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Russell Mulcahy

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Russell Mulcahy
Born (1953-06-23) 23 June 1953 (age 71)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
EducationCorrimal High School

Russell Mulcahy (/mʌlˈkæhi/ mul-KA-hee;[1][2] born 23 June 1953) is an Australian director of film, television, and music videos.[3][4] He began his career directing music videos for artists like Elton John and Duran Duran, before making his feature directorial debut with the horror film Razorback (1984). He achieved international prominence by directing the fantasy action film Highlander (1986), which spawned a multimedia franchise.

Mulcahy’s subsequent work includes Highlander’s first sequel Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), the superhero film The Shadow, the action-horror film Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), and the Errol Flynn biopic In Like Flynn. He was also a director and executive producer of the television series Teen Wolf (2011–17), and directed the film’s 2023 feature film spin-off.

Stylistically, Mulcahy’s work is recognisable by the use of fast cuts, tracking shots and use of glowing lights, neo-noir lighting, windblown drapery, and fans.

Early life and career[edit]

Mulcahy was born in Melbourne. He grew up in Mangerton in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and attended Corrimal High School.[5]

When he was 14 he received an 8mm camera and began making short films with his friends. After school he began working as a film editor for Australia's Seven Network. He later said he "used to creep in there at 3am and make my own movies".[6] He also acted on stage and was unsure whether to focus on acting or directing. Two of his films won the City Film Festival Award for Best Independent Short Film and he won Best Short Film at the Sydney Film Festival for "Contrived Mind Flashes".[7]

He was approached by the producer of a Seven pop show and asked to film some original footage and compile a music video (then known as a "film clip") to accompany the Harry Nilsson hit "Everybody's Talkin'" (for which no original video was available).

Music videos[edit]

Mulcahy soon found that he was in demand as a music video director, and made a number of successful film clips for bands from Australia and New Zealand, including Dragon, Hush and AC/DC, and the music video for The Saints' "(I'm) Stranded" (1976).

Tony Hogarth from Wizard Records sent Mulcahy to England to do a video for a punk band in Birmingham. It was well received and Mulcahy decided to stay on in the country. He joined Jon Roseman Productions International and made successful music videos for several noted British pop acts—his early UK credits included Culture Club, The Human League, The Stranglers, XTC's "Making Plans for Nigel" (1979), the Sex Pistols and Paul McCartney.

He directed The Vapors' hit "Turning Japanese" (1980) and his landmark video for The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" (1979) which became the first music video played on MTV in 1981.[8] Mulcahy recalled "Nobody knew the impact that the video would have and how timely it was when we were shooting it. We went into the video with no concept of what it was going to do... It was a one day shoot. I just had this idea of it being set in a strange laboratory, with a girl coming down a tube on a wire."[7]

In 1978, he went to the United States (for Roseman) and directed videos for The Cryers and Candi Staton - where he first used the "jump cut" - under producer Paul Flattery. Other Mulcahy innovations included spot colour, body painting, glass matte shots and faux widescreen aspect ratio (first used on his Ultravox and Rod Stewart videos) which have all become standards for the genre.

Mulcahy was a friend of Richard Branson and had done videos for Virgin Records. Branson had an idea for making a film about Derek and Clive and hired Mulcachy to shoot one of their albums over two nights. This became Derek and Clive Get the Horn (1979), Mulcahy's first feature.[7]

For the next few years, Mulcahy focused on music videos, becoming one of the leading directors in the field. In 1980 he joined Lexi Godfrey, Scott Millaney, Brian Grant, and David Mallet to form the video company MGMM.[9] He had notable collaborations in particular with Ultravox, Duran Duran (especially "Hungry Like the Wolf"), Kim Carnes, Icehouse, Spandau Ballet, Fleetwood Mac ("Gypsy") (1982), Billy Joel ("Allentown" & "Matter of Trust"), Bonnie Tyler (including "Total Eclipse of the Heart") (1983), The Motels, Rod Stewart ("Young Turks") (1981) and Elton John.[10]

He has a cameo appearance in the video for "I'm Still Standing" (1983) by Elton John, that he also directed.[citation needed]

Mulcahy later recalled "When people were first asking me to do videos, there was never really a need or a request for a concept. They would just send me a cassette of the song. I'd listen to it with my eyes closed, come up with some ideas and write something down. We'd shoot the video the next day or two days later. It really was just grab what you can and do it."[7]

Warner Bros music chief Jo Berggman called Mulcahy's style "everything but the kitchen sink and more school of video. Russell's work is expensive by music video standards but look at what you get. Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain - I mean, name your favorite MGM musical, they're all there."[11]

Mulcahy worked with Duran Duran, directing the key early songs by the band which helped launch them internationally.[12] "We just hit it off," he said. "They were young and brave, as was I really."[7]

In 1982, Mulcahy said he had been approached to make a feature film about a movie palace by David Puttnam, who had success working with first time directors from TV commercials. However, the film was never made.[11]

Feature film director[edit]


Mulcahy's first dramatic feature was in Australia, Razorback (1984). The film was a box office disappointment but has become a cult favorite. He later said:

From my videos and continuing on through RAZORBACK and after, I've always made sure I have a group around me that are as important as me, and people whose expertise and talent I want and encourage. I want them to be part and parcel of the team and to be proud of their work. I guess there has to be a captain of the ship, but it only takes one crew member to screw everything up. You just encourage everyone to do their best and have fun. The more they feel part of it, and the more fun they have, the day goes faster, and the better the work is.[7]

Mulcahy went back to video clips working with Culture Club, Elton John, Berlin and The Rolling Stones. His work for Duran Duran was particularly acclaimed, including the clip for "Wild Boys", Arena (An Absurd Notion) and the As the Lights Go Down concert video.[13]


In 1985, Mulcahy directed the cult film Highlander, starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, featuring music from Queen.[4] Mulcahy said "I loved the genre, I loved the action, and I loved the strange complexity of the intercutting timelines. What really grabbed me though was the sense of tragic, epic romance in the story."[14]

Mulcahy directed several Queen video clips for the Highlander soundtrack (including "A Kind of Magic") as well as works for Billy Joel, Kim Carnes, Kenny Loggins, Def Leppard, Elton John (including "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That") and Rod Stewart.

He later directed the Highlander sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), but disowned it after the completion-bond company interfered with production. He wanted to have his credit changed to Alan Smithee, but as he was not a member of the Directors Guild of America, he had no way of forcing the film-guaranty company to change the credit. He eventually took the opportunity to restore his vision for the film, to a large extent, with the video release of Highlander II: The Renegade Version.

Focus on features[edit]

Mulcahy began to focus on features, mostly action/thrillers, such as Ricochet (1991) with Denzel Washington, Blue Ice (1992) with Michael Caine, The Real McCoy (1993) with Kim Basinger, The Shadow (1994) with Alec Baldwin and Silent Trigger (1996) with Dolph Lundgren.

He was hired by Carolco Pictures to direct Rambo III (1988), but was replaced with second-unit director Peter MacDonald. The collaboration had started well but it became apparent that he had major creative differences with star/writer Sylvester Stallone so Mulcahy left the project. "It was nobody's fault," said Mulcahy later. "Sly is a wonderful man, and we still remain friends."[14][15]

He continued to direct the occasional video clip for artists like Elton John and began to direct TV shows like Tales from the Crypt, Perversions of Science and The Hunger. He directed the features Tale of the Mummy (1998) and Resurrection (1999), the latter with Christopher Lambert of Highlander.

Later career[edit]

In the 21st century, Mulcahy's work was increasingly on the small screen: On the Beach (2000), filmed in Australia based on the novel by Neville Shute; The Lost Battalion (2001), with Rick Schroder; and 1st to Die (2003); he also did episodes of Queer as Folk, The Young Lions, Jeremiah and Skin.

He returned to features with the Australian Swimming Upstream (2003) but mostly directed TV movies, including 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story (2004), Mysterious Island (2005), The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (2006), The Sitter (2007), Crash and Burn (2007), The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior (2008), and Prayers for Bobby (2009).

He directed the features Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) and Give 'em Hell Malone (2009).

Mulcahy was a key director on the Teen Wolf TV series throughout its run and also directed episodes of Eye Candy and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.[14] He returned to features with In Like Flynn (2018).

Personal life[edit]

Mulcahy is gay. He resides in West Hollywood, California, with his partner, David Guzman.

Music videography[edit]

