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Richard Kelly

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Donnie Darko DVD This edgy coming-of-age thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character, a... more info $7.99was $9.98 Buy Now

Southland Tales DVD This dark and imaginative comedy from director Richard Kelly features a... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

The Box DVD "All you have to do is push the button." That's the temptation facing Cameron... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now



Also Known As: Rich Kelly, James Richard Kelly Died:
Born: March 28, 1975 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Newport News, Virginia, USA Profession: screenwriter, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

When "Donnie Darko" (2001) first premiered in theaters, it perplexed audiences and seemed doomed to DVD anonymity - that is until it was rediscovered by fans and critics, giving the film and its creator a rare second chance in Hollywood. Growing up as the son of an educator and a scientist, Kelly had long been fascinated by art and film, eventually graduating from the University of Southern California's vaunted film program. Through sheer determination, he was able to direct his first feature film, "Donnie Darko" on a shoestring budget. Although initially a commercial disappointment, the complex metaphysical tale eventually garnered a loyal following, earning Kelly the chance to bring his unique vision to the screen once more with "Southland Tales" (2007). Enigmatic and ambitious to a fault, the film was greeted by nearly universal ambivalence - if not outright disdain - upon its release, calling into question for many Kelly's promise as a viable filmmaker. Two years later, he wrote and directed his third feature, "The Box" (2009), based on a short story by Richard Matheson and starring Cameron Diaz. Unfortunately, the movie was far from the accessible thriller many had hoped for, and the film...

When "Donnie Darko" (2001) first premiered in theaters, it perplexed audiences and seemed doomed to DVD anonymity - that is until it was rediscovered by fans and critics, giving the film and its creator a rare second chance in Hollywood. Growing up as the son of an educator and a scientist, Kelly had long been fascinated by art and film, eventually graduating from the University of Southern California's vaunted film program. Through sheer determination, he was able to direct his first feature film, "Donnie Darko" on a shoestring budget. Although initially a commercial disappointment, the complex metaphysical tale eventually garnered a loyal following, earning Kelly the chance to bring his unique vision to the screen once more with "Southland Tales" (2007). Enigmatic and ambitious to a fault, the film was greeted by nearly universal ambivalence - if not outright disdain - upon its release, calling into question for many Kelly's promise as a viable filmmaker. Two years later, he wrote and directed his third feature, "The Box" (2009), based on a short story by Richard Matheson and starring Cameron Diaz. Unfortunately, the movie was far from the accessible thriller many had hoped for, and the film performed poorly in theaters. Acknowledged as one of young Hollywood's more unique directorial voices - one that harkened back to the auteur era of the 1970s - Kelly nonetheless would continue to struggle to find the balance between the personal vision and professional success which would allow him to progress as a filmmaker.

Born in Newport News, VA and raised in nearby Midlothian, James Richard Kelly was the son of Lane, a school teacher, and Ennis Kelly, a NASA scientist who worked on the Mars Viking Lander program in the 1970s. While attending Midlothian High School, Kelly found his calling after seeing the 1989 David Fincher-directed music video "Janie's Got a Gun" on MTV. With its striking visuals and taut storytelling, the darkly atmospheric video impressed the introverted teen, who had been searching for some sort of creative outlet throughout his adolescence. Although he initially was accepted to USC on an art scholarship, Kelly petitioned to transfer to the film school and was eventually accepted. While a student, he made two shorts: "The Goodbye Place" (1996), a mysterious tale of child abduction, and "Visual Matter" (1997), a 30-minute exploration of the effects of experiments in teleportation. The latter film would serve as his Hollywood calling card as Kelly attempted to launch a feature project. Following his graduation from USC, Kelly spent a year working in a post-production house, acquiring skills in 3-D animation and increasing his technical acumen. In his spare time, he began working on what he has referred to as his "nostalgia piece" - a darkly existential tale about a highly intelligent teenager diagnosed with borderline schizophrenia who begins to have foreboding premonitions.

In the meantime, Kelly worked on a draft for the film adaptation of Louis Sacher's young adult novel Holes for Phoenix Pictures, and although they opted for another writer's version, he was beginning to make headway in the industry. There was also an attempt at getting a television pilot into production, but that, too, would not come to fruition. After being rejected by studios for more than a year, Kelly's pet project screenplay was completed and attracted the attention of actor Jason Schwartzman who brought it to actress-producer Drew Barrymore and her producing partner Nancy Juvonen. Due to scheduling conflicts, Schwartzman ultimately dropped out but was quickly replaced by up-and-comer Jake Gyllenhaal, while Barrymore went on to accept a supporting role in the project. The resulting film, "Donnie Darko" (2001), was one of the most daring and original independents of 2001. The brooding, visually arresting story of a disaffected youth plagued by visions of a man in a bunny suit was at first glance an mixture of 1980s teen movie tropes and horror film imagery. It also puzzled audiences upon its initial release, and soon disappeared from theaters, a commercial failure, despite its miniscule production budget. The film, however, enjoyed a renaissance in its DVD release, eventually going on to achieve true cult status, garnering legions of fans, and generating endless discussions as to the enigmatic film's ultimate meaning. And while "Donnie Darko" would be re-released in theaters in 2002 and go on to be named by Empire magazine as one of the greatest independent films of all time, Kelly would nonetheless struggle to get his next project made.

Kelly's next paying job was for the screenplay to director Tony Scott's action biopic "Domino" (2005). The film starred Keira Knightley as the daughter of stage and screen actor Laurence Harvey, Domino Harvey - a former model-turned-bounty hunter. Despite boasting one of the most successful directors and leading ladies in Hollywood, the film was largely dismissed by critics and performed poorly at the box-office. Kelly's sophomore filmmaking effort was the ambitious black comedy "Southland Tales" (2007). An ensemble piece that starred Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott, the story followed the intertwining lives of several disparate characters in a Los Angeles of the near future on the eve of a social, environmental and economic breakdown. It proved a critical and financial disaster, regarded by many as the worst film of the year when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Pushing on, Kelly resurfaced as a writer-director with the science fiction thriller "The Box" (2009), starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple in 1970s Virginia who suddenly find themselves the recipients of a very generous, yet ominous offer from a horribly disfigured mystery man (Frank Langella). Inspired by Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button," Kelly's version was alternately deemed overreaching, plodding or simply uninteresting by reviewers and theatergoers, adding yet another box office flop to his select résumé. Beyond producer credits on the risible indie comedy "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell" (2009), in addition to the barely seen Robin Williams black comedy "World's Greatest Dad" (2009), Kelly's future as a film director seemed uncertain at best as the decade drew to a close.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Box, The (2009)
3.
4.
  Donnie Darko (2001) Director

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
After college, worked in a post-production house for about a year
1997:
Began writing script for what would become his feature debut
1997:
Made the short film "Visceral Matter," while at USC
:
Wrote and directed second short "The Goodbye Place" at USC
2001:
Feature film debut as director and screenwriter, "Donnie Darko"
2005:
Wrote the screenplay about the life of bounty hunter Domino Harvey, "Domino"; directed by Tony Scott
2007:
Wrote and directed "Southland Tales," featuring an ensemble cast that included Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott
2009:
Directed "The Box," starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden; also produced and wrote the screenplay
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Midlothian High School: Midlothian , Virginia -
University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California - 1993 - 1997

Notes

On "Donnie Darko", Richard Kelly told The New York Times (October 28, 2001): "This may have been the darkest film I'll ever make, but I also think of it as a black comedy."

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