Sam Taylor-Johnson

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Sam Taylor-Johnson
Taylor-Johnson in September 2010
Samantha Louise Taylor-Wood

(1967-03-04) 4 March 1967 (age 57)
Croydon, London, England
Alma materBeacon Community College
Goldsmiths, University of London
Years active1993–present
  • (m. 1997; div. 2008)
  • (m. 2012)

Samantha Louise Taylor-Johnson[1] OBE (née Taylor-Wood; born 4 March 1967) is a British film director and artist. Her directorial feature film debut was 2009's Nowhere Boy, a film based on the childhood experiences of the Beatles' singer and songwriter John Lennon. She is one of a group of artists known as the Young British Artists.

Early life[edit]

Samantha Taylor-Wood was born in Croydon, London.[2] Her father, David, left the family when she was nine.[3] Her mother, Geraldine, is a yoga teacher and astrologist. She has a younger sister, Ashley, and a maternal half-brother, Kristian.

Taylor-Wood grew up near Streatham Common in south London until her parents' divorce.[4] The family then moved into an old schoolhouse in Jarvis Brook in East Sussex, and Samantha went to Beacon Community College. She later attended Goldsmiths, University of London.


Fine art[edit]

Taylor-Wood began exhibiting fine-art photography in the early 1990s. One collaboration with Henry Bond, titled 26 October 1993, featured Bond and Taylor-Wood reprising the roles of Yoko Ono and John Lennon in a pastiche of the photo-portrait made by photographer Annie Leibovitz—a few hours before Lennon was assassinated, in 1980.[5]

In 1994, she exhibited a multi-screen video work titled Killing Time, in which four people mimed to an opera score. From that point multi-screen video works became the main focus of her work. Beginning with the video works Travesty of a Mockery and Pent-Up in 1996. One of Taylor-Wood's first United Kingdom solo shows was held at the Chisenhale Gallery, east London, in September–October 1996. She was nominated for the annual Turner Prize in 1998, but lost out to the painter Chris Ofili. She won the Illy Café Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale.[6]

In 2000, she created a wraparound photomural around scaffolding of the London department store Selfridges while it was being restored; the mural featured 21 cultural icons including Elton John, musician Alex James, and actors Richard E. Grant and Ray Winstone. The poses of the figures referenced famous works of art from the past and recent movies.[7]

In 2002, Taylor-Wood was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to make David, a video portrait of David Beckham—whom she depicted sleeping. She is perhaps best known for her work entitled 'Crying Men' which features many of Hollywood's glitterati crying, including Robin Williams, Sean Penn, Laurence Fishburne and Paul Newman.[8] In 2006, she had a survey exhibition at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England.[9]

2014 saw a new photographic exhibition by Taylor-Johnson, of the private apartment of Mademoiselle Chanel at The Saatchi Gallery. Entitled ‘Second Floor,' the series of 34 photographs captured the private rooms of Coco Chanel at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris.[10]

Nowhere Boy[edit]

In August 2008, she was chosen to direct Nowhere Boy, a biopic about the childhood of John Lennon. Speaking about her experience directing the film, in September 2010, she said,

"I thought, I'm in too deep and if I mess this up I'm just never gonna make a film again, and I went into a panic. I got into the car and said, I just have to call these producers and pull out. I got into the car and I put the key into the ignition and Lennon's voice came straight out of the radio and it was Starting Over. It was one of those moments where I thought it was a sign: OK I'm gonna do it."[11]

The 53rd annual London Film Festival screened the film as its closing presentation on 29 October 2009. The film was released in the UK on Boxing Day in 2009 to positive reviews. she was nominated for a BAFTA award on 21 January 2010 but lost, to Duncan Jones.

Other music, film and television work[edit]

In her 2004 film installation "Strings" at White Cube, ballet dancer Ivan Putrov was suspended by a harness above four musicians playing the slow movement from Tchaikovsky's Second String Quartet, filmed in the Crush Bar of the Royal Opera House.[12] In 2006, she contributed the short film Death Valley to the British version of Destricted. In July 2006 she was appointed as a Governor of the British Film Institute.[13]

In 2008, she directed a short film Love You More, written by Patrick Marber and produced by Anthony Minghella. The film includes two songs by the Buzzcocks and features a cameo appearance by the band's lead singer Pete Shelley. In February 2009, Taylor-Wood, collaborating with Sky Arts chose to interpret "Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci. She commented: "I’m really happy to be involved in such a great project. I think by capturing one of opera's most moving moments in a film short, we have put a modern spin on the aria."[14]

