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Michael Caton-Jones

Michael Caton-Jones

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: October 15, 1957 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: United Kingdom Profession: director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Scottish-born Michael Caton-Jones enjoyed an early reputation as a competent director of Hollywood movies, although lasting critical and commercial success would prove elusive. Having garnered attention with his feature film debut, the British political drama "Scandal" (1989), the neophyte director mounted his first major studio film, the WWII docudrama "Memphis Belle" (1990). Follow-ups like the Michael J. Fox comedy "Doc Hollywood" (1991) and the Robert De Niro-Leonardo DiCaprio biographical drama "This Boy's Life" (1993) also provided modest success for the Scottish transplant. For better or worse, Caton-Jones traded the critical acclaim he received for the historical epic "Rob Roy" (1995) for the financial rewards of the unremarkable thriller "The Jackal" (1997). After a period of relative inactivity, the director returned with admirable, albeit overlooked, projects like the De Niro crime drama "City by the Sea" (2002) and the Rwandan genocide tragedy "Beyond the Gates" (2005). As under-seen as the previous films had been, far more damaging to his professional track record was his directorial credit on the reviled box office disaster "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction" (2006), an ill-advised...

Scottish-born Michael Caton-Jones enjoyed an early reputation as a competent director of Hollywood movies, although lasting critical and commercial success would prove elusive. Having garnered attention with his feature film debut, the British political drama "Scandal" (1989), the neophyte director mounted his first major studio film, the WWII docudrama "Memphis Belle" (1990). Follow-ups like the Michael J. Fox comedy "Doc Hollywood" (1991) and the Robert De Niro-Leonardo DiCaprio biographical drama "This Boy's Life" (1993) also provided modest success for the Scottish transplant. For better or worse, Caton-Jones traded the critical acclaim he received for the historical epic "Rob Roy" (1995) for the financial rewards of the unremarkable thriller "The Jackal" (1997). After a period of relative inactivity, the director returned with admirable, albeit overlooked, projects like the De Niro crime drama "City by the Sea" (2002) and the Rwandan genocide tragedy "Beyond the Gates" (2005). As under-seen as the previous films had been, far more damaging to his professional track record was his directorial credit on the reviled box office disaster "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction" (2006), an ill-advised sequel to the iconic 1992 smash hit. Entering the new decade, the director found work directing the lushly-produced historical miniseries "World Without End" (Reelz, 2012), based on the novel by Ken Follett. While never having secured a critical consensus for his body of work, Caton-Jones nevertheless remained a respected and active craftsman, competent in a wide variety of cinematic genres.

Born Michael Jones on Oct. 15, 1957 in the mining town of Broxburn, West Lothain, Scotland, he was, like most other children in the village, the son of a slate miner. The young Scot grew up on a steady diet of Americana, thanks to his insatiable consumption of U.S. television and film, earning passes to watch movies at Broxburn's only cinema house by delivering ad posters to local shops. As a boy, Jones attended St. Mary's Academy in nearby Bathgate, but at the age of 17, determined to escape the confines of his small town, he left for London to pursue a writing career. By the late-1970s he had been working semi-regularly as a theater stagehand in London's West End for a number of years when an opportunity to work on a hastily-produced B-movie called "The Last American Horror Film" (1982) prompted him to attempt filmmaking as a career. Bolstered by this epiphany, Jones soon enrolled at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, Bucks, U.K., where he attended night classes while continuing to work as a stagehand to cover tuition costs. At about this same time, Jones married Beverly Caton, whose surname he adopted in hyphenated form (she would do the same), which the newly-dubbed Caton-Jones retained for the remainder of his career, even after the breakup of their marriage nearly 20 years later.

During his time at the film school, Caton-Jones directed his first student project, titled "Liebe Mutter," which went on to win Best Film at that year's European Film Student Awards. His second feature "The Riveter," was quickly optioned by the BBC and caught the eye of future Columbia Pictures chief David Puttnam, who took the budding filmmaker under his wing. An offer to direct for television followed and after two years of training, Caton-Jones chose to leave film school in order to make his professional debut directing the three-part Scottish drama "Brond" (Channel 4, 1987), which he followed with a 1988 installment titled "Lucky Sunil" for the prestigious British film series "Screen Two" (BBC, 1985-2002). Based on Britain's infamous Profumo political kerfuffle from the 1960s, "Scandal" (1989), starring Joanne Whalley, marked Caton-Jones' impressive feature film debut. Nominated for a Golden Globe for "Scandal," he was brought onboard his first Hollywood production by his mentor, Puttnam, who was a producer at Warner Bros. at the time. "Memphis Belle" (1990) boasted a young ensemble cast that included such fresh faces as Matthew Modine and Eric Stoltz in a fictionalized account of the titular B-17 bomber's final missions during World War II. Despite its cast of handsome young stars and Caton-Jones' impressive handling of the aerial battle sequences, the nostalgic adventure performed only moderately well with stateside audiences.

