When "Donnie Darko" (2001) first premiered in theaters, it perplexed audiences and seemed doomed to DVD anonymity - that is until it was rediscovered by fans and critics, giving the film and its creat...
Newport News, Virginia, USA
|Pride and Prejudice and Zombies||Producer||n/a||3|
|World's Greatest Dad||2009||Producer||n/a||3|
|I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell||2009||Producer||n/a||3|
|Southland Tales||2007||Song||("Teen Horniness Is Not A Crime")||1|
|Made the short film "Visceral Matter," while at USC|
|Directed "The Box," starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden; also produced and wrote the screenplay|
|Feature film debut as director and screenwriter, "Donnie Darko"|
|Wrote and directed "Southland Tales," featuring an ensemble cast that included Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott|
|After college, worked in a post-production house for about a year|
|Wrote the screenplay about the life of bounty hunter Domino Harvey, "Domino"; directed by Tony Scott|
|Began writing script for what would become his feature debut|
|Wrote and directed second short "The Goodbye Place" at USC|
Born in Newport News, VA and raised in nearby Midlothian, James Richard Kelly was the son of Lane, a school teacher, and Ennis Kelly, a NASA scientist who worked on the Mars Viking Lander program in the 1970s. While attending Midlothian High School, Kelly found his calling after seeing the 1989 David Fincher-directed music video "Janie's Got a Gun" on MTV. With its striking visuals and taut storytelling, the darkly atmospheric video impressed the introverted teen, who had been searching for some sort of creative outlet throughout his adolescence. Although he initially was accepted to USC on an art scholarship, Kelly petitioned to transfer to the film school and was eventually accepted. While a student, he made two shorts: "The Goodbye Place" (1996), a mysterious tale of child abduction, and "Visual Matter" (1997), a 30-minute exploration of the effects of experiments in teleportation. The latter film would serve as his Hollywood calling card as Kelly attempted to launch a feature project. Following his graduation from USC, Kelly spent a year working in a post-production house, acquiring skills in 3-D animation and increasing his technical acumen. In his spare time, he began working on what he has referred to as his "nostalgia piece" - a darkly existential tale about a highly intelligent teenager diagnosed with borderline schizophrenia who begins to have foreboding premonitions.
In the meantime, Kelly worked on a draft for the film adaptation of Louis Sacher's young adult novel Holes for Phoenix Pictures, and although they opted for another writer's version, he was beginning to make headway in the industry. There was also an attempt at getting a television pilot into production, but that, too, would not come to fruition. After being rejected by studios for more than a year, Kelly's pet project screenplay was completed and attracted the attention of actor Jason Schwartzman who brought it to actress-producer Drew Barrymore and her producing partner Nancy Juvonen. Due to scheduling conflicts, Schwartzman ultimately dropped out but was quickly replaced by up-and-comer Jake Gyllenhaal, while Barrymore went on to accept a supporting role in the project. The resulting film, "Donnie Darko" (2001), was one of the most daring and original independents of 2001. The brooding, visually arresting story of a disaffected youth plagued by visions of a man in a bunny suit was at first glance an mixture of 1980s teen movie tropes and horror film imagery. It also puzzled audiences upon its initial release, and soon disappeared from theaters, a commercial failure, despite its miniscule production budget. The film, however, enjoyed a renaissance in its DVD release, eventually going on to achieve true cult status, garnering legions of fans, and generating endless discussions as to the enigmatic film's ultimate meaning. And while "Donnie Darko" would be re-released in theaters in 2002 and go on to be named by Empire magazine as one of the greatest independent films of all time, Kelly would nonetheless struggle to get his next project made.
Kelly's next paying job was for the screenplay to director Tony Scott's action biopic "Domino" (2005). The film starred Keira Knightley as the daughter of stage and screen actor Laurence Harvey, Domino Harvey - a former model-turned-bounty hunter. Despite boasting one of the most successful directors and leading ladies in Hollywood, the film was largely dismissed by critics and performed poorly at the box-office. Kelly's sophomore filmmaking effort was the ambitious black comedy "Southland Tales" (2007). An ensemble piece that starred Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott, the story followed the intertwining lives of several disparate characters in a Los Angeles of the near future on the eve of a social, environmental and economic breakdown. It proved a critical and financial disaster, regarded by many as the worst film of the year when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Pushing on, Kelly resurfaced as a writer-director with the science fiction thriller "The Box" (2009), starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple in 1970s Virginia who suddenly find themselves the recipients of a very generous, yet ominous offer from a horribly disfigured mystery man (Frank Langella). Inspired by Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button," Kelly's version was alternately deemed overreaching, plodding or simply uninteresting by reviewers and theatergoers, adding yet another box office flop to his select résumé. Beyond producer credits on the risible indie comedy "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" (2009), in addition to the barely seen Robin Williams black comedy "World's Greatest Dad" (2009), Kelly's future as a film director seemed uncertain at best as the decade drew to a close.
|Midlothian High School|
|University of Southern California|
|"This may have been the darkest film I'll ever make, but I also think of it as a black comedy." - Richard Kelly on "Donnie Darko" to The New York Times, Oct. 28, 2001|
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