Joseph Wright (born 25 August 1972) is an English film director. His motion pictures include the romance film Pride & Prejudice (2005), the romantic war drama Atonement (2007), the action thriller Hanna (2011), his adaptation of Anna Karenina (2012), Peter Pan origin story Pan (2015), and World War II political drama Darkest Hour (2017).
Early life and career
Wright was born on 25 August 1972 in London, where his parents, John and Lyndie, founded the Little Angel Theatre, a puppet theatre in Islington. Wright always had an interest in the arts, especially painting. He would also make films on his Super 8 camera as well as spend time in the evenings acting in a drama club. Wright is dyslexic. He left school without any GCSEs.
He began his career working at his parents' puppet theatre. He also took classes at the Anna Scher Theatre School and acted professionally on stage and camera. He spent an art foundation year at Camberwell College of Arts, before taking a degree in fine art and film at Central St Martins. In his last year of studies he received a scholarship to make a short film for the BBC that won several awards. On the success of the short, he was offered the script for the serial Nature Boy. He followed this up with the serials Bodily Harm with Timothy Spall, and the highly acclaimed Charles II: The Power and The Passion with Rufus Sewell which won the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Serial.
During the 1990s he worked at Oil Factory, a music video production company based in Caledonian Road, Kings Cross. He worked on a variety of productions in numerous roles, including casting director. Here he was able to get the opportunity to direct some music videos. Alongside this, particularly on the strength of his short film work, he was also developing The End, his second short film. During this decade Wright also worked part-time as a roadie for Vegetable Vision who created visuals for various electronic music bands, such as Chemical Brothers, Darren Emerson, Underworld and Andrew Weatherall. He attributes some of the aesthetic and emotion of the UK rave scene as an influence on his work.
In 2007, Wright became engaged to actress Rosamund Pike, but the wedding was called off in 2008.
Wright was married to sitarist Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar and half-sister of Norah Jones until June 2018. They have two sons; Zubin Shankar Wright, who was born in February 2011, and Mohan Shankar Wright, who was born in February 2015.
Pride & Prejudice
In 2005, he made the transition to feature films with the critically acclaimed adaptation of Pride & Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. The film received numerous accolades including 4 Academy Award nominations (including Best Actress), 6 BAFTA nominations (Wright won the BAFTA for most promising newcomer) among a host of other nominations and wins.
Wright's next feature was an adaptation of Ian McEwan's Booker Prize shortlisted novel Atonement, which was released in 2007, reuniting Wright with Keira Knightley, and also stars James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. On 13 December 2007, the film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, more than any other film that year. Though Wright himself was not nominated for director, the film received seven Academy Award nominations, winning only for Best Original Score. At the BAFTA Awards it received 14 nominations and went on to win for Best Production Design and Best Film.
His next film was The Soloist which stars Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. It is about the "true story of musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers, who developed schizophrenia in his second year at Juilliard and ended up homeless on the streets of downtown L.A. where he performs the violin and cello." It was to be released on 21 November 2008; however the release date was pushed back to 24 April 2009.
Wright reunited with Atonement star Saoirse Ronan for the 2011 action thriller Hanna. The title character is a 15-year-old girl trained since birth to be an assassin by her father (Eric Bana), a rogue CIA asset. The movie received mostly positive reviews with Roger Ebert calling it a "first rate thriller" in his review The film received an aggregate score of 65 from Metacritic, meaning it received generally positive reviews.
Wright directed the 2012 screen adaptation by Sir Tom Stoppard of Leo Tolstoy's classic novel Anna Karenina. The cast included Keira Knightley as Anna, Jude Law as her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as her young love, Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson as Konstantin Levin, as well as Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Matthew Macfadyen, and Michelle Dockery. Saoirse Ronan and Andrea Riseborough were initially cast in the film, but dropped out and were replaced by Alicia Vikander and Ruth Wilson, respectively.
Wright then directed the 2015 prequel to Peter Pan for Warner Bros. The film starred Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried and Levi Miller as Peter. The screenplay by actor-turned-screenwriter Jason Fuchs was from the 2013 Hollywood Black List, a selection of popular unproduced scripts.
Rooney Mara's casting as Tiger Lily did cause a controversy, due to her being of European ancestry, while Tiger Lily is traditionally portrayed as a Native American.
Wright's 2017 film Darkest Hour covers a pivotal month in the life of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The film stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, along with Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, David Schofield, Kristin Scott Thomas, Samuel West and Lily James.
Wright has distinguished himself as a director, winning a BAFTA award for best newcomer for Pride & Prejudice and becoming the youngest director ever to have a film open the Venice Film Festival with Atonement. According to the director's commentary on Pride & Prejudice, Wright is influenced by the work of British film director David Lean, and possessing a certain knowledge of art history, tries sometimes to compose his shots after classical paintings.
Charles II: The Power and The Passion, Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Hanna all have long tracking shots in them. Atonement has a continuous 5 minute and 5 second shot of the Dunkirk evacuation. "Basically, I just like showing off", Wright told the audience at the Hay Festival.
Film and television director parts
|2001||Bob & Rose||TV|
|2003||Charles II: The Power and the Passion||TV|
|2005||Pride & Prejudice||BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer|
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Filmmaker
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association for Most Promising Filmmaker
Nominated—Empire Awards for Best Director
Nominated—London Film Critics' Circle for British Newcomer of the Year
|2007||Atonement||Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Direction|
Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated—London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
Nominated—Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards for Best Director
Nominated—Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
|2012||Anna Karenina||Nominated—Outstanding British Film (shared with Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster and Tom Stoppard)|
|2016||Black Mirror||Episode: "Nosedive" (TV)|
|2019||The Woman in the Window||Post-production|
Casting and crew
|Artist||Pride & Prejudice (2005)||Atonement (2007)||The Soloist (2009)||Hanna (2011)||Anna Karenina (2012)||Pan (2015)||Darkest Hour (2017)||The Woman in the Window (2019)|