Russell Mulcahy

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Russell Mulcahy
Russel Mulchany,.jpg
Born (1953-06-23) 23 June 1953 (age 67)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
EducationCorrimal High School
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter

Russell Mulcahy (born 23 June 1953) is an Australian film director.[1][2] 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.[citation needed] He was one of the most prominent music video directors of the 1980s and he has also worked in television since the early 1990s.[citation needed] He is known for directing Highlander (1986) and Resident Evil: Extinction (2007).

Early life and career[edit]

Mulcahy was born in Melbourne. 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".[3] 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".[4]

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]

Mucahy 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 classic music video for The Saints' "(I'm) Stranded" (1976).

Tony Hogarth from Woods 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.

Notably, 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.[5] 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."[4]

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 color, 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.[4]

For the next few years, Mulcahy focused on video clips, 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.[6] 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.[7]

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."[4]

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."[8]

Mulcahy became particularly known for his work with Duran Duran, directing the key early songs by the band which helped launch them internationally.[9] "We just hit it off," he said. "They were young and brave, as was I really."[4]

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.[8]

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.[4]

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.[10]


In 1986, Mulcahy became well known after directing the cult film Highlander, starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, featuring music from Queen.[2] 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."[11]

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.

Mulcahy was the original director on Rambo III. The collaboration started well but after filming started 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."[11]

He later directed the Highlander sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), but disowned it after the completion-bond company interfered with production. Reportedly 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 shortly after production started.[12]

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 Skins.

He returned to features with the Australian swimming film Swimming Upstream (2003) but mostly did TV movies like 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 did the features Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), Give 'em Hell Malone (2009) and the TV series Grimm (2010).

Mulcahy was a key director on the Teen Wolf TV series throughout its run as well as directing episodes of Eye Candy and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.[11] He returned to features with In Like Flynn (2018).

Music videography[edit]

Year Title Artist
1975 "Summer Breeze" Stylus
1976 "Baby, Please Don't Go" AC/DC
1976 "Problem Child" AC/DC
1976 "Mondo Bondage" The Tubes
1977 "(I'm) Stranded" The Saints
1979 "Duchess" The Stranglers
1979 "Making Plans for Nigel" XTC (Ecstasy)
1979 "Empire State Human" The Human League
1979 "Circus of Death" The Human League
1979 "Video Killed the Radio Star" The Buggles
1979 "Wonderful Christmastime" Paul McCartney
1980 "One-Two-Five" 10cc
1980 "Living in the Plastic Age" The Buggles
1980 "Bear Cage" The Stranglers
1980 "Turning Japanese" The Vapors
1981 "Heels of the Wind" Elton John
1981 "Nobody Wins" Elton John
1981 "Elton's Song" Elton John
1981 "Heart in the Right Place" Elton John
1981 "Fanfare" Elton John
1981 "Carla/Etude" Elton John
1981 "Just like Belgium" Elton John
1981 "The Fox" Elton John
1981 "Je veux de la tendresse" Elton John
1981 "Passing Strangers" Ultravox
1981 "Vienna" Ultravox
1981 "Tonight I'm Yours (Don't Hurt Me)" Rod Stewart
1981 "The Thin Wall" Ultravox
1981 "The Voice" Ultravox
1981 "Chloe" Elton John
1981 "Fascist Faces" Elton John
1981 "Breaking Down Barriers" Elton John
1981 "Sports Fans" The Tubes
1981 "We Can Get Together" Icehouse
1981 "Icehouse" Icehouse
1981 "Bette Davis Eyes" Kim Carnes
1981 "Draw of the Cards" Kim Carnes
1981 "White Punks on Dope" The Tubes
1981 "Talk to Ya Later" The Tubes
1981 "Sushi Girl" The Tubes
1981 "Let's Make Some Noise" The Tubes
1981 "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" The Tubes
1981 "Business" The Tubes
1981 "Mr. Hate" The Tubes
1981 "Amnesia" The Tubes
1981 "A Matter of Pride" The Tubes
1981 "Muscle Bound" Spandau Ballet
1981 "Paint Me Down" Spandau Ballet
1981 "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" Spandau Ballet
1981 "Planet Earth" Duran Duran
1981 "My Own Way" Duran Duran
1981 "Young Turks" Rod Stewart
1982 "Lonely in Your Nightmare" Duran Duran
1982 "Oh Diane" Fleetwood Mac
1982 "Hey Little Girl" Icehouse
1982 "Save a Prayer" Duran Duran
1982 "Instinction" Spandau Ballet
1982 "Going to a Go-Go" The Rolling Stones
1982 "Talk Talk" Talk Talk
1982 "She Loved Like Diamond" Spandau Ballet
1982 "It's Raining Again" Supertramp
1982 "Take the L" The Motels
1982 "Allentown" Billy Joel
1982 "Hungry Like the Wolf" Duran Duran
1982 "Rio" Duran Duran
1982 "Pressure" Billy Joel
1982 "She's Right on Time" Billy Joel
1982 "Only the Lonely" The Motels
1982 "Voyeur" Kim Carnes
1982 "Gypsy" Fleetwood Mac
1983 "Night Boat" Duran Duran
1983 "True" Spandau Ballet
1983 "I'm Still Standing" Elton John
1983 "Total Eclipse of the Heart" Bonnie Tyler
1983 "Never Say Die (Give a Little Bit More)" Cliff Richard
1983 "Is There Something I Should Know?" Duran Duran
1983 "Street Cafe" Icehouse
1983 "Say You Don't Know Me" Kim Carnes
1983 "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" Elton John
1984 "Taking the Town" Icehouse
1984 "The Reflex" Duran Duran
1984 "Sex (I'm A...)" Berlin
1984 "The Wild Boys" Duran Duran
1984 "The War Song" Culture Club
1984 "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" Elton John
1985 "Wrap Her Up" Elton John
1985 "Act of War" Elton John
1985 "Save a Prayer" (Live) Duran Duran
1985 "Call Me" Go West
1985 "Jeanny" Falco
1985 "One Hit (To the Body)" The Rolling Stones
1986 "The Flame" Arcadia (Duran Duran)
1986 "A Matter of Trust" Billy Joel
1986 "Divided Hearts" Kim Carnes
1986 "A Kind of Magic" Queen
1986 "Princes of the Universe" Queen
1987 "Meet Me Half Way" Kenny Loggins
1987 "Sold" Boy George
1987 "Pour Some Sugar on Me" Def Leppard
1988 "My Heart Can't Tell You No" Rod Stewart
1988 "A Word in Spanish" Elton John
1988 "Town of Plenty" Elton John
1988 "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That" Elton John
1989 "Healing Hands" Elton John
1989 "Crazy About Her" Rod Stewart
1989 "We Didn't Start the Fire" Billy Joel
1989 "Whisper" Boy George
1990 "How Much Love" Vixen
1992 "The One" Elton John
1993 "Simple Life" Elton John
1995 "Original Sin" Taylor Dayne


