skip navigation
John Milius

John Milius

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (1)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Rough Riders DVD In 1898 the US government, led by Theodore Roosevelt (Tom Berenger) back when he... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

The Wind And The Lion DVD Sean Connery brings his commanding presence and rugged heroism to the lead role... more info $12.98was $12.98 Buy Now

Red Dawn DVD Russian and Cuban paratroopers land in a small town in Colorado, and a violent... more info $9.98was $9.98 Buy Now

Sam Elliott Western Collection... Sam Elliott has played many parts in his long acting career, but this collection... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

Red Dawn: Collector's Edition... This explosive action and adventure is a unique war classic. Patrick Swayze... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: John F Milius, John Frederick Milius Died:
Born: April 11, 1944 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: St Louis, Missouri, USA Profession: screenwriter, director, producer, script assistant, actor, gun dealer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A self-described Zen anarchist, writer-director John Milius was called far worse by friend and foe - everything from a self-styled fusion of Hemingway and Genghis Khan to the Hermann Goering of film directors. Such pat labels, however, failed to convey the depth and emotion on display in a Milius film, despite his unquenchable thirst for militarism and glorification of violence. Whether taking audiences on a journey into man's heart of darkness during the Vietnam War or depicting the uncommon friendship of two plebian soldiers from the Roman Empire, Milius made some of Hollywood's most memorable and hackle-raising films and television series. While his gun-toting, right-wing politics remained largely at odds from mainstream Hollywood, Milius nonetheless carved out a substantial - albeit, lonely - niche that allowed him to maintain his trademark individualism, while pushing his brash contrarian views.Milius was born on April 11, 1944 in St. Louis, MO. His father, William, a successful shoe manufacturer, moved the family to southern California when Milius was seven. During his teenaged years, he turned into a surf bum while wanting to also be a writer in the vein of heroes Ernest Hemingway, Joseph...

A self-described Zen anarchist, writer-director John Milius was called far worse by friend and foe - everything from a self-styled fusion of Hemingway and Genghis Khan to the Hermann Goering of film directors. Such pat labels, however, failed to convey the depth and emotion on display in a Milius film, despite his unquenchable thirst for militarism and glorification of violence. Whether taking audiences on a journey into man's heart of darkness during the Vietnam War or depicting the uncommon friendship of two plebian soldiers from the Roman Empire, Milius made some of Hollywood's most memorable and hackle-raising films and television series. While his gun-toting, right-wing politics remained largely at odds from mainstream Hollywood, Milius nonetheless carved out a substantial - albeit, lonely - niche that allowed him to maintain his trademark individualism, while pushing his brash contrarian views.

Milius was born on April 11, 1944 in St. Louis, MO. His father, William, a successful shoe manufacturer, moved the family to southern California when Milius was seven. During his teenaged years, he turned into a surf bum while wanting to also be a writer in the vein of heroes Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad and Herman Melville. But instead, he turned to filmmaking after he was denied entry into the military due to chronic asthma, enrolling at the University of Southern California alongside the likes of George Lucas. While at USC, Milius became the go-to guy for all things written, though he did dabble with being a director, winning a National Student Film Festival award in 1967 for his short, "Marcello, I'm So Bored" - a juxtaposition of Southern California social life with a film negative clip from Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" (1960). While in one of his screenwriting classes, Milius was inspired to write his take on Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" because his professor claimed no one had ever successfully adapted the novel to the screen.

The result was "Apocalypse Now" (1979), a nightmarish descent into madness depicting an Army captain (Martin Sheen) traveling downriver during the Vietnam War to "exterminate with extreme prejudice" an insane colonel (Marlon Brando) who has taken refuge deep in the jungle with a band of armed followers. Milius wrote the script in 1969 when he was freshly graduated from film school, though he encountered resistance from the studios which were all wary of making a film about an unpopular war that was still raging across the Pacific and causing civil strife at home. He wrote and directed his first feature, "The Devil's Eight" (1968) - a "Dirty Dozen"-like action flick about an ATF agent (Christopher George) trying to shut down a moonshine operation that was produced under the aegis of Samuel Arkoff, a low-budge producer in the vein of Roger Corman. He next scripted "Evel Knievel" (1971), an enjoyable, harmless biopic about the famed motorcycle stuntman as played by George Hamilton.

