The filmmaking career of Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund is a curious one that can either be seen as a missed opportunity, a promise unfulfilled, or an overestimation of talent. In the mid to late ’90s, Åkerlund seemed poised to follow in the footsteps of fellow music directing giants-turned-feature filmmakers Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry. The filmmaker made ripples and a splash with semi-transgressive (and often controversial) videos for The Prodigy (their infamous “Smack My Bitch Up”), Metallica and several videos for his visual muse Madonna (“Ray Of Light” and “Music” among others).
Life seemed good and surely his music video quote was as high as anyone in the business, but Åkerlund stumbled hard with his vile and morally bankrupt feature-length debut “Spun” (2002), which employed the overly-frentic (read: annoying) visual tricks that music video directors are wont to utilize their first time out. Starring Jason Schwartzman, Mickey Rourke, John Leguizamo, Patrick Fugit, Patrick Fugit, Mena Suvari, and the late Brittany Murphy, the picture didn’t do any of the cast any favors either. Åkerlund retreated to the safety of the music video realm which diminished with the advent of the mp3 and the cultural decrease in the need and importance if music videos as a promotional tool.
Seven years later, he finally released his second project, 2009’s shlocky psycho-thriller “The Horseman” starring Dennis Quaid which made “Spun” look like Shakespeare. We included it on our Worst Films Of The Year list in ’09, it has a dismal 40% RT rating and basically vanished from theaters as soon as it arrived. Suffice to say a once promising filmmaking career might be over unless the “Saw” producers want another go at it.
Meanwhile, always one to ape Madonna at every turn, Lady Gaga tapped Åkerlund to direct her videos “Paparazzi” and “Telephone,” two stylish clips that placed Gaga and the music video on the map. And speaking of chasing Madonna (or whatever other pop star is relevant at the time) Britney Spears revealed on her Twitter (via ONTD) that she has now hired Åkerlund to direct her comeback single, “Hold It Against Me.” Spears seems way past her prime frankly — at least in the pop sphere, she doesn’t seem like she’s capable enough for a Madonna-like career — but the public (and numerous blogs) might think otherwise (though recent photos suggest she’s not ready for primetime). The move may mean little to Åkerlund’s film career, but if it helps sustain his music video career, we assume mission’s been accomplished.