Feature films[edit]

As director

As writer

  • Bait (2012) (Also executive producer)

Concert videos[edit]


TV series

Year Title Director Executive
1991–1996 Tales from the Crypt Yes No 4 episodes
1997 Perversions of Science Yes No 2 episodes
1997–2000 The Hunger Yes No 6 episodes
2000 Queer as Folk Yes No 5 episodes[2]
2002 Jeremiah Yes No Episode "The Long Road, Part One"
Young Lions Yes No Episodes "The Navy: Part 1 and Part 2"
2003 First to Die Yes No Miniseries
2003–2004 Skin Yes No Episode "Pilot"
2011–2017 Teen Wolf Yes Yes 40 episodes
2015 The Lizzie Borden Chronicles Yes No 2 episodes
2020 13 Reasons Why Yes No 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)

Personal life[edit]

Russel Mulcahy grew up in Mangerton in the Illawarra region of New South Wales and attended Corrimal High School.[16] He lives in West Hollywood, CA, with his partner, David Guzman.


  1. ^ "Russell Mulcahy". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2008. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Charles Kaiser (18 September 2000). "The Queerest Show on Earth". New York Magazine.
  3. ^ "Interview with Russell Mulcahy". Cult Projections. 10 October 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL MULCAHY (PART 1 OF 2)". Money into Light. July 2016.
  5. ^ Biography for Russell Mulcahy at IMDb
  6. ^ Mulcahy Just Wants to Have Fun Bessman, Jim. Billboard; New York Vol. 101, Iss. 1, (7 Jan 1989): 48.
  7. ^ MUSIC VIDEOS ARE TRANSFORMING TV Shales, Tom. Los Angeles Times 18 June 1982: k24.
  8. ^ a b HE'S GOT A FLAIR FOR ROCK-VIDEO SCENE Goldstein, Patrick. Los Angeles Times. 25 November 1982: h6.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ - Russell Mulcahy
  11. ^ a b c "AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSSELL MULCAHY (PART 2 OF 2)". Money into Light. July 2016.
  12. ^ "Rambo III". Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Russell Mulcahy's BAIT 3D Gets Funding By Screen Australia". DreadCentral.
  14. ^ "A Tiger Shark Massacre in 'Bait 3D'". Bloody-Disgusting.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (8 May 2017). "Errol Flynn Biopic in the Works From 'Highlander' Director Russell Mulcahy". Variety. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  16. ^ Campbell, David (7 March 2001). Corrimal High School Fiftieth Anniversary (Speech). Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 25 July 2019.

External links[edit]