Hugh Hudson


Director, Producer

About

Birth Place
London, England, GB
Born
August 25, 1936

Biography

While he has not proven to be a prolific filmmaker, Hugh Hudson has directed a handful of fascinating and well-crafted movies, nearly all of which center on the theme of search for identity. On various levels, his early films play out as veiled autobiography--the events and characters may not line up exactly, but the overarching arc of the story reflects his concerns and mirrors his life...

Biography

While he has not proven to be a prolific filmmaker, Hugh Hudson has directed a handful of fascinating and well-crafted movies, nearly all of which center on the theme of search for identity. On various levels, his early films play out as veiled autobiography--the events and characters may not line up exactly, but the overarching arc of the story reflects his concerns and mirrors his life.

The defining moments in the life of this oldest son of a wealthy landowner may be traced to two events: his being sent to boarding school at age seven and his parents' divorce about a year later. Rebelling against the effort to mold him into "a perfect model of a ruling-class Englishman," Hudson confounded his family by showing an early interest in film. His first amateur home movie was an ambitious effort set during the reign of Oliver Cromwell. By the time he had graduated from Eton and performed the requisite military service, he was ready to rebel further. Refusing to join his father's business, he opted instead for a position as head of a casting department at a London advertising agency. Still determined to pursue a career in film, he quit after six months and headed to Paris for a stint as a film editor.

Two years later, Hudson returned to London and eventually became one of the founders of Cammell-Hudson-Brownjohn Company, which became an important production house in 1960s London. Under its auspices, Hudson made his debut as co-director of the award-winning documentary "A... Is for Apple" (1963). Two years later, he was the solo helmer of "Birth of a Twin." Following nearly a decade of documentary work, Hudson joined forces with Ridley Scott in 1970 and spent a five-year period overseeing numerous TV commercials, many of which won prizes at film festivals. Going solo in 1975, he formed Hudson Film and began to look for a project that would serve as his feature directorial debut. By coincidence, he was sharing office space with Alan Parker and when Parker needed a second unit director on "Midnight Express" (1978), Hudson was hired. Able to subvert the Turkish government who believed him to be making a documentary, he was able to shoot background footage for the film.

While he had been fielding offers for features for more than 15 years, Hudson found most of the material unexciting. Finally, he came upon a script by Colin Welland about the British runners who competed in the 1924 Olympics. The director responded to "Chariots of Fire" as it combined "a strong religious backbone" with "a classic English education" and thematically raised issues of self-sacrifice, conformity versus individuality and a sense of loyalty. "Chariots of Fire" (1981) earned strong notices for its emotionally effective script, superb production values and fine performances (particularly leads Ben Cross and Ian Charleson and supporting play Ian Holm). It received seven Academy Award nominations, including one for Hudson's superb direction, and emerged as the surprise winner for Best Picture. While some claim that Vangelis' memorably uplifting score was partly responsible for its netting the top statue, the film delivered on its premise and offered a close-up look into the psyche of athletes in conflict (one is a Jew, the other a devout Christian who won't compete on the Sabbath).

Hudson next turned to a dream project, "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" (1984), which purported to be the most faithful rendering of Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation. Still, the project was beset by problems; screenwriter Robert Towne was unhappy with the finished film petitioned to have his credit under the name of his dog P.H. Vazak, and actress Andie MacDowell's thick Southern accent had to be dubbed by Glenn Close. Reaction to the finished motion picture was divided, but most praised Ralph Richardson's portrayal of Tarzan's father (it proved to be his final screen role). The film, however, introduced another dominant motif of the director's work: a son's search for his father and vice versa. Drawing from his parents' divorce and his estrangement from his parents, Hudson explored this theme, however obliquely. It was also prominent in his follow-up, the muddled "Revolution" (1985) which featured a miscast Al Pacino as a trapper whose son is conscripted into the colonial army. As with all of Hudson's work, the production values were superb, but the script and the miscasting destroyed what might have been a promising scenario.

"Lost Angels" (1989) further explored the dominant motifs of the director's oeuvre. A troubled teenager--the rebel--is institutionalized and must endeavor to find the means to survive. Hudson stated that he wanted to send warning signals about what he perceived as the tendency to make children comply with the norm (or conversely turn them into someone else's problem if they fail to conform). But where the material cried out for anger, Hudson cushioned it in sympathy. The result was uneven and ultimately unsatisfying. It also signaled a temporary lull in the director's career.