With his career on the march, Milius wrote the script for "Dirty Harry" (1971), but did not receive credit because he failed to file his paperwork with the Writer's Guild. He then sparked a bidding war with his screenplay for "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" (1972), a western about an imperious self-appointed judge (Paul Newman) who terrorizes the local residents, making Milius the highest-paid screenwriter of his day. He stayed in the western genre, writing the script for "Jeremiah Johnson" (1972), a precursor to "Dances with Wolves" (1990), which depicted a former U.S. soldier (Robert Redford) who disappears into the frontier and bonds with the local Native American tribe, only to be turned into a brutal Indian after his family is murdered. He reunited with producer Arkoff to write and direct "Dillinger" (1973), a biopic on the fast-burning bank robber John Dillinger, who captured the nation's imagination during the Depression-era spree of notorious criminals.

Milius continued along the path of directing, churning out "The Wind and The Lion" (1975), a sweeping epic about an American widow (Candice Bergen) taken hostage by a ruthless, but benevolent Arab chief (Sean Connery) wrapped in a cautionary tale about the emergence of American power abroad. After helping friend Steven Spielberg by writing the infamous U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue given by Robert Shaw in "Jaws" (1977), Milius directed "Big Wednesday" (1978), a coming-of-age tale about three surfers who reunite on the beach after 10 years of being apart. Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola became interested in directing "Apocalypse Now" after George Lucas' idea of filming guerrilla-style in Vietnam in the middle of a shooting war was deemed insane by the studios. Coppola committed to the project and began work in 1976, running into numerous problems that have since become Hollywood legend, including the near-fatal heart attack of star Martin Sheen. Milius, however, was not allowed on set - perhaps in retrospect, a blessing in disguise given the maniacal control Coppola exhibited. Nonetheless, "Apocalypse Now" won the Palm d'Or for Best Film at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and became the last great film to be released during Hollywood's last golden era.

Just about everyone associated with "Apocalypse Now" suffered from a creative glut from which many never recovered - Coppola most of all. Milius never reached such artistic heights again, himself. He helped develop the story for Spielberg's abysmal World War II comedy "1941" (1979), before directing the comic bookish adventure "Conan the Barbarian" (1982), which turned the unknown muscle head Arnold Schwarzenegger into a star. His next directing effort, the paranoid and jingoistic "Red Dawn" (1984), sparked controversy because of its ludicrous premise - Cuban and Nicaraguan forces, aided by the Soviet Union, invade and occupy America - and the right-wing patriotic fervor that did nothing but cement the image of Milius as Hollywood's resident Nazi.

After "Red Dawn," Milius' career faltered considerably, falling into a deep, isolated abyss. Though the work came sporadically, Milius nonetheless never lost touch with his rugged individualism and contrarian nature. His next directing effort, "Farewell to the King" (1989), took Milius and his crew to the jungles of Borneo to shoot an "Apocalypse Now"-like tale about an American POW (Nick Nolte) ruling over a tribe of natives after escaping the Japanese during World War II. Though exquisitely filmed and fast-paced, "Farewell to the King" failed to live up to its artistic forbearer, both in terms of achievement, thematic depth and box office bounty.

Milius started the 1990s with what could in the end turn out to be his last feature directing effort, "Flight of the Intruder," a speculative drama set during the Vietnam War about a pair of Navy pilots (Brad Johnson and Christopher Rich) who launch an unauthorized bombing run on Hanoi in an insane bid to help turn the tide of the war. After the dismal critical reception and poor box office showing, Milius focused more on writing, churning out the scripts for "Geronimo: An American Legend" (1993) and "Clear and Present Danger" (1994). Turning to television, Milius directed the remake of the 1957 drag racing drama, "Motorcycle Gang" (1994), for Showtime, before turning to Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War into the sweeping miniseries, "Rough Riders" (TNT, 1997).

