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

By Ziyad Saadi | Indiewire March 26, 2014 at 10:51AM

Yesterday we published our first of three lists that take a look at directors with big films coming out this year who've managed to make the difficult leap from independent cinema to studio filmmaking. The second list below features prime examples of this transition, which include some lesser-known filmmakers who are still emerging and some well-known directors that one would never guess started out in the indie film world.
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Director: Tate Taylor
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Get On Up" (Release Date: August 1)
Indie Background: "Pretty Ugly People"
About the Director: Though it may seem a bit hard to believe that the man who directed the racially-charged drama "The Help" began his directing career with "Pretty Ugly People," a silly comedy about food-obsessed fat girls. But one thing both films have in common is their female-centric plots that attempt to empower the underdog. It then makes even more sense that Tate Taylor now brings the upcoming James Brown biopic, in which we see the famed musician's rise from poverty to celebrity, and brings back his "The Help" leads Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to bring the same box-office success they did in their first collaboration.

James Gunn
James Gunn

Director: James Gunn
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Guardians of the Galaxy" (Release Date: August 1)
Indie Background: "Super"
About the Director: Another director on this list to stamp his name on the science-fiction genre, James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy" starring Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper is undoubtedly one of the most highly-anticipated blockbusters of the year. Gunn's transition into studio filmmaking may seem like the most logical one on this list considering his indie roots are also grounded in the realm of comic books. After directing a series of television pilots and the icky studio horror "Slither," the director began his trek into independent cinema with his 2010 comedy "Super," starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, and gave his audience a taste of his capabilities in the genre when he doesn't have a huge budget.

Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (Release Date: August 8)
Indie Background: "My Life as a Dog"
About the Director: Only a handful of foreign film directors manage to make a name for themselves stateside. And even fewer manage to obtain the chance to direct studio films like Lasse Hallstrom does with "The Hundred-Foot Journey," based on the international bestseller of the same name. It isn't a huge blockbuster with abundant visual effects, but it's backed by Walt Disney Studios and stars Oscar-winner Helen Mirren. Hallstrom might credit the opportunity to his already extensive directing career, but his prominence in the industry is largely attributable to his Oscar-nominated drama "My Life as a Dog," a poignant Swedish film that proves just how good "The Hundred-Foot Journey" has the potential to be.

Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (Release Date: August 8)
Indie Background: "The Killing Room"
About the Director: There's been a lot of media attention surrounding the upcoming film adaptation of the famed television series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (particularly when Michael Bay announced they'd be aliens), which gives its director Jonathan Liebesman the strenuous task of living up to the hype. His past work consists mostly of low-budget horror films like "Darkness Falls" and the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" prequel, but his independent film record is best noted by "The Killing Room," a psychological thriller that premiered at Sundance in 2009 and may attest to Liebesman's grasp of strong storytelling. But his later big-budget films "Battle Los Angeles" and "Wrath of the Titans" weren't exactly hits (neither crossed the $100 million dollar at the domestic box office), so this one could go either way.

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: "Sin City: A Dame to Kill for" (Release Date: August 22)
Indie Background: "El Mariachi"
About the Director: The sequel to Robert Rodriguez' cult hit "Sin City" was beginning to sound like a legend, with many of his fans doubting that it would ever come to fruition. But Rodriguez can finally put the naysayers to rest with "Sin City: A Dame to Kill for" officially getting a late summer release. Having started out with the extremely low-budget "El Mariachi," Rodriguez got his break when Columbia Pictures loved the film enough to distribute it in the U.S., leading him to turn it into a popular trilogy (followed by "Desperado" and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"). From there, the director's career grew bigger, but he never lost the same artistic edginess that have led audiences to eagerly anticipate his "Sin City" sequel.


This article is related to: Directors, Independent Cinema, Lists, Robert Rodriguez, James Gunn, Lasse Hallström, Matt Reeves, Doug Liman, The Wachowskis, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski







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