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10 Directors Who Went from Indie Film to Studio Blockbuster (Part 3)

Indiewire By Ziyad Saadi | Indiewire March 27, 2014 at 10:26AM

After our first two lists, we now finish off our series on directors of this year's upcoming big-budget studio films who managed to work their way up from the independent film world. While some of the directors on the list have now become filmmaking icons, having directed some of the biggest movies in history in the last decade alone, some of them will soon get a chance to prove just how well they can handle the big leagues.
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Niki Cairo on set

After our first two lists, we now finish off our series on directors of this year's upcoming big-budget studio films who managed to work their way up from the independent film world. While some of the directors on the list have now become filmmaking icons, having directed some of the biggest movies in history in the last decade alone, some of them will soon get a chance to prove just how well they can handle the big leagues.

READ MORE: 10 Directors Who Went from Indie Film to Studio Blockbuster (Part 1)

This final list fortunately features a bit more diversity than the previous two, with a majority of foreign-born filmmakers and (gasp!) a woman. Check out the last of three lists below:

READ MORE: 10 Directors Who Went from Indie Film to Studio Blockbuster (Part 2)

Director: Gareth Edwards

Studio Project Coming Out In 2014: "Godzilla" (Release Date: May 16)
Indie Background: "Monsters"

About The Director: Possibly the most extreme of indie-to-studio transitions of any director on this list (or ever), Gareth Edwards' apocalyptic thriller "Monsters" was made on a budget of less than $1 million dollars. But the cult film nevertheless managed to grab the attention of anyone who'd heard about it and retained the attention of all those who'd seen it. The astounding feat that Edwards accomplished on the entertainment and artistic scales were brilliantly matched by his ability to do so much with so little, giving budget-conscious studio execs a decent idea of just how much more he'd be able to accomplish when given the proper monetary resources.

Director: Patrick Hughes
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "The Expendables 3" (Release Date: August 15)
Indie Background: "Red Hill"
About the Director: Patrick Hughes has the rare chance to take on a remarkable slew of famed action stars, with Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes being brought on board with the original cast. Hughes' directing history consists of "Red Hill," which was his first and only feature film directing credit before taking on the upcoming sequel. The film had enough action sequences in it to hint that Hughes might be able to pull off the same thing once again, but "The Expendables" rests on a much grander scale, featuring many more stunts and (literally) bigger talent.

Director: Gavin O'Connor
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Jane Got a Gun" (Release Date: August 29)
Indie Background: "Tumbleweeds"
About The Director: "Jane Got a Gun," starring Oscar-winner Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, was the subject of much controversy in its pre-production stage. The person initially set to direct the upcoming western was Lynn Ramsay, who reportedly failed to show up on the first day of shooting. Though not the best way to further one's career, it certainly paved the way for Gavin O'Connor, who started out with the Oscar-nominated indie "Tumbleweeds" before getting boosted up the ladder with the Disney sports flick "Miracle," "Pride and Glory," "Warrior," and the pilot episode of "The Americans," all of which seem to have shown enough adeptness on his part to fill the drastic void left by Ramsay.

Director: Michael R. Roskam

Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "The Drop" (Release Date: September 19)
Indie Background: "Bullhead"
About the Director: One of the rare Oscar-nominated foreign filmmakers to make the transition from indie to studio, Belgian director Michael R. Roskam received an Academy Award nomination for his debut feature film "Bullhead." But what aided in his climb into big-budget territory may have been the fact that star of "The Drop," Noomi Rapace, listed "Bullhead" as one of her all-time favorite films. Even without Rapace, "The Drop" has quite a bit going for it commercially, with a script by Dennis Lehane (whose novels brought us the likes of "Mystic River," "Gone Baby Gone" and "Shutter Island") and a lead role played by Tom Hardy.

