Oscar Directors: Cuaron, Alfonso–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

August 24, 2020

Alfonso Cuaron Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance:

Social Class:

Nationality: Mexican



First Film:

First Oscar Nomination: Gravity, 2014. won

Other Oscar Awards: Roma, 2018, won

Other Awards and Noms

Genre (specialties):


Last Film:


Career Output: 9 films

Career Span: 3 decades

Marriage: 2


Retirement: NA

Death: NA

Alfonso Cuarón (born November 28, 1961) is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, and editor.

He has been nominated for 11 Oscar Awards winning 5, including two Best Director awards for Gravity (2013) and Roma (2018).

He is the first Latin American director to receive the award for Best Director.

He has also received Academy Awards for Best Film Editing for Gravity and Best Cinematography for Roma.

Cuarón has been nominated for Academy Awards in 6 different categories, a record he shares with Walt Disney and George Clooney. His other notable films include the family drama A Little Princess (1995), the road comedy Y tu mamá también (2001), the fantasy film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), and the science fiction thriller[2] Children of Men (2006).

Alfonso Cuarón Orozco was born in Mexico City on 28 November 1961, the son of Alfredo Cuarón, a doctor specializing in nuclear medicine, and Cristina Orozco, a pharmaceutical biochemist.[3] He has two brothers, Carlos, also a filmmaker,[4] and Alfredo, a conservation biologist.[citation needed] Cuarón studied philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and filmmaking at CUEC (Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos),[5] a school within the same university. There, he met the director Carlos Marcovich and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki,[5] and they made what would be his first short film, Vengeance Is Mine.[citation needed]

Cuarón began working on television in Mexico, first as a technician and then as a director. His television work led to assignments as an assistant director for several film productions including La Gran Fiesta, Gaby: A True Story and Romero, and in 1991, he landed his first big-screen directorial assignment.

Sólo con tu pareja is a sex comedy about a womanizing businessman (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) who, after having sex with an attractive nurse, is fooled into believing he’s contracted AIDS. In addition to writing, producing and directing, Cuarón co-edited the film with Luis Patlán.[6]

The film, which also starred cabaret singer Astrid Hadad and model/actress Claudia Ramírez (with whom Cuarón was linked between 1989 and 1993), was a big hit in Mexico. After this success, director Sydney Pollack hired Cuarón to direct an episode of Fallen Angels, a series of neo-noir stories produced for the Showtime premium cable network in 1993; other directors who worked on the series included Steven Soderbergh, Jonathan Kaplan, Peter Bogdanovich and Tom Hanks.

American debut, Y tu mamá también and international success

Cuarón and Clive Owen, who worked together on Children of Men.
In 1995, Cuarón released his first feature film produced in the United States, A Little Princess, an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel. Cuarón’s next feature was also a literary adaptation, a modernized version of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert De Niro.

Cuarón’s next project found him returning to Mexico with a Spanish-speaking cast to film Y tu mamá también, starring Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna and Maribel Verdú. It was a provocative and controversial road comedy about two sexually obsessed teenagers who take an extended road trip with an attractive married woman who is much older than them. The film’s open portrayal of sexuality and frequent rude humor, as well as the politically and socially relevant asides, made the film an international hit and a major success with critics. Cuarón shared an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay with co-writer and brother Carlos Cuarón.

In 2004, Cuarón directed the third film in the successful Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Cuarón faced criticism from some Harry Potter fans for his approach to the film. At the time of the movie’s release, however, author J. K. Rowling, who had seen and loved Cuarón’s film Y tu mamá también, said that it was her personal favorite from the series so far.[7] Critically, the film was also better received than the first two installments, with some critics remarking its new tone and for being the first Harry Potter film to truly capture the essence of the novels.[8]

Cuarón’s feature Children of Men, an adaptation of the P. D. James novel starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, received wide critical acclaim, including three Academy Award nominations. Cuarón himself received two nominations for his work on the film in Best Film Editing (with Alex Rodríguez) and Best Adapted Screenplay (with several collaborators).

