Francis LawrenceMar 26, 1971, Vienna, Austria
Lawrence entered the world of feature filmmaking with his first effort, "Constantine" (2005), a supernatural thriller with religious overtones and a dash of film noir based on the DC Comic book series, Hellblazer. His only challenge to becoming a feature director was the film's star -- Keanu Reeves had told manager Warner Bros. executives that he wanted no music video directors -- a request that should have eliminated Lawrence from the competition before he stepped foot in the gate. But the director wooed Reeves in a meeting with detailed storyboards and a mind for the complexities of the character. Impressed, Reeves used his carte blanche to get him the job. Lawrence was immediately beset by fans of the comic-book series who raised hell over the casting of Reeves -- they complained he wasn't faithful to the original character, who was blonde and British; the antithesis of Reeves' black-haired Southern Californian dude. But test screenings of the movie were glowing and the comic-book purists were forced to accept the former "Matrix" messiah as the tormented demon hunter obsessed with sending Satan's minions back to hell with the hope of saving his own dark soul. Despite a flurry of stunning special effects -- the scenes from hell were some of the most graphic caught on film -- and a complex anti-hero, critics were less than thrilled with Lawrence's freshman outing. Financially, however, the film was a success for the rookie director, grossing more than $225 million internationally. In 2007, Lawrence returned with "I Am Legend," a post-apocalyptic action/horror movie based on the Richard Matheson tale of the same name. With Will Smith in the lead role of plague survivor Robert Neville, the film was a blockbuster hit despite having its special effects work heavily criticized. Rather than helming another fantastical feature, Lawrence executive produced the TV drama "Kings" (NBC, 2009), starring Ian McShane, and also directed the first four installments of the series. The ambitious show, however, didn't make it past 13 episodes, and Lawrence returned to movies, taking on the literary adaptation "Water for Elephants," a period piece featuring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Although another TV producing/directing venture, "Touch" (Fox, 2012-13), was relatively well received, Lawrence moved on to "Catching Fire," the 2013 sequel to the massively successful dystopian film "The Hunger Games" (2012). Working with star Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) and an impressive ensemble cast, the production was another big hit, prompting the director to sign on for the follow-ups "Mockingjay: Parts 1 & 2."