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Christopher Guest

Christopher Guest

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Also Known As: Christopher Haden-Guest, Nigel Tufnel Died:
Born: February 5, 1948 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: director, actor, musician, comedian, screenwriter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the most unique voices in contemporary comedy, Christopher Guest earned a following with the acutely observed characters and spontaneous improvised spirit of "This is Spinal Tap" (1984), "Waiting for Guffman" (1997), and "Best in Show" (2000). Offbeat and satirical in nature, Guest's portraits of regular people with big dreams were effectively compelling as they steered clear of the mean spirit of Guest's early days as a writer for National Lampoon. The densely packed humor of his endlessly quotable ensemble comedies was unique for its basis in hyper-real, ultra-detailed characters that Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy created specifically for his troupe of exceptional actors. And his finest work as a director resulted from giving those actors the freedom to improvise their dialogue as he, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer did in their legendary rock-n-roll comedy "This is Spinal Tap" - inarguably the most truthful film about the rock lifestyle ever made, despite being a spoof. While his fictitious band spun off into a real life touring and recording act, the line between actor and character blurred further with frequent personal appearances as Tap's addled guitarist Nigel Tufnel, followed...

One of the most unique voices in contemporary comedy, Christopher Guest earned a following with the acutely observed characters and spontaneous improvised spirit of "This is Spinal Tap" (1984), "Waiting for Guffman" (1997), and "Best in Show" (2000). Offbeat and satirical in nature, Guest's portraits of regular people with big dreams were effectively compelling as they steered clear of the mean spirit of Guest's early days as a writer for National Lampoon. The densely packed humor of his endlessly quotable ensemble comedies was unique for its basis in hyper-real, ultra-detailed characters that Guest and co-writer Eugene Levy created specifically for his troupe of exceptional actors. And his finest work as a director resulted from giving those actors the freedom to improvise their dialogue as he, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer did in their legendary rock-n-roll comedy "This is Spinal Tap" - inarguably the most truthful film about the rock lifestyle ever made, despite being a spoof. While his fictitious band spun off into a real life touring and recording act, the line between actor and character blurred further with frequent personal appearances as Tap's addled guitarist Nigel Tufnel, followed years later as 1960s folkie Alan Barrows from his folk music send-up "A Mighty Wind" (2003). Guest's impeccable eye for detail, his dry wit, and his abundant talent as a writer, director and performer made for an innovative voice in film with an exceedingly well-respected body of work.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

2.
  Mighty Wind, A (2003) Director
3.
  Best in Show (2000) Director
4.
  Almost Heroes (1998) Director
5.
  Waiting for Guffman (1996) Director
6.
7.
  Big Picture, The (1989) Director
8.
  Sad Professor, The (1989) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
6.
 Mighty Wind, A (2003) Alan Barrows
7.
 Best in Show (2000) Harlan Pepper
8.
 Small Soldiers (1998) Voice Of Scratch-It; Voice Of Slamfist
9.
 Waiting for Guffman (1996) Corky St Clair
10.
 A Few Good Men (1992) Dr Stone
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1966:
Began acting at New Haven's Long Wharf Theater
1967:
First collaboration with Michael McKean, playing in a band in New York
1969:
Made Off-Broadway debut in "Little Murders"
1970:
Broadway debut, "Room Service"
1971:
Feature film debut playing a resident in "The Hospital"
1972:
Cast as Norman in Michael Weller's "Moonchildren" on Broadway
1973:
Was a member of the ensemble "National Lampoon's Lemmings" at the Village Gate Theatre in NYC
1975:
Regular player on the ABC variety series, "Saturday Night With Howard Cosell"
1975:
Co-wrote and performed in "The Lily Tomlin Special" (ABC)
1977:
TV-movie debut, "Billion Dollar Bubble" (NBC)
1977:
Made TV episodic debut on "All in the Family" (CBS)
1978:
First romantic lead opposite Melanie Mayron in "Girlfriends"
1979:
Played Jeb Stuart Magruder in the CBS miniseries, "Blind Ambition"
1980:
Appeared with his brother Nicholas in Walter Hill's western, "The Long Riders"
1981:
Re-teamed with Melanie Mayron in "Heartbeeps"
1984:
Had breakthrough role as guitarist Nigel Hufnel in Rob Reiner's mockumentary, "This Is Spinal Tap"; and co-wrote
1984:
Hired on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" for one year only
1987:
Re-teamed with Reiner for "The Princess Bride"
1988:
Co-starred with Mayron in "Sticky Fingers"
1989:
Made directorial debut with the Hollywood satire, "The Big Picture"; also co-wrote
1991:
Executive produced the CBS sitcom "Morton and Hayes"; also directed premiere episode
1992:
Again collaborated with Rob Reiner for "A Few Good Men"
1993:
Directed Daryl Hannah in the title role of "Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman" (HBO)
1997:
Wrote, directed and starred in the cult hit "Waiting for Guffman"
1998:
Directed the comedy "Almost Heroes"
2001:
Wrote, directed and starred in the dog show-themed comedy, "Best in Show"
2003:
Co-Wrote (with Eugene Levy), directed and co-starred in "A Mighty Wind"; earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for his screenplay
2006:
Co-wrote, directed and co-starred in Academy Awards parody, "For Your Consideration"
2009:
Portrayed 'Ivan the Terrible' in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