Director: Miguel Arteta
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" (Release Date: October 10)
Indie Background: "Star Maps," "Chuck and Buck," "The Good Girl"
About the Director: Miguel Arteta's career grew bigger with each film, adding one known actor to his casts as his filmography extended. The most notable actors he's worked with in his indie days include Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly on "The Good Girl." But while Arteta has veered a bit towards directing for television on shows such as "Six Feet Under," "Homicide: Life on the Streets" and "The Office," among many others, he also managed to make his way to his upcoming feature film "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" starring Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner, who, much like their director, have ultimately made more of a presence in film.

Directors: David Dobkin
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "The Judge" (Release Date: October 10)
Indie Background: "Clay Pigeons"
About the Directors: Best known for his collaboration with Vince Vaughn on "Wedding Crashers" and "Fred Claus," David Dobkin first worked with the comic actor on "Clay Pigeons," in which Vaughn plays a serial killer who confesses his crimes to a young man racked with his own guilt, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Their movies together grew in both budget and laughs, with "Wedding Crashers" becoming a huge commercial success and solidifying Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson's place on the A-list. Now Dobkin returns to studio filmmaking without Vaughn or Wilson and away from the low-brow comedy genre in the upcoming "The Judge" starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, a dramedy that will test his box-office capabilities more than ever before.

Warner Bros. Christopher Nolan on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Director: Christopher Nolan
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Interstellar" (Release Date: November 7)
Indie Background: "Following," "Memento"
About the Director: Nolan's directing career is one of the more enviable ones in Hollywood, achieving a rare brand of commercial and critical success that has yet to falter. It comes as no surprise, then, that his upcoming sci-fi movie "Interstellar" starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway has already generated a ton of interest, especially after the release of its enigmatically thrilling teaser. And though his first two features "Following" and "Memento" were made on modest budgets, Nolan's storytelling ability has never been overshadowed by the big budgets he's been granted during the latter part of his career, which may prove to make "Interstellar" one of his best -- and most successful -- movies yet.

Director: Niki Caro
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "McFarland" (Release Date: November 21)
Indie Background: "Memory & Desire," "Whale Rider"
About the Director: Niki Caro started out with New Zealand-set films "Memory & Desire" and the Oscar-nominated "Whale Rider" before moving her way stateside with "North Country" starring Chalize Theron. One thing that seems to tie all her films together is the empowering of her characters, which makes it seem all the more fitting that Caro has now added to her list of credits the upcoming Disney film "McFarland," an inspiring sports movie starring Kevin Costner as a high school track coach who leads his team through different social issues in the the 1980s in order to ultimately win the championship.

Director: Peter Jackson
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" (Release Date: December 17)
Indie Background: "Dead Alive," "Heavenly Creatures"
About the Director: Yes, even Peter Jackson started in independent film before becoming a god among "Lord of the Rings" geeks. One of his first features was the New Zealand film "Heavenly Creatures," which earned him his first Oscar nomination (for Best Original Screenplay) and launched the career of Kate Winslet. He soon rose to prominence, taking on J.R.R. Tolkien's famous fantasy novels and adapting them for the screen in a way that no director has ever pulled off before. In fact, Jackson's experience in big-budgeted studio films such as "Lord of the Rings" and "King Kong" have proved much more artistically impressive than his lower- budgeted work, with "The Lovely Bones" having failed miserably both critically and at the box-office.

Directors: Shawn Levy
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Night at the Museum 3" (Release Date: December 19)
Indie Background: "Address Unknown," "Just in Time"
About the Directors: Shawn Levy is the man responsible for the "Night at the Museum" series, but he's also known for all kinds of family-friendly fare. Having stuck firmly to his indie roots throughout his career, Levy began with two small family films, "Address Unknown" and "Just in Time," that brought about the very same brand of sentimentality that would appear in his later films as "Big Fat Liar," "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "The Pink Panther." They've all paid off well enough, but it was the undeniable commercial success of the first of the "Night at the Museum" movies that made a trilogy for Levy inevitable, while cementing the likelihood of more blockbusters to come.

This article is related to: Lists, Directors, Independent Cinema, Upcoming Releases, Christopher Nolan, Godzilla, Interstellar, Gareth Edwards





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