In 1998, Milius and fellow scribe William MacDonald pitched HBO the idea of a miniseries about ancient Rome based on the lives of two soldiers mentioned prominently in Julius Caesar's writings. The cable station had already begun playing with the idea the previous year and had no trouble signing onto the project But instead of a miniseries, Milius helped create the series "Rome" (2005- ), which centered on the chaos following Caesar's conquest of Gaul while focusing on two ordinary soldiers (Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson) who deal with both the radical social and political changes of the empire atop their domestic troubles. A combination of extensive research and wild imagination, "Rome" depicted an ancient, amoral society often at odds with a modern, post-Christian moralistic worldview that shocked some with its casually wanton sex and horrifically savage violence. Nonetheless, "Rome" received a thumbs-up from the plebian masses, as well as several Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations. Despite the adulation, HBO was forced to limit "Rome" to only two seasons after spending nearly $100 million in production costs.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Motorcycle Gang (1994) Director
2.
  Flight of the Intruder (1991) Director
3.
  Farewell to the King (1989) Director
4.
  Red Dawn (1984) Director
5.
  Conan The Barbarian (1982) Director
6.
  Big Wednesday (1978) Director
7.
  The Wind and the Lion (1975) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Milius (2013)
2.
 Riding Giants (2004) Himself
5.
 Deadhead Miles (1982) 2nd state trooper
6.
 Heart of Darkness (1999) Interviewee
8.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1951:
Moved from St. Louis to L.A. with his family at age seven upon his father's retirement from a successful career as a shoe manufacturer (date approximate)
:
As a student at USC, made his first short student film, "Marcello, I'm So Bored", a spoof of Italian art-house films
:
Won an International Student Film Festival Award for an animated short
1967:
Began career as assistant to Lawrence Gordon at American International Pictures (AIP)
1968:
Feature screenplay debut, "The Devil's Eight", a prison drama (co-written by Willard Huyck)
1968:
Involved in the formation of Zoetrope Studios
1971:
Hired by actor George Hamilton to rewrite some scenes for "Evel Knievel" for $1000 a day; Milius rewrote the entire screenplay
1973:
Feature directing debut, "Dillinger" (also wrote)
1974:
TV writing debut, wrote story and scripted "Melvin Purvis: G-Man", an ABC-TV period gangster telefilm
1975:
Founded A-Team production company
1979:
First executive producer credit, Paul Schrader's "Hardcore"
1979:
Co-wrote (with Francis Ford Coppola) his most acclaimed project, Coppola's "Apocolypse Now"
1983:
First credit as producer, "Uncommon Valor"
1985:
TV directing debut, "Opening Day", an episode of the CBS revival of "The Twilight Zone"
1987:
Provided the story for "Viking Bikers From Hell", an episode of NBC's crime drama "Miami Vice"
1994:
TV-movie directing debut, "Motorcycle Gang", an installment of Showtime's "Rebel Highway" series of remakes of American International Pictures drive-in fare
1996:
Signed deal with TNT to direct and write a four-hour miniseries about Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders
2005:
Co-produced and wrote for the HBO epic series "Rome"; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama series
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Whitman School: Steamboat Springs , Colorado -
Los Angeles City College: Los Angeles , California - 1966
University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California - 1968

Notes

Once a devoted surfer, Milius sometimes claims to have been born in Malibu, California rather than St. Louis, Missouri as stated in Quigley's "Motion Picture Almanac" and Honig & Rodek's "100001: Die Showbusiness-Enzyklopadie".

"I was known as crazy," says John Milius whose first film was "Dillinger", "and everyone was afraid I was going to do something terrible, like shoot somebody or something on the first day. I remember that I had gotten myself into a state of pneumonia and was sure I was dying. I'd heard about people who chickened out [of directing], and I didn't want to be remembered as someone who froze at the controls. So I convinced myself that I could last for three days without dying. I got out there on the first day--a big crowd scene had been arranged, and it had been rehearsed--and all I had to do was say, 'Roll' and 'Cut.' It was easy."--from "Remembering the First Time", AMERICAN FILM, April 1989.

Admittedly influenced by directors John Ford ("for his personal views, his concern with people rather than events") and Akira Kurosawa ("for the look of his films"), Milius began his career as a screenwriter.

"I'm not a director," he insists, "but a writer who became a director in self-defense."--John Milius quoted in PR for "Farewell to the King" (1989).

"'The hunter does not exist without the prey,'" Milius says, "'nor does the prey without the hunter.'" In his films hunter and pursued mirror each other. They depend on each other to create the legend that alone will give them tenuous immortality. They wish to be seen as great men. They will become legends by exceptional acts. As the great men they will transcend the essential absurdity of the one act that can ensure their fame--dying. By becoming mythic figures, long-remembered, they make their death worthwhile. What Milius shows is the process by which they build the myth." --From "The Movie Brats" by Michael Pye & Lynda Myles (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979).

"At Warners he converted his office into an imitation of a command post under siege, with guns and military equipment lying casually around. For the first time he posted the name A-Team on his door. He talked of his hunting exploits, of some mystical need to experience the reality of blood and death in hunting animals rather than driving to the supermarket to pick up a cellophane-wrapped package of meat. The talk of war and blood did not, however, give him a warrior past. John Milius, samurai, never passed the medical examination for the U.S. armed forces."

From "The Movie Brats" by Michael Pye & Lynda Myles

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Renee Fabri. Married January 7, 1967; divorced.
wife:
Celia Kaye. Actor. Married February 26, 1978.

Family close complete family listing

father:
William Styx. Shoe manufacturer.
mother:
Elizabeth Milius.
son:
Ethan Jedediah Milius. Mother Renee Fabri.
son:
Marco Alexander Milius. Mother Renee Fabri.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute