PAUL SCHRADER, the acclaimed director of "Affliction,"
"The Comfort of Strangers," "American Gigolo," "Blue
Collar" and "Cat People," and the screenwriter of "Taxi
Driver," "Raging Bull" and "The Last Temptation of
Christ," was born in 1946 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He had a Calvinist
upbringing, and did not see his first film until he was in his late teens. His
interest in film increased as he attended Grand Rapids' Calvin College, a
liberal arts/seminary, where he began programming films at a local cinema, while
still planning to be a minister. In the summer of 1967, he took three courses in
film at New York's Columbia University. Through a friend, he met critic Pauline
Kael, who told him, "You don't want to be a minister-you want to be a film
After graduating from Calvin in 1968, he attended UCLA's film school, soon
becoming the film critic for the L.A. Free Press, before being fired for panning
"Easy Rider." Next Schrader began editing of Cinema Magazine. His
thesis on Ozu, Bresson and Dreyer was published as Transcendental Style in
Film by the University of California Press. After graduating from UCLA, he
became a fellow at the American Film Institute. During this time, he was
mentored by directors such as Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini, as well as
architect/designer Charles Eames, who Schrader considered his greatest
influence. "Eames taught me that there is a visual logic in life and that
to be a poet, or a poet of ideas doesn't mean you have to use language,"
Schrader wrote his first screenplay, "Pipeliner," about a young man
who finds out he has very little time to live, so he goes back home and works on
an oil pipeline. Then Schrader had a period of isolation that inspired his
screenplay for "Taxi Driver," written in ten days. He soon received a
letter from his brother Leonard, who was living in Kyoto, Japan. There he had
been watching a lot of Japanese gangster movies. The two brothers teamed up to
write the screenplay for "The Yakuza," for which they were paid the
then-record sum of $325,000. The film, directed by Sydney Pollack in 1974,
starred Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura. Schrader next collaborated with Martin
Scorsese with the film of "Taxi Driver," nominated for four Academy
Awards and winner of the Golden Palme at Cannes in 1976.
In 1977, Schrader made an impressive debut as a writer/director with "Blue
Collar," starring Harvey Keitel, Richard Pryor and Yaphet Kotto as three
Detroit autoworkers who try to rob their own union payroll. He followed with
"Hardcore" (1979), about a Michigan man (George C. Scott) searching
for his daughter who has been drawn into the seamy world of pornography.
"American Gigolo" (1980), starred Richard Gere as a male prostitute in
a gleaming, high-style Los Angeles. Schrader's first project not to come from
his own idea was "Cat People" (1982), a remake of the classic Val
Lewton atmospheric horror film starring Nastassja Kinski.
One of Schrader's favorite films is "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters"
(1985), about the legendary Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. "Light of
Day," is about a girl's (Joan Jett) need to play rock 'n' roll, despite the
wishes of her religious mother (Gena Rowlands). "Patty Hearst" (1988)
followed the story of the kidnapped heiress (Natasha Richardson), kidnapped by
the Symbionese Liberation Army. Next was the erotic thriller "The Comfort
of Strangers," written by Harold Pinter, about a vacationing English couple
(Natasha Richardson and Rupert Everett) who are befriended by a wealthy Venetian
gentleman (Christopher Walken) and his wife (Helen Mirren).
Willem Dafoe plays a drug courier going
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