In a conscious effort to switch gears, Caton-Jones chose the lighthearted comedy "Doc Hollywood" (1991) as his next endeavor. A starring vehicle for Michael J. Fox, the film followed a callous young plastic surgeon as he finds love in a small Southern town on his way to Beverly Hills, and provided a modest hit for the ex-pat director. He next teamed with stars Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin and a young Leonardo DiCaprio for the film adaptation of author Tobias Wolff's autobiographical novel "This Boy's Life" (1993). An emotionally affecting tale of a young teen's (DiCaprio) tumultuous years under the yolk of an abusive step-father (De Niro), it impressed the majority of critics, but failed to find a larger commercial audience. After turning down an offer to direct the next installment in the James Bond franchise, Caton-Jones tackled one of his home country's most legendary figures for the historical biopic "Rob Roy" (1995). Although the performances of Liam Neeson as the eponymous Highland rabble-rouser and Tim Roth as a villainous English nobleman met with considerable critical praise, it was largely overshadowed by Mel Gibson's similarly-themed "Braveheart" (1995), barely a month later. Caton-Jones' next effort, the assassination-thriller "The Jackal" (1997) starring Richard Gere and Bruce Willis, gave the director the financial hit he had been striving for, although the derivative actioner did little to elevate his stature as a filmmaker. Further tarnishing his reputation was the fact that Academy Award-winning director Fred Zinnemann successfully sued Universal Pictures to prevent them from using the name of the original 1973 film "The Day of the Jackal," based on the novel by Frederick Forsythe, who demanded his name be removed from the credits of a remake both men considered a travesty of the original material.

After keeping himself busy helming episodes of the short-lived Irish-American family drama "Trinity" (NBC, 1998) and marrying producer Laura Viederman in 2000, Canton-Jones reteamed with De Niro for "City by the Sea" (2002). Based on the true story of a police officer (De Niro) whose attempts to distance himself from his father's shameful past cause him to turn away from his own troubled son (James Franco), it went virtually unnoticed in theaters. Caton-Jones returned with a partially self-financed passion project, the harrowing Rwandan genocide drama "Beyond the Gates" (2005), starring John Hurt as a priest and Hugh Dancy as a schoolteacher caught up in the regional holocaust. Although proud of this accomplishment, which garnered praise internationally, Caton-Jones looked for a paycheck project for his next film in order to replenish his depleted finances. Ironically, that film would be the universally scorned sequel "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction" (2006), which found star Sharon Stone reprising her role as the sensual sociopath Catherine Tramell from the original hit film. Budgeted like a summer blockbuster and having lingered in "development hell" for a number of years, upon release it became one of the biggest box-office bombs of the decade and earned Caton-Jones a Worst Director nomination from the annual Razzie Awards. Caton-Jones later returned to Euro-television to direct a pair of 2010 episodes of the long-running spy-drama "MI-5" (BBC, 2002- ) prior to helming the eight-part miniseries "World Without End" (Reelz, 2012- ), based on Ken Follett's historical novel about an English hamlet's travails during the time of the Black Death.

By Bryce Coleman

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  City by the Sea (2002) Director
3.
  Jackal, The (1997) Director
4.
  Rob Roy (1995) Director
5.
  This Boy's Life (1993) Director
6.
  Doc Hollywood (1991) Director
7.
  Memphis Belle (1990) Director
8.
  Scandal (1989) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Jackal, The (1997) Man In Video
2.
 Doc Hollywood (1991) Maitre D'
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Grew up in Broxburn, Scotland
:
Directed first student film, "Liebe Mutter"
:
Second student film, "The Riveter", picked up by the BBC
:
British TV directorial debut, "Brond", a three part series
1989:
Feature directorial debut, "Scandal"
1990:
Helmed the WWII-era feature "Memphis Belle"
1991:
Acted in and also directed the comedy "Doc Hollywood", starring Michael J Fox
1993:
Directed Leonardo DiCaprio in "This Boy's Life"
1995:
Won critical praise for helming "Rob Roy"
1997:
Directed Bruce Willis and Richard Gere in "The Jackal", a loose remake of Fred Zinnemann's "The Day of the Jackal"
2002:
Helmed "City by the Sea" starring Robert de Niro
2005:
Helmed "Shooting Dogs" (US title Beyond the Gates), a feature based on the experiences of BBC news producer David Belton, who worked in Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide
2006:
Directed Sharon Stone in the poorly received "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction," the long awaited sequel to 1992's Basic Instinct
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

National Film School: -

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Laura Viederman. Producer.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Romy Lola Caton-Jones. Born on February 10, 2001 in NYC.

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