JAMES FOLEY (Director) was headed for a career as a doctor, then as a psychoanalyst, when he discovered that he had a gift for filmmaking
(Director) was headed for a career as a doctor, then as a psychoanalyst,
when he discovered that he had a gift for filmmaking. After graduating
from the University of Buffalo, he worked the night shift as a
psychiatric technician while studying film at New York University
during the day.
The discovery came about almost by accident. Foley had taken a
film course "just for the hell of it" when a screening
of one of his student films gave him what he describes as "an
"I'd just made my first film," he recalls, "16mm,
black-and-white, non-synch sound: kids playing in a sandbox,
camera down at the eye-level of the kids. And at one moment one
of the men who didn't want his kid photographed picked him up.
It was purely by accident, but from the point of view of the kid
it looked like he was playing in a child's world, and in comes
this adult foot, and then hands come down and lift the child up.
"When that happened the class went 'Ooooo,' as if this were
a threatening thing. And this sent a charge through me. It was
like discovering a sixth sense, a sensation I never knew existed.
I dropped everything and never looked back."
After enrolling two years later in the film school of the University
of Southern California, Foley made the student films "Silent
Night" and "November," which attracted the attention
and acclaim of Hollywood, particularly director Hal Ashby.
Foley worked with Ashby at Lorimar developing a script, Cowboys
of the American Night.
"It was the last blush of the '70s," says Foley, "and
by the time I finished the script the 70s were over." He
then moved to Paramount, where he met producer Edgar J. Sherick.
Sherick and fellow producer Scott Rudin signed him to direct his
first feature, Reckless, a small-town drama starring Aidan
Quinn and Darryl Hannah in 1983.
His second feature, At Close Range, starring Sean Penn
and Christopher Walken, was an international critical success.
"I'd met Sean Penn when I was casting Reckless, and
he showed me this script he had never been able to get made,"
Foley explains. "Right before Reckless came out I
was a hot property and Sean was at the height of his celebrity,
so we were able to push through what was obviously a wildly uncommercial
An intense drama based on an actual criminal case, At Close
Range concerned half-brothers getting to know their father,
a professional criminal who liberates them from their mundane
lives until they start to realize how dangerous he is. Dark as
its subject was, Foley's film was surprisingly lyrical, particularly
in its scenes of criminal behavior.
While directing the film's music video, "Live To Tell,"
Foley became friends with Madonna and reunited with her for his
next feature, a Bringing Up Baby-remake called Who's
After Dark, My Sweet, which Foley adapted from Jim Thompson's
novel, cemented his reputation as an actors director with its
touching performances by Jason Patric as a brain-damaged loner,
and Rachel Ward as an alcoholic femme fatale who takes him under
her wing and uses him in an abortive kidnapping plot. That skill
was further evidenced in his next film, a highly stylized adaptation
of David Mamet's black comedy Glengarry Glen Ross, whic
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