John Schlesinger

Director, Actor, Magician
John Schlesinger is celebrated for his ability to elicit sensitive performances from his actors, a skill which draws on his own experience on the British stage in the 1950s. His style is also influenced by techniques he ... Read more »
Born: 02/16/1926 in London, England, GB

Filmography

Director (24)

The Next Best Thing 2000 (Movie)

(Director)

Terminus 1998 (Movie)

(Director)

Cold Comfort Farm 1996 (Movie)

(Director)

Eye for An Eye 1996 (Movie)

(Director)

The Innocent 1995 (Movie)

(Director)

Pacific Heights 1990 (Movie)

(Director)

Madame Sousatzka 1988 (Movie)

(Director)

The Believers 1987 (Movie)

(Director)

The Falcon and the Snowman 1985 (Movie)

(Director)

Separate Tables 1982 - 1983 (TV Show)

Director

An Englishman Abroad 1982 (Movie)

(Director)

Honky Tonk Freeway 1981 (Movie)

(Director)

Yanks 1979 (Movie)

(Director)

Marathon Man 1976 (Movie)

(Director)

The Day of the Locust 1974 (Movie)

(Director)

Visions of Eight 1973 (Movie)

(Director)

Sunday, Bloody Sunday 1971 (Movie)

(Director)

Midnight Cowboy 1969 (Movie)

(Director)

Far From the Madding Crowd 1967 (Movie)

(Director)

Darling 1965 (Movie)

(Director)

Billy Liar 1963 (Movie)

(Director)

A Kind of Loving 1962 (Movie)

(Director)

A Question of Attribution (TV Show)

Director

The Tale of Sweeney Todd (TV Show)

Director
Actor (11)

The Celluloid Closet 1996 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

Living in America 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Actor

50 Years of Action! 1985 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)

The Last Man to Hang 1956 (Movie)

(Actor)

Oh... Rosalinda! 1955 (Movie)

Gentleman (Actor)

The Divided Heart 1955 (Movie)

Ticket Collector (Actor)

The Lost Language of Cranes (TV Show)

Actor

The Twilight of the Golds (TV Show)

Actor
Writer (2)

Madame Sousatzka 1988 (Movie)

(Screenplay)

Darling 1965 (Movie)

(From Story)
Producer (2)

The Believers 1987 (Movie)

(Producer)

The Falcon and the Snowman 1985 (Movie)

(Producer)
Production Management (1)

Midnight Cowboy 1969 (Movie)

Restoration Supervision(25th Anniversary Restoration) (Production Supervisor)
Other (1)

Privileged 1982 (Movie)

consultant director (Consultant)

Biography

John Schlesinger is celebrated for his ability to elicit sensitive performances from his actors, a skill which draws on his own experience on the British stage in the 1950s. His style is also influenced by techniques he developed while directing TV documentaries--a period of his career characterized by extensive location shooting, tight production schedules and an emphasis on the role of editing in shaping narrative structure.

Schlesinger first became interested in film at the age of 11, when he received a 9.5 mm movie camera as a gift. While serving with the Royal Engineers during WWII he made an amateur film, "Horrors", and performed as a magician in the Combined Services Entertainment Unit. When he resumed his education in 1945 he immersed himself in the theater, joining the Oxford University Dramatic Society and soon becoming president of the Oxford Experimental Theatre Company. (He would continue to direct for the stage, in between movie assignments, throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s.)

From 1952 to 1957, Schlesinger worked in England, Australia and New Zealand, appearing in five feature films, acting in nearly 20 plays with various repertory companies and performing on TV and radio. During this period, a chance meeting with director/producer Roy Boulting catalyzed his interest in photography and filmmaking and led to the creation, with theatrical agent Basil Appleby, of a 15-minute documentary, "Sunday in the Park" (1956). The film brought Schlesinger a series of documentary assignments for the BBC. After a stint as a second unit director, he was commissioned to make an industrial documentary of daily life in London's Waterloo Station. The poignant result, "Terminus" (1961), achieved nationwide commercial distribution and earned him a Venice Festival Gold Lion and a British Academy Award.

Motivated in part by the festival success of "Terminus", producer Joseph Janni offered Schlesinger his first shot at a feature film with "A Kind of Loving" (1962). The result was a critical and financial success which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Festival and propelled its director into the front rank of young British filmmakers. In "Billy Liar" (1963), Schlesinger continued to examine the themes of inarticulate ambition and frustrated tenderness he had explored in "A Kind of Loving". Both films showed the influence of the British Free Cinema movement, with its emphasis on the constraints and restrictions of working-class life. Schlesinger then moved into very different terrain with "Darling" (1965), a flashy satire of "swinging London" that certified its lead actress, Julie Christie, as an international star when she won the Academy Award for best actress.

