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

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

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.

Much like in the first list, ethnic diversity is quite limited and there still remains a complete lack of female directors. Check out the second of three lists below:

Director: Doug Liman
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: “Edge of Tomorrow” (Release Date: June 6)
Indie Background: “Swingers”
About The Director: There’s no doubt that big-budget studio film “The Hangover” owes some credit to “Swingers,” the film that gave Vince Vaughn his breakout role and practically invented the modern-day Vegas buddy comedy. “Swingers” was so low-budget that director Doug Liman was rumored to have filmed the driving sequences without a permit with the intention of claiming his camera was off in case of police intervention. But whatever tactics he employed, it has clearly paid off tremendously, leading Liman to direct A-list celebrities in movies like “The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and the upcoming “Edge of Tomorrow,” an apocalyptic thriller starring Tom Cruise.

Director: Tim Story
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: “Think Like a Man Too” (Release Date: June 20)
Indie Background: “The Firing Squad,” “One of Us Tripped”

About the Director: The existence of the sequel “Think Like a Man Too” should be a clear indication of Tim Story’s financial viability in the film world. And though his two first indie features “The Firing Squad” and “One of Us Tripped” flew somewhat under the radar, they were enough for the director to find his niche audience in African-American moviegoers that would help make his next film “Barbershop” a commercial success. He’s since directed the superhero flick “Fantastic Four,” the highest budgeted of all his previous films, but has quickly returned to his roots with “Think Like a Man” and the recently released “Ride Along,” which has just announced an upcoming sequel.

Director: James DeMonaco
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: “The Purge 2: Anarchy” (Release Date: June 20)
Indie Background: “Little New York”
About the Director: Writer/director James DeMonaco’s sequel to the fear-inducing “The Purge” is another example of a studio betting on a formula that works. And though “The Purge” movies gave DeMonaco his firm place in the studio movie world, it was his debut feature film “Little New York,” about three New Yorkers struggling to get ahead, that got his foot in the door. Ethan Hawke, who starred in “Little New York,” proved to be commercially viable as well, having worked again alongside DeMonaco on the first “Purge” movie.

Director: Matt Reeves
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (Release Date: July 11)
Indie Background: “Future Shock”
About the Director: Matt Reeves’ first turn as director was in “Future Shock,” an indie horror film in which he directed one segment of a three-part story. Since then, Reeves has moved up the ranks and taken on sole directing duties, having worked primarily as a television director (on shows like “Felicity” and “Homicide: Life on the Street”) before moving on to well-known horror flicks “Cloverfield” and “Let Me In.” Now he’s bringing the latest addition in the “Planet of the Apes” series and is already attached to direct the next one. 

Directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Studio Project Coming Out in 2014: “Jupiter Ascending” (Release Date: July 18)
Indie Background: “Bound”
About the Directors: The Wachowski Siblings are best known for the classic science-fiction “Matrix” trilogy that broke new ground in terms of both storytelling and visual effects. Though the latter two were critically panned, there’s no doubt the directing duo knows how to reel in an audience. Coming out later this year, they’ve got “Jupiter Ascending,” a science-fiction adventure film about a woman being hunted down by the Queen of the Universe, which veers quite far from their debut feature “Bound,” an independent film starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon as lesbian lovers trying to steal money from the mafia.

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.

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”
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.

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