The High School of Music and Art: New York , New York -
Bard College: Annandale-on-Hudson , New York -
New York University: New York , New York -

Notes

"I have no concept of how some people create a product they think a lot of people will see." --Christopher Guest in Entertainment Weekly, February 14, 1997

Guest on Corky St Claire, his lovably flamboyant character in "Waiting For Guffman" (from Venice, February 1997): "I don't think it was a caricature, but a representation. I think those are different. I make it a point in characters that I do to inhabit these people with a certain viewpoint. I have to like them, and I think, if that happens, then the audience will like them. In the case of Corky St Claire, his sexuality is not the point of the movie, The point of the movie is that this is who this guy is. People in the town like him. They accept who he is and he is a likable, even loveable character whom they can relate to."

From Time Out New York, September 7-14, 2000: Jem Aswad notes: "Your satirical films have been about rock & roll, the film industry, small-town theater and now -- dog shows?"

Guest replied:"I guess [the common thread] is a fanaticism that crossed different boundaries in hobbies or professions. I have two dogs and my wife and I used to take them to this dog park near our home. I noticed the behavior of the people more than the dogs, and it evolved from that."

"I don't make movies that make fun of anything. I think if you like the people, that's the important thing. Because if you don't like these people, if they were just to be a one-dimensional parody, then you have no investment emotionally in the end when you're waiting to hear who wins." --Guest on "Best in Show", quoted in The New York Times, September 24, 2000.

Christopher Guest on his filmmaking process to Daily News, September 24, 2000: "I've put a tremendous amount of trust in these actors to deliver this kind of movie. The actors know what the intention of the scene is, but there are no lines written down, and the first time you hear it and see it on the screen, that's it--that's the first time it was said. I've tried to make all these analogies to what we're doing, mostly with music. Like in jazz--there are no music stands. Where's the music coming from? They're making it up. And in these films, this is jamming. This is actor jamming."

"Where the clueless subjects of [Robert] Altman's 'Health' and 'Ready to Wear' wander foggily through the director's free-floaring dyspepsia (the last one standing wins the booby prize), Guest's misfits and dreamers enjoy his full hospitality. His humor isn't based on humiliation. When one of the dogs misbehaves and has to be disqualified, it's comic without being cruel. He doesn't dole out punishment by playing nasty tricks on his characters." -- Vanity Fair's James Wolcott on Guest, from an October 2000 profile.

Guest on deciding which actors to work with: "These are people who, when you meet them, you immediately know are on your wavelength or whatever you want to call it. Not to say that it's all based on intuition. But if you are in the world of comedy, you can tell immediately if they are sharing a sensibility. And then they're basically in the club. For what I do, it's a small club. I'm not saying it can't expand. It's just that there's not 20,000 people walking around who share that sensibility. It's very specific. You meet them and you immediately recognize something in them. You know instantaneously. Eugene Levy makes me laugh. Why? Here we are again: I don't know." --to Salon.com's Jessica Hundley, October 6, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Jamie Lee Curtis. Actor. Born on November 22, 1958; married on December 18, 1984 at Rob Reiner's home; daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Peter Haden Guest. Former dancer, British peer. Died on April 8, 1996 at age 82.
mother:
Jean Hindes. Former executive. Formerly a vice president at CBS.
half-brother:
Anthony Haden-Guest. Author. Born c. 1936; born out of wedlock; mother, Elisabeth Furse.
brother:
Nicholas Guest. Actor. Younger.
sister:
Elissa Smith.
daughter:
Annie Guest. Born in December 1986; adopted.
son:
Thomas Haden Guest. Born in 1996; adopted.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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