Phillip Noyce

Phillip Noyce

Born on April 29, 1950 and raised in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia, Noyce began his journey as a filmmaker at 17 years old, when he made his first short film, "Better to Reign in Hell" (1967). After attending Barker College in Sydney, he was one of 12 students to make up the first-ever class at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, where he learned his craft alongside later successful Australian filmmakers Gillian Armstrong and Chris Noonan. While at the school, he made the 50-minute short documentary film, "Castor and Pollux" (1973). A couple of years later, Noyce had his first professional credit when he was the assistant director on "The Golden Cage" (1975) before directing his first film outside of school, the 50-minute docudrama "God Knows Why, But It Works" (1975), which explored the subject of aboriginal healthcare from the perspective of an Australian physician. Noyce soon made his feature debut with "Backroads" (1977), a gritty crime drama about two strangers - one a racist white man (Bill Hunter); the other an Aborigine (Gary Foley) - who embark on a disastrous road trip after stealing a car. The film opened in only one theater following a spattering of mixed reviews.Following his inauspicious first feature, Noyce became a prominent director in the Australian film industry when his feature "Newsfront" (1978), which he also co-wrote, garnered three AFI awards for Best Feature, Director, and Original Screenplay. His next feature, "Heatwave" (1981), a political thriller starring a then unknown Judy Davis, was another critical success. Moving over to the small screen, he directed the acclaimed miniseries, "The Dismissal" (1983), which dramatized the events of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, before helming episodes of the popular mystery anthology, "The Hitchhiker" (HBO/USA Network, 1983-1991). After directing little-known titles like "The Cowra Breakout" (1985) and "Shadows of the Peacock" (1987), Noyce made his breakout film, "Dead Calm" (1989), a tense and disturbing thriller about a married couple (Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill) grieving over the loss of their son, who come into contact with a violent sociopath (Billy Zane) while on a long yachting trip. Widely hailed by critics, including those in the United States, "Dead Calm" helped launch the career of actress Nicole Kidman while allowing Noyce entry into the world of Hollywood filmmaking.But Noyce made a rather inauspicious American debut with "Blind Fury" (1989), a martial arts thriller starring Rutger Hauer as a blind Vietnam vet who is improbably adept with swords and other low-tech tools for maiming. The director rebounded nicely with a major popular success, "Patriot Games" (1992), his adaptation of Tom Clancy's novel starring Harrison Ford as the indefatigable government agent, Jack Ryan. The second installment in the Ryan series, but the first with Ford, "Patriot Games" was a substantial hit for Noyce. The director followed up with "Sliver" (1993), a widely-panned psychosexual thriller starring Sharon Stone and written by Joe Eszterhas. Before suffering the ill effects of that movie, Noyce jumped right into directing Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan for the pair's second go-round, "Clear and Present Danger" (1994), a more savvy, albeit convoluted addition to the franchise that proved to be one of the director's biggest financial hits to date. Meanwhile, he directed Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue in the big screen remake of former radio and television series, "The Saint" (1997), which at first glance seemed right in Noyce's wheelhouse, only to see the director falter with an overly-stylized action thriller devoid of any substance.Noyce was again in a position where he needed to rebound, and did somewhat with the mild hit thriller "The Bone Collector" (1998), which starred Denzel Washington as a paralyzed forensics detective who teams with a uniform cop (Angelina Jolie) to track down a brutal serial killer. Most critics dismissed the film as formulaic and uninspired despite the presence of two strong leads. Having grown tired of being a journeyman Hollywood director, Noyce made a welcome and much-needed return to Australia, where he directed two of his finest cinematic achievements. First was "Rabbit-Proof Fence" (2002), a true story based on the epic journey of three Aboriginal girls in 1930s Australia, who embark on an arduous journey to their native home after being transported to a grim government-sanctioned settlement to wean out their race through breeding. Powerful, harsh, but also touching, "Rabbit-Proof Fence" was a critical triumph and one of Noyce's own personal favorites. He followed with an equally compelling adaptation of Graham Greene's "The Quiet American" (2002), starring Brandon Fraiser as a CIA agent trying to stir up conflict in 1950s Vietnam and Michael Caine as a British journalist who befriends the agent, only to later be betrayed. Pushed back due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the film made a quiet entrance into American theaters, though Caine's powerful performance earned him much-deserved awards attention.Following those two critical triumphs, Noyce ventured over to the small screen to direct the pilot episode of "Tru Calling" (Fox, 2003-05), a supernatural drama about a grad student (Eliza Dushku) who discovers that can go back in time and save people's lives by changing the course of events. He stayed with television to direct a couple season one episodes of the acclaimed, but little-seen drama "Brotherhood" (Showtime, 2006-08) about two Providence, RI brothers - one a local politician (Jason Clarke); the other a professional criminal (Jason Isaacs) involved with the Irish mob - who must work together in order to achieve what they need in their chosen careers. Back to the feature world, Noyce helmed "To Catch a Fire" (2006), a compelling political thriller based on a true story about a family man (Derek Lee) falsely accused of terrorism by an Afrikaner police officer (Tim Robbins) in apartheid-era South Africa. He next directed Angelina Jolie in "Salt" (2010), a high-action political thriller in which the actress played a CIA agent who may or may not be a deep-cover Russian spy sent on a mission to assassinate a political leader while helping to instigate a nuclear strike on the Middle East. While convoluted and perhaps absurd at times, "Salt" was nonetheless a hit for Noyce, thanks in part to Jolie's up-front presence in promoting the film.