Neil Jordan

Neil Jordan

Born in Sligo, Ireland, Jordan grew up in Clontarf, near Dublin Bay, and was raised by his father, Michael, a teacher, and his mother, Angela, a painter. Forbidden to watch television and only allowed to attend the cinema twice a month, Jordan found solace in literature, though he proved to be a slow learner in school. Following his attendance at a local primary school in Clontarf, he advanced to the private Roman Catholic secondary school, St. Paul's College in Raheny, a northern suburb of Dublin. On the move again, Jordan attended University College at the National University of Ireland in Dublin, where he studied medieval literature and history. He also fell into the orbit of the drama society, but remained largely an outsider. After graduating in 1971, he had difficulty finding a job and was forced to work as a laborer, though he wrote short stories at night. A couple of years later, he joined forces with fellow classmate and future director Jim Sheridan to put on plays in and around Dublin, including "Journal of a Hole" and "Oedipus Rex." Also around this time, Jordan brought in some extra bread playing saxophone and banjo for a band called Eilis.But through it all, Jordan remained singularly dedicated to his writing. He eventually published his first short-story collection, Night in Tunisia (1976), which led to writing for television and radio, along with his first novel, the decades-spanning drama The Past (1980). Eventually, director John Boorman - who was impressed with Jordan's stories - hired him to be a creative consultant on "Excalibur" (1981). Even more beneficial, Boorman asked him to helm a documentary about the making of the Arthurian drama, which in turn led to financing Jordan's directorial debut, "Angel" (1982), a dark and brooding crime thriller about a saxophone player who becomes a killer himself when tracking down a deaf girl's murderers. "Angel" marked the first of many collaborations with Irish actor Stephen Rea. It also served as Jordan's first brush with controversy, when Boorman decided to fund the film while also serving as the chairman of the Irish Film Board, which provided a portion of the money. Angry critics charged Jordan and Boorman with conflict of interest, even though the latter had decided to resign his chairmanship prior the board's decision to fund the film.Meanwhile, after a haunting and notably Freudian revamping of Little Red Riding Hood with "The Company of Wolves" (1984), Jordan broke through with "Mona Lisa" (1986), an absorbing tale of obsessive love between a mob flunky (Bob Hoskins) and a high-end prostitute (Cathy Tyson) that transformed the career of the little-known Hoskins and garnered the director his first real international recognition. The film brought Jordan offers to work in Hollywood, and he eventually directed the supernatural comedy, "High Spirits" (1988), a huge flop, that in hindsight, was perhaps better off not being made at all. His experience on the remake of "We're No Angels" (1989), which packaged Robert De Niro and Sean Penn in a script by David Mamet, proved to also be a disappointment, leading to a return to Ireland, where he tackled the difficult subject of mother-son incest in "The Miracle" (1991), based on his award-winning story "Night in Tunisia." Though it received mixed reviews, the film nonetheless reinvigorated Jordan's creativity while also foreshadowing the greatness that was to come.For his next film, Jordan delivered a clever mixture of politics and sexual intrigue in "The Crying Game" (1992), an independently made political thriller that almost failed to find distribution, but was picked up by Miramax and became a stunning cultural and commercial success. Teaming once again with Rea, Jordan spun the tale of an Irish Republican Army kidnapper (Rea), who captures a British soldier (Forest Whitaker) in order to trade him for one of their own, only to fall for the soldier's girlfriend (Jaye Davidson). Intriguing and full of surprises, "The Crying Game" possessed one of the most talked-about plot twists in the history of film. Finally earning the recognition he deserved, Jordan pulled in an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay after a total of six Oscar nods. Jordan returned to Hollywood triumphant and used his newly acquired clout to land the plum assignment of adapting Anne Rice's tricky bestseller, "Interview with the Vampire" (1994). Once he landed the cast he wanted - Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas and the controversial choice of Tom Cruise as the vampire Lestat - Jordan delivered a film thematically consistent with his earlier work: a dank, downbeat tone meshed with sexuality and metaphysical musings. The result garnered mixed if generally favorable reviews and performed well at the box office.Thanks to his new association with Warner Bros., Jordan