Oscar Directors: Phillips, Todd–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

September 12, 2020

Career Summation

Occupational Inheritance:


Social Class:

Race/Ethnicity: Jewish


Formal Education: NYU Film; dropped out

Training: worked at video store

First Film: docus

Breakthrough: docu, grand Jury; 1998 Sundance Fest

First Oscar Nomination: Joker, 2019; aged 49

Gap between First Film and First Nom:

Other Oscars:

Popular: The Hangover, 2009; aged 39

Other Oscar Nominations:

Oscar Awards:

Nominations Span:

Genre (specialties):


Last Film:


Career Length:

Career Output:




Todd Phillips (né Bunzl, born December 20, 1970) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. His early career primarily involved directing comedy films, including Old School (2003), Starsky & Hutch (2004) and The Hangover Trilogy (2009, 2011, and 2013). He also co-wrote the satirical comedy film Borat (2006) which was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Phillips later co-wrote and directed the psychological thriller film Joker (2019), which premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival where it received the top prize, the Golden Lion. Joker went on to earn him Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, alongside his co-writer Scott Silver.

Phillips was born in Brooklyn, New York City, to a Jewish family. He was raised in Huntington, New York, on Long Island. He attended New York University Film School, but dropped out[5] because he could not afford to complete his first film and pay tuition simultaneously. Around that time, he worked at Kim’s Video and Music.

Phillips appeared as one of the drivers in the first season of the HBO hidden camera docu-series Taxicab Confessions. In a New York Times profile, Phillips said he had gotten in trouble for shoplifting as a young man.

Phillip’s first documentary film, Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, centered on the life and death of controversial punk rocker GG Allin, while as a junior at NYU and it went on to become one of the highest grossing student films at the time, even getting a limited theatrical release.[5] Next, he co-directed with then-partner Andrew Gurland for Frat House, a second documentary about college fraternities; it premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Fest and won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary features. It was produced by HBO, but never aired on its channel because many of the film’s participants claimed they were paid to re-enact their activities. It was never proven either way.

His third documentary Bittersweet Motel centered on the jam band Phish, covering its summer and fall 1997 tours, plus footage from their 1998 spring tour of Europe. It ends at The Great Went, a two-day festival held in upstate Maine which attracted 70,000 people. While at Sundance with Frat House, Phillips met director-producer Ivan Reitman who led Phillips into writing and directing his comedy films, Road Trip and Old School, for Reitman’s Montecito Picture Company.

Phillips also wrote and directed the 2004 film Starsky & Hutch starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, as well as the 2006 film School for Scoundrels, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder. In 2005, Details Magazine cited Judd Apatow, Adam McKay and Phillips as “The Frat Pack”.[9] He worked on the satirical comedy Borat (2006), but he resigned his position as a director in early 2005, due to creative differences. Nevertheless, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his role in fashioning the story.

After establishing Green Hat Films in 2008, Phillips directed and produced The Hangover, that was made for a reported $35 million and went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy in 2009. Its worldwide gross stood at $480 million on February 3, 2012.  The film went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). It also won Best Comedy at the 2009 Broadcast Film Critics Awards. Phillips took almost no up-front salary in exchange for a large share of the film’s profits, and has said that the movie’s enormous success, combined with his deal, makes it “my Star Wars”. After a worldwide gross of $467 million, his share in the film made Phillips around $50 million.

In 2010, Phillips directed, produced and co-wrote the comedy Due Date, which starred Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. It was a box office success, grossing $211,780,324 worldwide.

In the fall of 2010, production on The Hangover Part II began in Bangkok, Thailand that Phillips directed, produced and co-wrote. The film shot for 63 days and broke various records upon its release on May 26, 2011. With the film debuting at midnight with showings in 2,600 theaters, the film earned $10.4 million, breaking the record for the biggest midnight opening for an R-rated film. The Hangover Part II went on to accrue a launch day total of $31.6 million;[16] nearly doubling The Hangover’s Friday launch opening ($16.7 million). This amount broke two further records; the highest-grossing opening day for a live-action comedy and the highest-grossing opening day for an R-rated comedy film, replacing Sex and the City ($26.7 million). The three-day opening weekend accumulated $85,946,294 – an average of $23,923 per theater[17] – becoming the highest grossing opening weekend for a comedy film, replacing The Simpsons Movie ($74 million). For the Memorial Day four-day weekend, the film amassed $103.4 million to become the fourth-highest-grossing Memorial Day weekend opening. Finally, the film’s worldwide gross of $581,464,305 beat the previous R-rated comedy record holder The Hangover to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy film of all time (now surpassed by both Deadpool movies).[18]