In 1997, Hudson reteamed with David Puttnam to direct "My Life So Far/World of Moss," a coming-of-age tale set in the Scotland of the late 20s and early 30s and based on Sir Dennis Forman's memoir "Son of Adam." With a strong cast headed by Colin Firth and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and above average production values, the film was released in summer 1999 and proved a welcome antidote to the more high profile big-budget releases. Perhaps ironically, though, there was little fanfare trumpeting Hudson's return to directing, although it was welcomed by many a cineaste. Fortunately, the director chose not to take more time off; he also directed the biopic "I Dreamed of Africa" (2000), with Kim Basinger essaying real-life African wildlife expert Kuki Gellmann.

Life Events

1960

Returned to London and formed the production company, Cammell-Hudson-Brownjohn (date approximate)

1963

Company produced first documentary, "A... Is For Apple"; co-directed with John Burrows

1965

Solo directorial debut with the documentary, "Birth of a Twin"

1966

First screenplay credit, the award-winning short documentary, "The Tortise and the Hare"; also produced and directed

1970

Teamed with Ridley Scott to make TV commercials

1975

Formed Hudson Film; shared offices with Alan Parker

1975

Wrote and directed "Fangio", a biographical documentary of the world champion race car driver

1978

Feature debut, served as 2nd unit director on Parker's "Midnight Express"

1981

Feature directorial debut, "Chariots of Fire"; film earned seven Oscar nominations including one for Best Director; won four including Best Picture; also initial screen collaboration with David Puttnam

1984

Debut as feature producer with "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes"; also directed

1985

Experienced boxoffice failure with "Revolution", a father-son drama set against the background of the colonial rebellion in America

1989

Last film for nearly a decade, "Lost Angels"

1997

Reteamed with David Puttnam for "My Life So Far/World of Moss", a coming-of-age drama set in Scotland in the 1920s and 1930s; based on the memoir by Sir Denis Forman; released in the USA in 1999

2000

Directed the biopic "I Dreamed of Africa", which starred Kim Basinger as African wildlife expert Kuki Gallmann

Videos

Movie Clip

Midnight Express (1978) - Choose Your Own Death American Jimmy (Randy Quaid), compatriot Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) and Brit Max (John Hurt) considering prospects of breaking out of their Turkish prison, in Midnight Express, 1978, directed by Alan Parker.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - The College Dash Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams and Nigel Havers as the fictional Lindsay attempt the famous Great Court Run, shooting at Eton College, Cambridge, though the true location is Trinity College, and the real Abrahams never tried it, in Chariots Of Fire, 1981, John Gielgud, observing.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - A Muscular Christian Ian Charleson as Scot Eric Liddell, encouraged by his missionary father and brother (John Young, David John) to pursue athletics for the greater good, touring with his devoted sister (Cheryl Campbell), ending with a speech written by the actor, in director Hugh Hudson’s Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - May The Best Man Win After much build-up, the fictional first competitive meeting between between the missionary-athlete Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), arriving from Scotland, and Cambridge man Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross, with friends, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers), in Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - Scotland's Finest Wing Beginning the back-story for Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), born to missionary parents in China, already a rugby star in Scotland, appearing at a highland fair, his sister (Cheryl Campbell) attending and friend Sandy (Struan Rodger) promoting an exhibition, in Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Chariots Of Fire (1981) - Those Few Young Men The opening from director Hugh Hudson, Nigel Havers and Nicholas Farrell as the matured Lindsay and Montague, then the beach sequence, shot in Scotland, featuring leads Ben Cross and Ian Charleson, and the much-lauded theme by Vangelis, from Chariots Of Fire, 1981.
Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan (1984) - I'll Know Him At A Glance! The Sixth Earl (Ralph Richardson) preparing to meet his grandson (Christopher Lambert), rescued from the jungle, with friend D'Arnot (Ian Holm), and introduced to cousin Jane (Andie MacDowall), in Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes, 1984.
Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan (1984) - Mon Dieu! First appearance (following two younger versions) of Christopher Lambert as the title character, finding wounded French soldier D'Arnot (Ian Holm) in the jungle, in Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes, 1984.
Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan (1984) - Our Predicament In which shipwrecked young Lord Clayton (Paul Geoffrey) narrates, his wife (Cheryl Campbell) passes, and the apes take his child, early in Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes, 1984.

Trailer

Bibliography