Oscar Directors: Jordan, Neil–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

September 30, 2020

Neil Jordan Career Summation

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Neil Patrick Jordan (born 25 February 1950) is an Irish film director, screenwriter, novelist and short-story writer. His first book, Night in Tunisia, won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979.[1][2] He won an Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay) for The Crying Game (1992). He has also won three Irish Film and Television Awards, as well as the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival for The Butcher Boy (1997).[3]

Jordan also created The Borgias (2011 TV series) for Showtime.

Jordan was born in Sligo, the son of Angela (née O’Brien), a painter, and Michael Jordan, a professor.[4] He was educated at St. Paul’s College, Raheny. Later, Jordan attended University College Dublin, where he studied Irish history and English literature. Of his religious background, Jordan said in a 1999 Salon interview: “I was brought up a Catholic and was quite religious at one stage in my life, when I was young. But it left me with no scars whatever; it just sort of vanished.” He said about his current beliefs that “God is the greatest imaginary being of all time. Along with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the invention of God is probably the greatest creation of human thought.”[5]

Neil Jordan’s career began in the late 1970s working for the Irish television channel, RTÉ. Included in his work was writing storylines for the children’s fantasy series, Wanderly Wagon.[6]

In 1981, when John Boorman was filming Excalibur in Ireland, he recruited Jordan as a “creative associate”. A year later Boorman was executive producer on Jordan’s first feature Angel, a tale of a musician caught up in The Troubles played by Stephen Rea who has subsequently appeared in almost all of Jordan’s films to date. During the 1980s, he directed films that won him acclaim, including The Company of Wolves and Mona Lisa, both made in England. The Company of Wolves, a dark and sexually-themed reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale based on short stories by Angela Carter, became a cult favorite.

As a writer/director, Jordan has a highly idiosyncratic body of work, ranging from mainstream hits like Interview with the Vampire to commercial failures like We’re No Angels to a variety of more personal, low-budget arthouse pictures. He was also the driving force behind the cable TV series The Borgias.

Neil Jordan at the German premiere of The Brave One, 2007
Unconventional sexual relationships are a recurring theme in Jordan’s work, and he often finds a sympathetic side to characters that audiences would traditionally consider deviant or downright horrifying. His film The Miracle, for instance, followed two characters who struggled to resist a strong, incestuous attraction. Interview with the Vampire, like the Anne Rice book it was based on, focused on the intense, intimate interpersonal relationship of two undead men who murder humans nightly (although the pair never have sex, they are clearly lovers of a sort), accompanied by an equally complex vampire woman who is eternally trapped in the body of a little girl. While Lestat (Tom Cruise) is depicted in an attractive but villainous manner, his partner Louis (Brad Pitt) and the child vampire Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) are meant to capture the audience’s sympathy despite their predatory nature. In the remake of The End of the Affair, two people (Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore) engage in a love affair that will end as suddenly as it started, with both not wanting its end.

In addition to the unusual sexuality of Jordan’s films, he frequently returns to The Troubles of Northern Ireland. The Crying Game and Breakfast on Pluto both concern a transgender character (played by Jaye Davidson and Cillian Murphy, respectively), both concern The Troubles, and both feature frequent Jordan leading man Stephen Rea. The two films, however, are very different, with Crying Game being a realistic thriller/romance and Breakfast on Pluto a much more episodic, stylized, darkly comic biography. Jordan also frequently tells stories about children or young people, such as The Miracle and The Butcher Boy. While his pictures are most often grounded in reality, he occasionally directs more fantastic or dreamlike films, such as The Company of Wolves, High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire and In Dreams.

Jordan with Alicja Bachleda-Curuś and Colin Farrell at the Ondine premiere, 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in New York
The critical success of Jordan’s early pictures led him to Hollywood, where he directed High Spirits and We’re No Angels; both were critical and financial disasters. He later returned home to make the more personal The Crying Game, which was nominated for six Academy Awards. Jordan won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film.[7] Its unexpected success led him back to American studio filmmaking, where he directed Interview with the Vampire. He also directed the crime drama The Brave One starring Jodie Foster.

Neil Gaiman announced during his The Today Show appearance on 27 January 2009, that Neil Jordan would be directing the film of his Newbery Medal-winning book The Graveyard Book. Jordan also wrote and directed the Irish made film Ondine (2009), starring Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda-Curuś. He also directed Byzantium, an adaptation of the vampire play of the same name starring Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton and Jonny Lee Miller.[8]

In 2011, Jordan’s next feature was announced as Broken Dream and featured Ben Kingsley and John Hurt.[9]

Most recently, he directed the thriller Greta (2018), starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz.

Personal life
Jordan has five children: Anna and Sarah from his marriage to solicitor Vivienne Shields; Dashiel and Daniel from his current marriage to Brenda Rawn, and Ben, from a relationship with architect Mary Donohoe.

Jordan lives in a house in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin.[10]

In 1996, Neil Jordan was honoured with receiving the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres [11]

He has received many honorary doctorates, most notably from Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and Queen’s University Belfast.[12][13][14]

In 2009, he signed a petition in support of director Roman Polanski, calling for his release after he was arrested in Switzerland in relation to his 1977 charge for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.[15][16]

In 2018, he has donated his archives to the National Library of Ireland. Jordan’s donation included TV and film scripts, production files, notebooks, storyboards and personal correspondence with artists and political figures.[17]

Year Film Director Writer Producer Notes
1982 Angel Yes Yes No
1984 The Company of Wolves Yes Yes No
1986 Mona Lisa Yes Yes No Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
1988 High Spirits Yes Yes No
1989 We’re No Angels Yes No No
1991 The Miracle Yes Yes No
1992 The Crying Game Yes Yes No Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
1994 Interview with the Vampire Yes No No Nominated- Saturn Award for Best Director
1996 Michael Collins Yes Yes No Golden Lion
1997 The Butcher Boy Yes Yes executive Silver Bear for Best Director
1999 The End of the Affair Yes Yes Yes BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
In Dreams Yes Yes No
2000 Not I Yes No No Short film
2002 The Good Thief Yes Yes executive
2003 The Actors No story Yes
Intermission No No Yes
2005 Breakfast on Pluto Yes Yes Yes
2007 The Brave One Yes No No
2009 Ondine Yes Yes Yes
2012 Byzantium Yes No No
2018 Greta Yes Yes No
Executive producer only

The Courier (1988)
The Last September (1999)
Year Film Director Writer Executive
Producer Notes
2011–2013 The Borgias Yes Yes Yes Creator
2017– Riviera No Yes Yes
Night in Tunisia (1976, short stories)
The Past (1980)
The Dream of a Beast (1983)
Sunrise with Sea Monster (1994) published in the US as ‘’Nightlines’’
Shade (2005)
Mistaken (2011)
The Drowned Detective (2016)
Carnivalesque (2017)[18]
Guardian Fiction Prize and Somerset Maugham Award for Night in Tunisia (1979)
Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1981 [19]
2004 Irish PEN Award
Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award for ‘Shade’ (2005) and Mistaken (2011) [20][21]
2011 Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year for ‘Mistaken'[22]
Awards received by Jordan movies
Year Film Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1984 The Company of Wolves 4
1986 Mona Lisa 1 6 1 4 1
1992 The Crying Game 6 1 7 1 1
1994 Interview with the Vampire 2 4 2 2
1996 Michael Collins 2 2 2
1999 The End of the Affair 2 10 1 4
2005 Breakfast on Pluto 1
2007 The Brave One 1
Total 13 1 33 5 15 1