Fred Schepisi


Director

About

Also Known As
Frederici Alan Schepisi
Birth Place
Australia
Born
December 26, 1939

Biography

A former director of TV commercials, Fred Schepisi made his mark in the late 1970s and early 80s with sensitively handled dramas which defied easy categorization and were therefore somewhat underrated. Schepisi is generally attracted to stories pitting strong outsiders against small-minded establishments which are recounted with a smooth and straightforward filmmaking technique even when...

Family & Companions

Joan Ford
Wife
Married Ford when he was 20 years old; divorced; had four children together.
Rhonda Finlayson
Wife
Production manager, casting director, singer, actor. Divorced.
Mary Rubin
Wife
Artist.

Biography

A former director of TV commercials, Fred Schepisi made his mark in the late 1970s and early 80s with sensitively handled dramas which defied easy categorization and were therefore somewhat underrated. Schepisi is generally attracted to stories pitting strong outsiders against small-minded establishments which are recounted with a smooth and straightforward filmmaking technique even when shifting back and forth between flashbacks, time zones and diverse locations. He has also proved a master at translating difficult material (i.e., plays and novels) into entertaining and captivating feature films.

Schepisi dropped out of Catholic school and drifted into a professional career in advertising. Literally working his way up from messenger to copywriter, he eventually directed commercials and ultimately headed his own agency. Schepisi's first fiction film was "The Priest," a 30-minute segment for the episodic feature, Libido" (1973) that he made in collaboration with Australian writer Thomas Keneally and which earned a Silver Award from the Australian Film Institute. Encouraged by the recognition, Schepisi wrote, produced and directed his first full-length feature, "The Devil's Playground" (1976). Drawing from his own 18-month experience at a Marist Brother monastery, it was a deft look at the repression and hidden undercurrents of seminary life. But it was the probing race study about a half-caste aborigine based on a novel by Keneally, "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith" (1978), that brought him international attention and paved the way for his first US-produced feature, "Barbarosa" (1982) starring Willie Nelson as a legendary outlaw on the lam.

Now a part of the Hollywood scene, Schepisi next directed the haunting sci-fi parable, "Iceman" (1984), sensitively capturing a resuscitated Neanderthal's battle with the inhumanity of the scientists studying him. Schepisi continued to demonstrate his mastery of atmosphere and dramatic rhythm in the intriguing, if slightly overwrought, adaptation of the David Hare play, "Plenty" (1985). He teamed with Steve Martin on "Roxanne" (1987), a witty and surprisingly solid update of the "Cyrano de Bergerac" story, and reteamed with "Plenty" star Meryl Streep on "A Cry in the Dark/Evil Angels" (1988), a skillfully rendered thriller based on the true story of a mother falsely charged with killing her own infant. His stylish adaptation of the acclaimed play "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993) cinematically opened up the story of the escapades of a young con artist who convinces wealthy benefactors that he is the son of star Sidney Poitier and preserved original stage star Stockard Channing's brilliant performance. Schepisi's fanciful romantic comedy "I.Q." (1994) allowed veteran Walter Matthau to cut loose as the celebrated physicist Albert Einstein playing matchmaker for his unmarried niece (Meg Ryan).

Schepisi was called in to provide triage on "Fierce Creatures" (1997), which reunited much of the cast of "A Fish Called Wanda." While both strove to recapture the zany qualities of the Ealing comedies, "Wanda" at least had Charles Crichton in charge. "Fierce Creatures," on the other hand, suffered from a lack of a single directorial vision. (Schepisi shared credit with Robert Young.) After nearly a four year absence (during which he attempted to mount a film version of "Don Quixote" with John Cleese and Robin Williams), Schepisi returned to the director's chair for "Last Orders," the film adaptation of Graham Swift's award-winning novel about a group of old friends determined to carry out the dying wish of one of the group. The veteran helmer, who had developed a deserved reputation for being an "actor's director," assembled a virtual who's who of British talent for the project, including Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Tom Courtenay and Helen Mirren.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Words and Pictures (2014)
Director
Beast of Bataan (2010)
Director
It Runs in the Family (2003)
Director
Last Orders (2001)
Director
Fierce Creatures (1997)
Director
I.Q. (1994)
Director
Six Degrees Of Separation (1993)
Director
Mr. Baseball (1992)
Director
The Russia House (1990)
Director
A Cry in the Dark (1988)
Director
Roxanne (1987)
Director
Plenty (1985)
Director
Iceman (1984)
Director
Barbarosa (1982)
Director
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)
Director
The Devil's Playground (1976)
Director
Libido (1973)
Director ("The Priest")