"Midnight Cowboy" (1969) was perhaps Schlesinger's greatest success commercially and critically, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director and launching a long but rather turbulent Hollywood career for the director. Films such as "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" (1971), "The Day of the Locust" (1975) and "Marathon Man" (1976) all bear witness to Schlesinger's remarkable ability to weave meticulously observed, realistic backgrounds into his complex studies of human relationships.

Schlesinger's later films have included "The Believers" (1987), a gripping contemporary horror story starring Martin Sheen and Helen Shaver, "Madame Sousatzka" (1988), about a London piano teacher (Shirley MacLaine) and her gifted young student, "Pacific Heights" (1990), possibly the first thriller to weave its plot around the problems faced by landlords in their attempt to evict a bad tenant, and "The Innocent" (1993), an adaptation of Ian McEwan's Cold War psychological thriller. He directed "Cold Comfort Farm" for British TV (shown at film festivals in 1995), a period comedy about an orphan who take refuge with her cousins. Schlesinger also directed the minor revenge thriller "Eye for an Eye" (1996), which pitted Sally Field against Kiefer Sutherland, before tackling a major television adaptation of "The Tale of Sweeney Todd" (1998), a straight, non-musical version of the famed British folk tale starring Ben Kingsley as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

His final directotial outing was at the helm of the mild comedy "The Next Best Thing" (2000) which starred Madonna as a middle-aged woman whose biological clock has ticked so loud she conceives a baby with her gay pal (Rupert Everett) and then struggles to raise the child with him. Although a fairly minor work in his otherwise bold canon, it was appropriate that in his last film effort before his death in 2003, Schlesinger, who was gay, again tackled the issues of homosexual life and love that had characterized his keenest work.

Relationships

Wendy Schlesinger

Sister

Noel Davis

Companion

Susan Maryott

Sister
committed suicide in 1963 at age 30

Bernard Schlesinger

Father
Jewish

Winifred Schlesinger

Mother
Jewish

Roger Schlesinger

Brother
twin of Hilary

Hilary Schlesinger

Sister
twin of Roger converted to Catholicism

EDUCATION

Uppingham public school

Rutland
equivalent of an American private school

Balliol College, Oxford University

joined Oxford University Dramatic Society; became president of Oxford Experimental Theatre Company; toured US with student company during final year

Milestones

2000

Directed the feature "The Next Best Thing", starring Rupert Everett and Madonna

1998

Helmed non-musical Showtime movie "The Tale of Sweeney Todd", starring Ben Kingsley in the title role

1989

Directed Verdi's opera, "Un Ballo in Maschera," (featuring Placido Domingo) at the Salzburg Festival in July

1980

Directed Offenbach centenary production opera, "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" at London's Royal Opera House

1972

Contributed "The Longest," a short film, to the official Munich Olympic film, "Visions of Eight"

1968

Directed first American film, "Midnight Cowboy"

1965

Directed the Oscar-winning Julie Christie in "Darling"

1962

Directed first feature, "A Kind of Loving"

1961

Directed first theatrical documentary, "Terminus"

1958

Began working for BBC-TV news show, "Tonight"

1952

Film acting debut in "Singlehanded"

1951

Worked with Ngaio Marsh's theater company in Australia and New Zealand and with British repertory companies

1948

Formed Mount Pleasant Productions with Alan Cooke

1948

Made 16mm short, "Black Legend"

Became associate director of Britain's National Theater

During WWII, served as architectural draftsman with Royal Engineers; made amateur film, "Horror"; entertained troops with magic act (fellow performers included Kenneth Williams and Stanley Baxter)

Made first home movie at age 11 with 9.5mm camera

Bonus Trivia

.

Made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his contributions to British cinema; awarded by Queen Elizabeth II (c. 1970)

.

Underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2000.

.

In January 2001, Schlesinger suffered a stroke.

.

"I think the reason why 'Midnight Cowboy' has lasted is not only because it's a good story but because it does have a deep human quality that people have gathered from it and admired in it, and that has given the film this extraordinary long life."---Schlesinger in an interview with his nephew, writer Ian Buruma just before his death, in Interview magazine, December/January 2006.

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