was able to realize his most cherished project, which had gestated for more than a decade. The epic story of "Michael Collins" (1996) had frustrated filmmakers for nearly four decades, with individuals from John Ford and John Huston to Robert Redford and Kevin Costner attempting to bring a biopic based on the life of the IRA leader and still-controversial Irish icon to the screen. Full of action and period detail, "Collins" drew comparisons to "The Godfather" (1972), though there were inevitable issues when both English and Irish audiences found fault with its interpretation and condensation of historical facts. Celebrated cinematographer Chris Menges volunteered to lens the movie, providing the rich earth tones and mobile camera work that the director's vision demanded. Meanwhile, Jordan had wanted Liam Neeson for the title role ever since completing the screenplay in 1983, despite the actor's then-low profile. Once the film came to fruition, Neeson justified this undying faith, generating his strongest notices since "Schindler's List" (1993). All told, "Michael Collins" demonstrated impeccable detail to time and place, while becoming one of the highest-grossing movies in Ireland's history.Jordan next directed "The Butcher Boy" (1997), a dark psychological drama about a disturbed young Irish boy (Eamonn Owens) who begins having visions of the Virgin Mary (Sinead O'Connor) while working as a butcher's assistant, which leads him down the path to murder. Unfortunately, his next film, "In Dreams" (1999), proved a muddled and overblown affair in its story of a woman (Annette Bening) linked through psychic thoughts to a serial killer (Robert Downey, Jr.). That same year saw him tackle the remake of the Graham Greene novel "The End of the Affair" (1999) for Columbia Pictures. A love triangle set in wartime England, it starred Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore and Stephen Rea, and offered Jordan the opportunity to intriguingly examine a romance from two points of view. After directing his own one-act play, "White Horses" (2001), for the Gate Theater in Dublin, Jordan delivered an atmospheric remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's "Bob le Flambeur" (1955) with "The Good Thief" (2003), an engrossing crime drama about a rumpled con and recovering heroin addict (Nick Nolte) striking up an odd relationship with a young prostitute (Nutsa Kukhianidze) while plotting a major heist at a Monte Carlo casino.Following another literary endeavor in the form of the haunting novel Shade (2004), Jordan revisited the world of the IRA and gender-bending, directing "Breakfast on Pluto" (2005), a wry, charming, but bittersweet tale about a transsexual prostitute (Cillian Murphy) trying to stay true to herself, while old friends return to town on potential dangerous business. He underwhelmed audiences and critics with his next film, "The Brave One" (2007), which depicted a game Jodie Foster as a soon-to-be-married woman who turns vigilante plunging herself into a world of unrelenting violence in order to find the attackers who killed her fiancé (Naveen Andrews). Jordan next helmed "Ondine" (2009), a dark fantasy drama about an Irish fisherman (Colin Farrell) who nets a woman (Alicja Bachleda) he believes is actually a mermaid after good fortune starts coming his way. Not one to stay still for long, Jordan also published the literary thriller Mistaken (2011), an Irish-set tale that led to various awards and accolades in his cherished homeland.In a rare turn to television, Jordan created and executive produced "The Borgias" (Showtime, 2011-13), a historical drama chronicling the infamous Borgia family, led by the scheming Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons), an ambitious clergyman who bribes his way into the papacy to become Pope Alexander VI. While writing for the show, Jordan also helmed the pilot, which earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Although some assumed that Jordan would distance himself from "The Borgias" once the show was up and running, he remained heavily involved with the ongoing intrigue of the series, writing every episode of the first season and much of the second season. He also directed the first two installments of season two, while other trusted and like-minded helmers such as Jon Amiel, Kari Skogland, David Leland and John Maybury helped to carry the series into its third and final season.Opting to return to both feature films and the realm of the supernatural, Jordan next unveiled "Byzantium" (2012), a gothic period piece focusing on the tumultuous lives of two beautiful vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan). Right around the time of the movie's American release in June 2013, Jordan wrote and directed the last two episodes of "The Borgias," bringing one of his most significant artistic endeavors to an end.