Family & Companions
After a prolific career helming hard-hitting political themed dramas, British film director Roland Joffé made a huge splash with his 1984 feature film debut, "The Killing Fields" - an unflinching drama about Cambodia's savage Khmer Rouge massacres. Nominated for a stunning seven Academy Awards - including one for Joffé as Best Director - "The Killing Fields" ended up winning three (for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor). After a white-hot start, Joffé's career cooled off significantly in the 1990s thanks to a string of box-office failures including "Super Mario Bros." (1993) and his 1995 adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter," starring Demi Moore. With the exception of the French biopic "Vatel" (2000), Joffé's career remained mostly dormant during the new millennium; that is, until the release of "Captivity" (2007), a psychological horrorfest - complete with controversial ratings drama before its summer release.
Born in London, England on Nov. 17, 1945, Joffé was educated at Manchester University, where he studied English and drama. After graduating in the mid-1960s, Joffé went to work for the Young Vic Theatre, where he directed many early productions for its repertory company. The youngest director ever to work at London's National Theatre, Joffé segued into television during the U.K.'s whirlwind heyday of the early 1970s, making his bones directing episodes of the long-running British soap opera, "Coronation Street" (ITV). He would later go on to earn great respect for also directing several installments of the highly acclaimed anthology drama series, "Play for Today" (BBC1, 1970-1984).
In 1984, Joffé made an explosive screen-directing debut with "The Killing Fields," a fact-based account of The New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant, Dith Pran's 1975 experiences before and after the fall of Phnom Penh. Graphic, heart wrenching and unapologetically controversial, "The Killing Fields" starred Sam Waterston as Schanberg and first-time actor Haing S. Ngor as Dith Pran. Told mostly from Pran's point-of-view, the film also drew heavily from the real-life experiences of Cambodian co-star Ngor - himself, a Khmer Rouge survivor. For his harrowing performance, Hollywood rewarded Ngor with the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role - the first such honor ever awarded to an Asian performer.
For his follow-up, Joffé chose "The Mission" (1986), a historical drama set in Brazil starring Robert DeNiro. A tale of political intrigue and exploitation in a Jesuit mission during the late 18th century, "The Mission" fared less impressively at the box office than "The Killing Fields." Nevertheless, the film earned more than its fair share of critical respect, earning Joffé his second Oscar nomination for Best Director.
Joffé's next two projects were a pair of big-budget disappointments. The first, "Fat Man and Little Boy" (1989), was another historical drama - this one starring a badly miscast Paul Newman in a re-enactment of the days leading up to the Manhattan Project. Criticized by modern-day historians for distorting the truth in favor of dramatic effect, "Fat Man and Little Boy" was a bomb of nuclear proportions at the box office, earning less than $4 million in its initial release. Joffé's next outing, the visually sumptuous "City of Joy" (1992) starring Patrick Swayze, was another costly miss. Shot on location in India, the film earned just $14 million in the U.S. - a small fraction of its reported $50 million production budget.
Joffé's disappointing results appeared to cut into his subsequent output. In 1993, Joffé produced and ghost-directed a big budget adaptation of the Nintendo video game, "Super Mario Bros." An embarrassment on multiple levels, the film - which starred Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in the title roles - struggled to find an audience. Being too dark for children, yet too hokey for grown-ups, the movie grossed just under $21 million - barely half its initial budget. Joffé's next effort - an adaptation of "The Scarlet Letter" (1995) starring a then hot Demi Moore in a not-so-glamorous role - was another critical and financial disaster. Understandably stung by the rejections, Joffé retreated from Hollywood for several years following this latest failure.
In 2007, a reinvigorated Joffé returned from a self-imposed seven-year exile from filmmaking with "Captivity" - a psychological horror film starring Elisha Cuthbert. Initially slated for a March 2007 release, the movie was subsequently pushed back to June, in part, due to its rating controversy. Originally rated NC-17 for excessive violence, the film reportedly underwent more than two dozen cuts in order to get an R-rating.
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Directing and producing debut, "The Killing Fields"
Helmed "The Mission," a tragic story of two disparate but equally disastrous attempts to settle 18th century Latin America, starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons
Directed the high-minded, thinly conceived "Fat Man and Little Boy" starring John Cusack in his first 'grown-up' performance
First US television producing credit, the TNT documentary, "A Taste of Freedom," which looks at the life of one family in post-Soviet Russia
Helmed the film adaptation of Dominique Lapierre's novel "City of Joy" starring Patrick Swayze
Produced and partially directed the big budget adaptation of the video game, "Super Mario Bros."
Helmed the poorly recieved "The Scarlet Letter" starring Demi Moore
Directed the youthful neo-noir, "Goodbye Lover" (brief theatrical release)
Executive produced the half-hour daily series for MTV about people's bedtime habits, "Undressed"
Helmed the lavish costume drama "Vatel" starring Gérard Depardieu as the legendary French chef chosen to serve King Louis XIV; film was chosen to open the 2000 Cannes Film Festival
Returned to directing after several years with the thriller "Captivity"