He created the production and distribution company Esperanto Filmoj (“Esperanto Films”, named because of his support for the international language Esperanto[9]), which has credits in the films Duck Season, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Gravity.

Cuarón also directed the controversial public service announcement “I Am Autism” for Autism Speaks that was criticized by disability rights groups for its negative portrayal of autism.[10]

Awards recognition

Cuaron at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival

Alfonso Cuarón in Morelia International Film Festival
In 2010, Cuarón began to develop the film Gravity, a drama set in space. He was joined by producer David Heyman, with whom Cuarón worked on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the film was released in the fall of 2013[11] and opened the 70th Venice International Film Festival in August. On 12 January 2014, Alfonso accepted the Golden Globe Award in the category of Best Director. The film received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Cuarón won for Best Directing, becoming the first Latin American to win the award,[12] while he and Mark Sanger received the award for Best Film Editing.[13]

In 2013, Cuarón created Believe, a science fiction/fantasy/adventure series that was broadcast as part of the 2013–14 United States network television schedule on NBC as a mid-season entry. The series was created by Cuarón for Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. Television. In 2014, TIME placed him in its list of “100 Most Influential People in the World” – Pioneers.[14]

In May 2015, Cuarón was announced as the President of the Jury for the 72nd Venice International Film Festival.

Production began in fall 2016 for Cuarón’s eighth film, Roma, a tale of a housekeeper for a middle class Mexican family in 1970s Mexico City, based on the life of his family’s longtime maid, Liboria Rodríguez.[16] The project was produced by Cuarón, Gabriela Rodríguez and Nicolás Celis. The film debuted at 75th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion,[17] and was distributed to select theaters in Mexico and United States before its online release on Netflix. Roma was highly acclaimed upon release; among its accolades are two Golden Globes (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director for Cuarón) and three Academy Awards (Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography for Cuarón) out of a leading ten nominations.[18][19]

Cuarón’s films seep with his many signature visual, thematic, and structural elements. Most notable, is the directors use of long takes, and his constantly moving camera. These tendencies create the feeling of real time and real space within the worlds Cuaron explores. Elaborating on this the director states,“For Children of Men, we wanted to take advantage of the element of real time. It’s a documentary approach. As if you were just following characters around with your own digital camera in the year 2027.” This documentary approach grounds the sometimes fantastical and otherworldly settings the director traverses in films such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Gravity. In his films, camera movement acts as an extension of character emotion. Whether employing handheld, steadicam or robotic arm, Cuarón uses the tools of cinematography to create an intense, symbiotic relationship between viewer and onscreen action.

Cuarón is a vegetarian and has been living in London since 2000.

Cuarón’s first marriage was to Mariana Elizondo, with whom he has a son, Jonás Cuarón, born in 1981, who is also a film director, known for Year of the Nail and Desierto.

His second marriage, from 2001 to 2008, was to Italian actress and freelance journalist Annalisa Bugliani, with whom he has two children.

He has publicly shown his fascination for the Esperanto language and his support for the Esperanto movement.

He called his production company Esperanto Filmoj.


Director Writer Producer Editor

1991 Sólo con tu pareja Yes Yes Yes Yes Directorial debut

1995 A Little Princess Yes No No No

1998 Great Expectations Yes No No No

2001 Y tu mamá también Yes Yes Yes Yes

2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Yes No No No

2006 Children of Men Yes Yes No Yes

2013 Gravity Yes Yes Yes Yes

2018 Roma Yes Yes Yes Yes Also cinematographer

Producer only

2004 Crónicas Sebastián Cordero
The Assassination of Richard Nixon Niels Mueller
2005 Black Sun[26] Gary Tarn Documentary
2006 Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro
2008 Rudo y Cursi Carlos Cuarón
2015 Desierto Jonás Cuarón
This Changes Everything[27] Avi Lewis Documentary
2020 The Disciple[28] Chaitanya Tamhane
2021 The Witches Robert Zemeckis Post-production