He returned to direct, write, and produce The Hangover Part III, which was released in 2013. It grossed over $300 million, pushing The Hangover Trilogy’s total box office gross to $1.4 billion.

In 2016, following the successes of The Hangover trilogy, Phillips directed, produced, and co-wrote the crime film War Dogs, starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.

Phillips winning the Golden Lion for the film Joker at the 76th Venice Film Festival
Phillips directed, co-wrote, and co-produced an origin story film of DC Comics’s supervillain, the Joker. The script, set in 1981, was co-written by Scott Silver, and the film starred Joaquin Phoenix in the title role.  The film premiered at the 76th Venice Film Festival and was released in October 2019.

Phillips is scheduled to direct a biographical film about Hulk Hogan, starring Chris Hemsworth in the lead role. Frequent collaborator Scott Silver is a co-writer, alongside John Pollono. Philips is producing the film with Bradley Cooper, one of the lead actors of Phillips’ The Hangover trilogy and producer on Joker.

When asked in a 2014 interview by the BBC if he believes in God, Phillips replied: “Personally I don’t. But I believe there’s a higher power, a collective energy in people that you might say is God”. Phillips said in 2019, in the aftermath of his dark drama Joker release, that he had stopped making comedies because of the backlash of “woke culture”, saying: “Go try to be funny nowadays… There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore— I’ll tell you why, because all the fucking funny guys are like, ‘Fuck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’ It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter.”


2000 Road Trip Yes Yes No
2003 Old School Yes Yes Yes
2004 Starsky & Hutch Yes Yes No
2006 All the King’s Men No No Yes
2006 School for Scoundrels Yes Yes Yes
2006 Borat No Story No
2009 The Hangover Yes No Yes
2010 Due Date Yes Yes Yes
2011 The Hangover Part II Yes Yes Yes
2012 Project X No No Yes
2013 The Hangover Part III Yes Yes Yes
2016 War Dogs Yes Yes Yes
2018 A Star Is Born No No Yes
2019 Joker Yes Yes Yes

Documentary films

1993 Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies Yes Yes Yes No
1998 Frat House Yes Yes Yes Yes Co-directed with Andrew Gurland
2000 Bittersweet Motel Yes Yes Yes No
Year Title Director Producer Notes
1997 Taxicab Confessions No Yes Field producer;
1 episode
2008 The More Things Change… Yes Executive TV movie
2012 Matthew Broderick’s Day Off Yes Yes Commercial for Honda
2015–2016 Limitless No Executive 19 episodes
TBA Black Flags No Executive TV mini-series
Acting credits
Year Title Role Notes
2000 Road Trip Foot Lover
2003 Old School Gang Bang Guy
2009 The Hangover Mr. Creepy
2010 Due Date Barry
2011 The Hangover Part III Mr. Creepy Uncredited
Awards and nominations
Year Association Category Work Result
1994 New Orleans Film Festival Best Documentary Film Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies Won
1998 San Francisco International Film Festival Certificate of Merit Frat House Won
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Documentary Won
2007 Writers Guild of America Award Best Adapted Screenplay Borat Nominated
Academy Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2009 Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy The Hangover Won
British Comedy Award Best Comedy Film Nominated
2010 ShoWest Convention Director of the Year Won
2013 Hollywood Film Award Hollywood Movie Award The Hangover Part III Nominated
2018 Awards Circuit Community Award Best Motion Picture A Star Is Born Nominated
2019 Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Best Picture Nominated
Music City Film Critics’ Association Jim Ridley Award Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Best Picture Nominated
Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Joker Won
2020 Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Critics’ Choice Movie Award Best Picture Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Producers Guild of America Award Best Theatrical Motion Picture Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
British Academy Film Award Best Film Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Academy Award Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated