After working successfully in the independent film world, Canadian actor-turned-filmmaker and screenwriter Allan Moyle made his reputation in Hollywood with remarkably insightful teen films featuring well-sketched female characters. Most notable of the director's oeuvre was 1990's "Pump Up the Volume", a pirate radio-themed counterculture paean to John Hughes teen angst-fests.
Born in Shawinigan, an English-speaking city in Quebec, Moyle started his film career after an apprenticeship at New Hampshire's New London Barn Theatre and a stint working in a psychiatric hospital in New York City. He made his film acting debut with a small role in "Joe" (1970), director John G. Avildsen's portrait of a blue-collar bigot that jump-started the career of star Peter Boyle. In 1973, after returning to Canada, Moyle produced, co-wrote and was assistant director of festival favorite "Montreal Main", a convention-questioning look at a relationship between a grown man and a young boy. He returned to the other side of the camera with the Canadian feature "The Mourning Suit" in 1975 and had a cameo the following year in David Cronenberg's "Rabid". In 1977, Moyle was featured in Richard Benner's somewhat poignant drag comedy "Outrageous!" and made his feature directorial debut with "The Rubber Gun", in which he additionally co-starred.
In 1980, Moyle won his first studio directing assignment, helming "Times Square" from his own story of two teenage runaways in NYC. Panned by critics, and supposedly so taxing to Moyle as to have caused the loss of his hair due to a stress disorder, "Times Square" was a well-acted but somewhat uninspired journey through the lives of two teenaged best friends (Trini Alvarado and Robin Johnson) who, under the tutelage of Tim Curry's radio disc jockey take on the big city, forming a punk rock band and becoming local superstars. Somewhat falsely promoted as an opposite sides of the tracks buddy picture, "Times Square" was fortified with enough seminal new wave and post punk music to win over rock fans, and contained a palpable lesbian subtext that made it a favorite in film festivals decades after its initial release.
After the beating "Times Square" took by critics and moviegoers, Moyle virtually retired for ten years, travelling the world, including a sojourn in Greece, and working on an unpublished novel. In 1990 he resurfaced with the hit "Pump Up the Volume", drawn from his fiction. Hot on the heels of his turn as the nihilistic rebel in 1989's "Heathers", Christian Slater stepped into the starring role of Moyle's screenwriting and directorial return, playing a high school loner who riles up the student body through his pirate radio broadcast. Full of snappy lines like "Sometimes being young is less fun than being dead" and "Feeling screwed up at a screwed up time in a screwed up place does not necessarily make you screwed up", the dialogue given to Slater's Mark Hunter/Hard Harry made him and the film an instant hit with the teen set. Surprisingly, many critics agreed with the praise. Even more surprising was the fact that despite his starring status and blatant heroism, Mark wasn't the emotional core of "Pump Up the Volume", rather, it was Samantha Mathis' Nora. Incensed, attracted and confused by Hard Harry's antics, Nora was the Everywoman to whom the audience related while Mark was an unfathomable Superman. That same year, Moyle served as screenwriter for David Blyth's modern vampire myth "Red-Blooded American Girl". He later contributed his screenplay to Lizzie Borden's over-edited and subsequently muddled thriller "Love Crimes" and directed the quirky comedy "The Gun In Betty Lou's Handbag" (both 1992).
While those resume entries were less than spectacular, Moyle's 1995 effort "Empire Records" was more uneven and less contemplative than the acclaimed "Pump Up the Volume". The movie's severely limited theatrical release, however, was quite an overstatement of its faults. If nothing else, "Empire Records", which boasted a cast including then-unknowns Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Brendan Sexton III, proved Moyle's eye for talent. He had also handpicked future heavyweight Tobey Maguire for a lead role, but the young actor reluctantly gave up the part to take a much-needed break. "Empire Records" went on to find an audience through video and cable outlets that granted the spirited, music-fueled feature cult status with a young audience, and like "Pump Up the Volume" and "Times Square", the film boasted a truly exceptional soundtrack.
Moyle was off the scene again for a bit after "Empire Records", but returned with "New Waterford Girl", a 70-set story of a sensitive 15-year-old Cape Breton girl bored with her small town existence who is given a new lease on life when a young New Yorker moves in next door. Filmed in Nova Scotia, "New Waterford Girl" returned Moyle to his Canadian roots, and proved once again his talent for capturing the experience of teenage girls with surprising credibility and emotional honesty. He also elicited star-making turns from the two leads Tara Spencer-Nairn and Lianne Balaban. Lacking in both though was his TV-movie directorial debut, "Jailbait", aired on MTV in 2000. Coming across more as a long-winded jokey condom commercial than an actual movie, the fact-based "Jailbait" was certainly not among Moyle's career high points, but true to form, his underage pregnant heroine proved infinitely more interesting than her doltish boyfriend.