With such comedy classics as "Animal House" (1978), "Meatballs" (1979) and "Stripes" (1981) serving as early inspiration, Todd Phillips made a surprising start helming documentaries before transitioning into one of the top comedic directors in Hollywood. After gaining attention with "Hated" (1993), a controversial look at the crazed life of punk rocker G.G. Allin, Phillips directed "Frat House" (1998), an acclaimed documentary that looked at frat house hazing, with the director often including himself and co-director Andrew Gurland in some of the rituals. But it was his first feature film "Road Trip" (2000) that put Phillips on the map as a narrative filmmaker. He moved on to direct "Old School" (2003), a frat house comedy drawing upon his experiences with his previous documentary that became a substantial hit and helped turn Will Ferrell into a movie star. Following a comedic remake of the popular 1970s television show, "Starsky & Hutch" (2004), it looked as though Phillips could do no wrong. Then he made "School for Scoundrels" (2006), a remake of the 1960 British film of the same name that became both a critical and financial disaster. He more than made up for that film with "The Hangover" (2009), a hugely successful comedy that raked in over seven times its budget and won a Golden Globe award, confirming that Phillips was one of the finest comedic directors in the business.
Born on Dec. 20, 1970 in Brooklyn, NY, Phillips was raised in Huntington, Long Island, where he spent much of his youth watching the raunchy comedies of the 1970s and 1980s, a steady diet of popcorn movies that went on to inform his later career. As a film student at New York University, Phillips received a substantial amount of attention for his first documentary, "Hated" (1993), a look at the controversial and often disgusting antics of the drug-addled, suicidal, feces-throwing punk rocker, G.G. Allin. Made when Phillips was in his junior year at NYU, the movie took two years to complete, prompting him to eventually drop out over lack of funds to do both. After the success of "Hated," Phillips helped produce "Screwed" (1996), about the life and times of Screw magazine publisher, Al Goldstein, a Larry Flynt-esque pornographer and self-proclaimed defender of the First Amendment. Phillips next directed the critically acclaimed documentary, "Frat House" (1998), which was originally shot as an installment for the popular HBO series "America Undercover." After winning the Grand Jury prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, however, the film was about to become mired in controversy.
Accused by the film's participants of inaccurately portraying fraternity hazing rituals, Phillips and his co-director, Andrew Gurland, were physically threatened and forced to find another frat house, while eventually becoming participants in the hazing themselves. HBO decided to shelve the project, but the film leaked out and managed to find a small underground following. The undaunted director went on to helm famed loudmouth comic, Tom Green, in a series of Pepsi One commercials. The collaboration led to Phillips' first feature film, "Road Trip" (2000), which featured Green as the big draw. Executive Producer Ivan Reitman brought Phillips to DreamWorks and began the process of developing what became a mildly successful comedy about a group of teens who drive from New York to Texas in order to intercept a racy videotape. The movie proved to be a mild hit at the box office despite mediocre reviews. Returning to documentaries, he directed "Bittersweet Motel" (2000), which followed the jam band phenomenon, Phish, through their summer and fall tours in 1997, ending in a large two-day festival in upstate Maine. Chosen because of his outsider status and his lack of Phish appreciation, Phillips approached the subject matter in an unrelenting and unapologetic fashion. After completing the work, however, Phillips became both a fan and friend of the band, even attending their shows once the film was finished.
After "Road Trip" and "Bittersweet Motel," Phillips directed a film that pushed him into a new strata, "Old School" (2003), a comedic take on an earlier documentary subject, college frat houses. Starring Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn as a trio of thirty-something buddies who try to recapture the outrageous fun of their long-gone college years, the movie cleaned up at the box office and helped turn "Saturday Night Live" standout, Ferrell, into a feature film star. Hot off the success of "Old School," Phillips directed the remake of the popular 1970s TV show, "Starsky & Hutch" (2004), starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. With his first foray into remakes, Phillips pulled off a movie that parodied the tone of the original series, while managing to add his distinct comedic style. The result was an episodic film that produced its share of laughs and performed well enough at the box office, but lacked a compelling plot. His next film, "School for Scoundrels" (2006), failed to live up to previous efforts. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, David Cross and Sarah Silverman, the remake of the 1960 British comedy nosedived at the box office despite its star power, marking one of Phillips' weakest efforts to date.
After co-writing "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (2006) with that film's star, Sacha Baron Cohen, Phillips more than made up for "School of Scoundrels" with his next comedy. The male-centric comedy "The Hangover" (2009) followed the travails of three friends (Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis) who take their groom-to-be buddy (Justin Bartha) to Sin City for a final bachelor weekend, only to have him go missing after a night of debauchery. The three stumble about Las Vegas, desperately trying to retrace their misguided steps from the night before in order to return the groom in time for his wedding. But as they unearth more clues about what really happened, the friends realize that they are in more troubled than originally thought. With a $270 million take in domestic box office after a reported $35 million budget, "The Hangover" was Phillips' first runaway success; the film also took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. He next wrote and directed "Due Date" (2010), which starred Robert Downey, Jr. as an expectant first-time father who finds himself driving cross-country to make his wife's due date with an obnoxious aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis).
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While a student at NYU, filmed the documentary feature, "Hated: G.G. Allin & the Murder Junkies," about extreme punk rocker G.G. Allin, the controversial feces-slinging musician
Produced "Screwed: Al Goldstein's Kingdom of Porn," an insightful look into the life of Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein
Premiered the documentary, "Frat House," about college hazing rituals at the Sundance Film Festival
Directed MTV funnyman Tom Green in a series of Pepsi One commercials
Wrote and directed first feature, "Road Trip," starring Tom Green and Breckin Meyer
Produced and directed, "Bittersweet Motel," a documentary on musical cult phenomenon Phish
Helmed the comedy, "Old School," starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn
Directed the spoof adaptation of the beloved 1970s series, "Starsky & Hutch," with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson
Directed the remake of the 1960s comedy, "School for Scoundrels," with Jon Heder and Billy Bob Thornton
Co-wrote with Sacha Baron Cohen the mockumentary comedy, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay
Directed and produced the comedy "The Hangover"
Co-wrote, directed and produced the comedy "Due Date"
Returned to direct the sequel "The Hangover Part II"; also wrote and produced