In 2011, she directed the R.E.M. music video "Überlin".[15] The clip starred her then-fiancé Aaron Johnson, who "throws some kung-fu kicks, attempts some pirouettes, prances, punches the air, chicken walks, tries out some bunny impressions, and, at one point, fondles his bottom."[16]

In September 2011, she collaborated with Solange Azagury-Partridge on the short film Daydream. This was aired to support the launch of Azagury-Partridge's new jewellery collection, 24:7. Under the direction of Taylor-Wood, Liberty Ross plays a beautiful woman in her bedroom, bejewelled by her lover, played by JJ Feild. The original music was composed by Oscar winner Atticus Ross, and the director of photography was BAFTA winner John Mathieson.[17][18]

Taylor-Johnson directed the film adaptation of E. L. James' best-selling erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, made by Universal Pictures and Focus Features.[19] She was chosen from a list that included Angelina Jolie,[20] Steven Soderbergh, Ryan Murphy, Joe Wright,[21] and Gus Van Sant.[22] Taylor-Johnson was in pole position to direct Fifty Shades Darker (the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey), but decided to walk away from the much-discussed franchise after she was involved in a number of disagreements with author E.L. James.[23] In June 2017, Taylor-Johnson said that she regretted directing the first film.[24][25]

In March 2021, Taylor-Johnson was announced to have been attached to direct and produce a biographical drama called Rothko, based on the Rothko case. The film is set to commence production in summer 2021.[26]

In July 2022, it was announced that the feature film Back to Black, a biopic based on the life and career of British singer Amy Winehouse would be directed by Taylor-Johnson.[27] Filming for the project commenced in January 2023 in London.

Personal life[edit]

She has had cancer twice. In December 1997, at age 30, she was treated for colon cancer.[28] In 2000, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.[28]

She practises yoga and Transcendental Meditation, of which she says, "I wouldn’t be able to survive everything without the meditation that I do. It’s what I think has made me able to cope with the madness."[29]

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to the arts.[30]

Marriages and children[edit]

She married art dealer and gallerist Jay Jopling in 1997; they had two daughters together, born in April 1997 and 2005.[28] In September 2008, the couple announced that they were separating amicably after 11 years of marriage.[31]

She began a relationship with Nowhere Boy actor Aaron Johnson after meeting on the 2009 set of the film when he was 18 and she was 42.[32][33][34] The couple announced their engagement at the film's premiere in October 2009.[35] They married at Babington House, Somerset, on 21 June 2012 and both took the surname Taylor-Johnson.[36] The couple have two daughters together, born in 2010 and 2012.[37][38][39] They split time between Los Angeles, California, and a farm near Bruton, Somerset, in England.[40][41]


She has released three songs in collaboration with Pet Shop Boys:


Short film

Year Title Director Writer Notes
2006 Death Valley Yes Yes Segment of Destricted
2008 Love You More Yes No
2011 James Bond Supports International Women's Day Yes No


Year Title Director Writer Notes
2009 Nowhere Boy Yes No
2015 Fifty Shades of Grey Yes No Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director
2018 A Million Little Pieces Yes Yes
2024 Back to Black Yes No


Year Title Director Executive
2017 Gypsy Yes Yes 2 episodes
2021 Solos Yes Yes 2 episodes
2023 Hunters Yes No 1 episode


  1. ^ "Samantha Louise TAYLOR-JOHNSON - Personal Appointments". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Film4/MirageCV" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  3. ^ Peter Wilson (26 December 2009). "Sam Taylor-Wood: somewhere woman". The Australian. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  4. ^ Miranda Sawyer (11 November 2001). "Miranda Sawyer meets Sam Taylor-Wood". The Observer. London. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  5. ^ Richard Corliss, "Nowhere Boy: Lennon and McCartney Before the Beatles," Time/CNN, 8 October 2010
  6. ^ "Sam Taylor-Wood, British (1967 – )". Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Sam Taylor-Wood & Sir Elton John in "Art and Celebrity" (2003)". Art Design Café. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  8. ^ "National Portrait Gallery – Portrait – NPG 6661; David Beckham ('David')". Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  9. ^ Hickling, Alfred (17 May 2006). "Sam Taylor-Wood". The Guardian.
  10. ^ "Through Coco Chanel's keyhole with Sam Taylor-Johnson". The Telegraph. London. 22 July 2014. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  11. ^ "John Lennon | Lennon Sign Calmed Director Taylor-Wood". Contactmusic. 21 September 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  12. ^ Burt, Ramsay. Sam Taylor-Wood – 'New Work' – Art exhibition at White Cube November 2004. Ballet Dance Magazine., accessed 2 March 2017.
  13. ^ Barraclough, Leo (27 July 2006). "BFI taps three governors". Variety. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  14. ^ "Opera Shorts". Sky Arts. 18 October 2009. Archived from the original on 23 December 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  15. ^ "R.E.M. Work With Sam Taylor-Wood". Clash. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  16. ^ Ben Walsh (7 March 2011). "Please put the camera away, darling... – Features – Films". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Daydream by Sam Taylor-Wood for Solange Azagury-Partridge". YouTube. 19 September 2011. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  18. ^ "'Daydream' By Sam Taylor-Wood For Solange Azagury-Partridge". Wallpaper. 25 February 2008. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
  19. ^ "SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON TO DIRECT '50 SHADES' MOVIE". Associated Press. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  20. ^ "'Fifty Shades of Grey' Heating Up With Angelina Jolie Talk". Deadline Hollywood. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  21. ^ Kroll, Justin (9 May 2013). "'50 Shades of Grey' Flirts With Director Joe Wright". Variety. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Gus Van Sant Shot Sex Scene Starring Alex Pettyfer in Bid to Direct 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  23. ^ Zoe Shenton (26 March 2015). "Sam Taylor-Johnson QUITS Fifty Shades Of Grey franchise". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  24. ^ Dumaraog, Ana (16 June 2017). "Fifty Shades Director Regrets Making The Film". Screen Rant. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  25. ^ Vincent, Alice (11 June 2017). "Sam Taylor-Johnson reveals Fifty Shades regret: 'EL James didn't like me'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  26. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (5 March 2021). "'Rothko': Sam Taylor-Johnson To Direct Art-World Drama With Russell Crowe, Aisling Franciosi, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, More — EFM Hot Package". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  27. ^ Snapes, Laura (11 July 2022). "Amy Winehouse Biopic Back to Black Moving Forward at StudioCanal with Sam Taylor-Johnson Directing". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  28. ^ a b c Kate Summerscale (15 December 2007). "Sam Taylor-Johnson: the bigger picture". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  29. ^ Appleyard, Bryan (23 March 2014). "Fifty shades of Sam Taylor-Johnson" (PDF). The Sunday Times Magazine.
  30. ^ "No. 59808". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2011. p. 13.
  31. ^ Sherna, Noah (20 September 2008). "Art couple Taylor-Wood and Jopling to separate after 11 years' marriage". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 September 2008.
  32. ^ Jones, Catherine (13 March 2009). "Nowhere Boy, the major new movie about John Lennon's teenage years, starts filming in Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  33. ^ "Aaron Taylor-Johnson Responds to Criticism Over Age Gap With Wife Sam". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved 25 March 2024.
  34. ^ "She's Having His Baby!". People. 3 May 2010. Archived from the original on 13 January 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  35. ^ "Aaron Johnson, fiancé of artist Sam Taylor-Wood, considers himself 'a very lucky man'". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 November 2009. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  36. ^ (23 June 2013) 50 Shades of Grey film to be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson Archived 22 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Shepton Mallet Journal. Retrieved on 18 April 2015.
  37. ^ Eden, Richard (7 November 2010). "Sam Taylor-Wood: I'd love another child with Aaron Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  38. ^ "Aaron Johnson, Sam Taylor-Wood Welcome Daughter Romy Hero". People. 25 January 2012. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  39. ^ "Sam Taylor-Wood's baby is another Hero | Showbiz". London Evening Standard. 25 January 2012. Archived from the original on 28 January 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  40. ^ O'Malley, Katie (13 November 2019). "Aaron Taylor-Johnson Describes The Moment He Fell For Wife Sam Taylor-Johnson And Discusses Their Age Gap". Elle. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  41. ^ "The anti-James Bond: Why kale-growing Aaron Taylor-Johnson would be a 007 like no other". Yahoo Life. 19 March 2024. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  42. ^ "Various - We Love You". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  43. ^ "Love to love you, baby - Kiki Kokova". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  44. ^ "Kompakt press release". 20 September 2008.

External links[edit]