Almereyda, Michael: Indie Director, Sundance Baby

Michael Almereyda (born 1959) is a humble, underestimated, quintessentially independent director, screenwriter, and producer.

Almereyda studied art history at Harvard, but dropped out after three years to pursue filmmaking.

He got a Hollywood agent based on his spec script about Nicola Tesla.

His first film as writer-director was self-financed, black-and-white short featuring Dennis Hopper, “A Hero of Our Time,” based on Mikhail Lermontov’s novel of the same title. Shot in 1985 to 1987, it screened at the 1992 Sundance Film Fest.

Screenplays include Cherry 2000 (1987), an early draft for Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991), and uncredited work on the Schwarzenegger hit, Total Recall (1990).

Over the past three decades, Almereyda’s films have ranged across genres, styles, and formats.

His first feature, Twister (1989), based on Mary Robison’s novel Oh, was a comedy about a dysfunctional mid-Western family.

Another Girl, Another Planet (1992) was a romantic chamber piece, a black-and-white, one-hour featurette.

Produced by David Lynch, Nadja (1994) was a satirical vampire film shot on 35mms with Pixelvision inserts.

Almereyda’s best-known feature, Hamlet in 2000, was a modern adaptation of Shakespeare, set in contemporary New York.  In addition to Ethan Hawke in the title role, the cast included Bill Murray, Kyle MacLachlan, Julia Styles, Live Schreiber, and Sam Shepard.

Almereyda directed several features set in pre-and post-Katrina New Orleans: Happy Here and Now (2002) and New Orleans, Mon Amour (2008).

In 2004, he directed an episode of HBO series, Dreadwood.

William Eggleston in the Real World (2005) was nominated for Best Documentary at the Gotham Awards.

The sketchbook film Paradise was made in 2009.

Marjorie Prime won the Sloan Feature Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Fest.

Almereyda edited and contributed texts for Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and About Mayakovsky, published by in 2008, and William Eggleston: For Now, published by Twin Palms in 2010.

In 2015, Almereyda received the Moving Image Creative Capital Award.

Filmography: 

A Hero of Our Time (1985)

Twister (1989)
Girl from Another Planet (short, 1992)
Nadja (1994)

The Rocking Horse Winner (1997)

The Eternal (1998)

Hamlet (2000)

Happy Here and Now (2002)

This So-Called Disaster (2004)

William Heggleston in the Real World (2005)

New Orleans, Mon Amour (2008)

Big River Blues (2008)

Tonight at Noon (2009)

Paradise (2009)

The Great Gatsby in Five Minutes (2011)

The Ogre’s Feathers (2012)

Cymbeline (2014)

Experimenter (2015)

Marjorie Prime (2017)

Escapes (2017)

 

Summary:

Year of Birth: 1959

Schooling: Harvard University; left in 1980

First Film: Twister (1989)

Age at First Film: 30

Age at Sundance Film: 33

Best-Known Film: Hamlet (1992)