Cast (Feature Film)

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008)
Himself
I Think I Cannes (1999)

Writer (Feature Film)

Last Orders (2001)
Screenplay (Adaptation)
A Cry in the Dark (1988)
Screenwriter
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)
Screenwriter
The Devil's Playground (1976)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Words and Pictures (2014)
Producer
It Runs in the Family (2003)
Executive Producer
Levity (2003)
Executive Producer
Last Orders (2001)
Producer
I.Q. (1994)
Producer
That Eye, The Sky (1994)
Executive Producer
Six Degrees Of Separation (1993)
Producer
Mr. Baseball (1992)
Producer
The Russia House (1990)
Producer
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)
Producer
The Devil's Playground (1976)
Producer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008)
Other

Director (TV Mini-Series)

Empire Falls (2005)
Director

Producer (TV Mini-Series)

Empire Falls (2005)
Executive Producer

Life Events

1954

Began working at age 15 as a dispatch boy for a Melbourne advertising agency (date approximate)

1964

By age 25 he took over a Melbourne advertising agency with two partners (date approximate)

1966

Founded The Feature Film House (later The Film House) production company

1973

Film directorial debut with "The Priest" segment of anthology film, "Libido"

1976

Feature film debut as director and producer, "The Devil's Playground"

1978

Directed and produced most expensive film made in Austrailia up until that time, "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith"; garnered international attention

1982

First US produced feature, "Barbarosa"

1984

Helmed "Iceman" about an explorer who discovers a 40,000 year-old man

1985

Directed the uneven but well-acted adaptation of David Hare's play "Plenty", starring Meryl Streep

1987

Earned praise for his light touch on "Roxanne", Steve Martin's updated version of "Cyrano de Bergerac"

1988

Reunited with Streep for "Evil Angels/A Cry in the Dark", based on a true life story of an Australian woman accused of murdering the child she claimed was carried off by a dingo

1990

Returned to producing with the big screen adaptation of John Le Carre's "The Russia House"; also directed

1993

Directed the screen adaptation of John Guare's play "Six Degrees of Separation"

1994

Teamed Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins in the romantic comedy "I.Q.", featuring a splendidly hammy turn by Walter Matthau as Albert Einstein

1994

Executive produced the Australian-made "That Eye, the Sky"

1997

Shared directorial duties on "Fierce Creatures", a comedy that reunited much of the cast of "A Fish Called Wanda"

2001

Helmed the screen version of the award-winning novel "Last Orders", featuring Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine; screened at Toronto Film Festival

2003

Directed "It Runs in the Family," the first film teaming of Kirk Douglas and his son Michael

2005

Produced and directed an ensemble cast, including Ed Harris, Helen Hunt and Paul Newman in "Empire Falls," the HBO adaptation of Richard Russo's novel

Family

Andrew Schepisi
Son
Quentin Schepisi
Son
Jason Schepisi
Son
Alexandra Schepisi
Daughter
Ashley Schepisi
Child

Companions

Joan Ford
Wife
Married Ford when he was 20 years old; divorced; had four children together.
Rhonda Finlayson
Wife
Production manager, casting director, singer, actor. Divorced.
Mary Rubin
Wife
Artist.

Bibliography