiece". New York Film Festival. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  18. ^ "Director Mike Mills' New Film Is '20th Century Women'". NPR. December 19, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  19. ^ Rooney, David (October 9, 2016). "'20th Century Women' Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  20. ^ Currie, Nick, Getting Through the New Depression. 032c issue #17 (Summer, 2009). Archived May 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Sodomsky, Sam. "The National Break Down Every Song on Their New Album, I Am Easy to Find". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 20, 2019.
  22. ^ "'C'mon C'mon': Joaquin Phoenix Shines & Empathy Flows In Mike Mills' Sublime, Micro-Traumatic Family Drama [Telluride Review]". theplaylist.net. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  23. ^ Hammond, Pete (September 1, 2021). "Telluride Film Festival: Will Smith's 'King Richard', Peter Dinklage Musical 'Cyrano', Joaquin Phoenix In 'C'mon C'mon', Ken Branagh's 'Belfast' Set To Premiere". Deadline. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  24. ^ "C'mon C'mon review: Joaquin Phoenix is at his career best in this great, big bear hug of a film". The Independent. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  25. ^ "Mike Mills is a Pussy". Letterboxd. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  26. ^ "Under the Influence: How Mike Mills Found His Personal Xanax in Ermanno Olmi". Criterion Collection. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  27. ^ "Mike Mills on 'Beginners', Melanie Laurent, and European influences". France 24. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  28. ^ "Miranda July Makes Art That Requires People". June 2, 2010.
  29. ^ "Judd Apatow vs. Miranda July". Huck Magazine. January 5, 2013. Archived from the original on June 10, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  30. ^ Hiebert, Paul (June 2, 2010). "Miranda July Makes Art That Requires People". Flavorwire. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  31. ^ "Here Are the 2017 Oscar Nominations". Time. Retrieved June 5, 2023.
  32. ^ "2021 Honored Guests". SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Retrieved October 8, 2021.

External links[edit]