James Gray

James Gray


Life Story

Writer/director James Gray made his first film Little Odessa (1994) at the age of twenty-five. The film, which starred Tim Roth, Edward Furlong, Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell, received critical acclaim and was the winner of the Venice Film Festival's prestigious Silver Lion Award in 1994.

Miramax Films released James Gray's second feature, The Yards (2000) starring Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, Charlize Theron and James Caan in fall of 2000. The film was selected for official competition at the 2000 Cannes International Film Festival. Prior to "The Yards" and "Little Odessa", Gray attended film school at the University of Southern California. It was there that his student film Cowboys and Angels was first seen by producer Paul Webster, who encouraged Gray to write his first feature script.

As a child growing up in Queens, New York, Gray aspired to be a painter. However, when introduced in his early teenage years to the works of various filmmakers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Gray's interests expanded to the art of filmmaking. The Yards returned Gray to Queens where the story takes place.


Alexandra Dickson Gray (21 May 2005 - present) ( 3 children)


Graduated from USC School of Cinema-Television (1991)
Grandparents were Russian immigrants.
Father was once an electronics contractor.
Grew up in Queens, New York.
One of 105 people invited to join AMPAS in 2008.
Four of his five films were nominated for Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, he was nominated for the first time with his second film, The Yards (2000). His following films, We Own the Night (2007), Two Lovers (2008) and The Immigrant (2013) were all nominated for the Palme d'Or.
Considers The Immigrant (2013) as the best film of his career and Marion Cotillard as the best actor he ever worked with.
He's a great fan of Claude Chabrol, intending his noir The Yards (2000) as a homage to those of the great French director. The film opened at the Cannes film festival to the audience's whistles, something that greatly angered Chabrol.
Used to be friends with Isabelle Huppert, who introduced him to his idol, Claude Chabrol. Their relationship changed by the time Gray found himself at odds with Huppert while serving as a member of the 2009 Cannes film festival jury, which she presided. After this experience, he described the actress as a 'fascist bitch'.
He directed 4 movies that were screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival: The Yards (2000), We Own the Night (2007), Two Lovers (2008) and The Immigrant (2013). None of these movies received a single award from the jury.
Some of his favorite movies are Rocco and His Brothers (1960), The 400 Blows (1959), Singin' in the Rain (1952), Tokyo Story (1953), The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974).

Personal Quotes 

I'm just not willing to give up on myself. If I'm going to fail, then I want to fail to the limits of my talent.
The idea that if your film takes place in 1988 it should only have music from 1988 shows a totally limited sense of history and how history is an accumulation of details. Is all your furniture from 2007?
Apparently I'm the dramatic version of Jerry Lewis. Someone wrote that I'm the object of Gallic fetish.
My wife thinks I have an obsession with social class. So I guess I have an obsession with social class. It probably stems from feeling like an outcast. You grow up a goofy-looking idiotic kid in a fairly working-class neighborhood that's very close to a very rich center of the universe, then I guess you feel like the outsider and that becomes a preoccupation.
I think I'm a very American director, but I probably should have been making movies somewhere around 1976. I never left the mainstream of American movies, the American mainstream left me. What I'm doing is an attempt to continue the best work of the people I adore - Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick and those amazing directors whose work I grew up with and adored.
[on American cinema] I think the reason movies are no longer relevant is not because they don't make money, because they make more money than ever. They're not relevant because the self-appointed cognoscenti have nothing to go watch. Norman Mailer, if he were alive, would see a movie from Europe.
What I find troubling is, I'll read conversations between A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis [in the New York Times] and I find that they're extremely erudite, and I love what they say. But sometimes I feel like the subtext is them trying to convince themselves and each other that the state of cinema is not so bad. And what neither of them has ever really addressed, and I have not read it anywhere else either, is the troubling disappearance of 'the middle'. Which is not to say the middlebrow - that exists with flying colors. But there is tremendously interesting cinema being made that is very small. What I don't see as part of the discourse is a discussion on the economic forces that have forced out the middle.
There's superb television, but it's not for me because - first of all - the two of three-hour format is just perfect, because it replicates best our birth-life-death cycle. 'The Sopranos' was genius television but it went on forever, and it never seemed to culminate in anything, and then everyone was pissed off at the ending. That's exactly why TV cannot substitute for a great movie, because the swell of the architecture of a movie is part of what makes it the most beautiful art form.
I think the studios have done a brilliant job of creating the audience they're now attempting to satisfy. There is a difference between the satisfaction and the exploitation of public tastes. If you give - and I've used this analogy many times, but it's true - if you give somebody a Big Mac every day, and then give them salmon sushi, their first inclination is not to say that salmon sushi is the most delicious thing they ever ate, their first inclination is to say, 'That's weird and I don't like it'. And it's very hard to get them back.


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