Year Title Artist
1975 "Summer Breeze" Stylus
1976 "Baby, Please Don't Go" AC/DC
"Problem Child"
"Mondo Bondage" The Tubes
1977 "(I'm) Stranded" The Saints
1979 "Duchess" The Stranglers
"Making Plans for Nigel" XTC
"Empire State Human" The Human League
"Circus of Death"
"Wonderful Christmastime" Paul McCartney
"Video Killed the Radio Star" The Buggles
1980 "Living in the Plastic Age"
"One-Two-Five" 10cc
"Bear Cage" The Stranglers
"Turning Japanese" The Vapors
1981 "Guilty" Classix Nouveaux
"Heels of the Wind" Elton John
"Nobody Wins"
"Elton's Song"
"Heart in the Right Place"
"Just like Belgium"
"The Fox"
"Je veux de la tendresse"
"Fascist Faces"
"Breaking Down Barriers"
"Passing Strangers" Ultravox
"The Thin Wall"
"The Voice"
"Tonight I'm Yours (Don't Hurt Me)" Rod Stewart
"Young Turks"
"We Can Get Together" Icehouse
"Bette Davis Eyes" Kim Carnes
"Draw of the Cards"
"Sports Fans" The Tubes
"White Punks on Dope"
"Talk to Ya Later"
"Sushi Girl"
"Let's Make Some Noise"
"Don't Want to Wait Anymore"
"Mr. Hate"
"A Matter of Pride"
"Muscle Bound" Spandau Ballet
"Paint Me Down"
"Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)"
"Planet Earth" Duran Duran
"My Own Way"
1982 "Lonely in Your Nightmare"
"Save a Prayer"
"Hungry Like the Wolf"
"Oh Diane" Fleetwood Mac
"Take the L" The Motels
"Only the Lonely"
"Allentown" Billy Joel
"She's Right on Time"
"Hey Little Girl" Icehouse
"Going to a Go-Go" The Rolling Stones
"Talk Talk" Talk Talk
"It's Raining Again" Supertramp
"Voyeur" Kim Carnes
"Instinction" Spandau Ballet
"She Loved Like Diamond"
1983 "True"
"Night Boat" Duran Duran
"Is There Something I Should Know?"
"I'm Still Standing" Elton John
"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues"
"Total Eclipse of the Heart" Bonnie Tyler
"Never Say Die (Give a Little Bit More)" Cliff Richard
"Say You Don't Know Me" Kim Carnes
"Street Cafe" Icehouse
1984 "Taking the Town"
"Sex (I'm a ...)" Berlin
"The War Song" Culture Club
"The Reflex" Duran Duran
"The Wild Boys"
"Sad Songs (Say So Much)" Elton John
1985 "Wrap Her Up"
"Act of War"
"Save a Prayer" (Live) Duran Duran
"Call Me" Go West
"Jeanny" Falco
"One Hit (To the Body)" The Rolling Stones
1986 "The Flame" Arcadia (Duran Duran)
"A Matter of Trust" Billy Joel
"Divided Hearts" Kim Carnes
"A Kind of Magic" Queen
"Princes of the Universe"
1987 "Meet Me Half Way" Kenny Loggins
"Sold" Boy George
"Pour Some Sugar on Me" Def Leppard
1988 "My Heart Can't Tell You No" Rod Stewart
"A Word in Spanish" Elton John
"Town of Plenty"
"I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That"
1989 "Healing Hands"
"Crazy About Her" Rod Stewart
"Whisper" Boy George
1990 "How Much Love" Vixen
1992 "The One" Elton John
1993 "Simple Life"
1994 "Original Sin" Taylor Dayne


Feature films[edit]

As director

As writer

  • Bait (2012) (also executive producer)

Concert videos[edit]



TV series

Year Title Notes
1991–1996 Tales from the Crypt 4 episodes
1997 Perversions of Science 2 episodes
1997–2000 The Hunger 6 episodes
2000 Queer as Folk 5 episodes[4]
2002 Jeremiah Episode "The Long Road, Part One"
Young Lions Episodes "The Navy: Part 1 and Part 2"
2003 First to Die Miniseries
2003–2004 Skin Episode "Pilot"
2011–2017 Teen Wolf 40 episodes; also executive producer
2015 The Lizzie Borden Chronicles 2 episodes
2020 13 Reasons Why Episodes "College Tour" and "Winter Break"

TV movies

Acting credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1975 Nuts, Bolts and Bedroom Springs
1991 Highlander II: The Quickening Shield Control Technician Uncredited
2011 Teen Wolf Pool Owner Episode "Wolf Moon" (Uncredited)


  1. ^ "Say How: M". National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Retrieved 10 February 2022.
  2. ^ Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  3. ^ "Russell Mulcahy". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Charles Kaiser (18 September 2000). "The Queerest Show on Earth". New York.
  5. ^ Campbell, David (7 March 2001). Corrimal High School Fiftieth Anniversary (Speech). Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Interview with Russell Mulcahy". Cult Projections. 10 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL MULCAHY (PART 1 OF 2)". Money into Light. July 2016.
  8. ^ Biography for Russell Mulcahy at IMDb
  9. ^ Mulcahy Just Wants to Have Fun Bessman, Jim. Billboard; New York Vol. 101, Iss. 1, (7 Jan 1989): 48.
  10. ^ MUSIC VIDEOS ARE TRANSFORMING TV Shales, Tom. Los Angeles Times 18 June 1982: k24.
  11. ^ a b HE'S GOT A FLAIR FOR ROCK-VIDEO SCENE Goldstein, Patrick. Los Angeles Times. 25 November 1982: h6.
  12. ^ Nothing Captured the MTV Revolution Better Than Duran Duran's 'Rio' Reesman, Bryan. The New York Observer; New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]23 May 2017.
  13. ^ Mvdbase.com - Russell Mulcahy
  14. ^ a b c "AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL MULCAHY (PART 2 OF 2)". Money into Light. July 2016.
  15. ^ "Rambo III". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 11 June 2021.

External links[edit]