Family & Companions
A former reporter of the punk-rock scene whose entree to filmmaking came via British TV documentaries, Mary Harron made the jump to features with the much-awaited "I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996), the story of Valerie Solanas, who in 1968 shot and wounded the art-world legend. A Canadian raised in London, Harron moved to New York in 1976, delighted to leave the stuffiness of her Oxford education behind to work for an alternative film company running its kitchen. She began writing for Legs McNeil's PUNK magazine and in 1977 penned a lengthy piece for VILLAGE VOICE that explained and explored the London punk scene, introducing what had been a somewhat underground movement to mainstream America. Seemingly a constant presence on pop culture's cutting edge throughout her career, Harron, who participated in and observed the Studio 54 era, the last chapter of the sexual revolution before drugs fell out of favor and AIDS and other STDs prompted more circumspect behavior, remained fascinated by the Warhol "Factory" scene of the late 60s that had so intrigued her as a teenager.
Back in London working as a researcher for the prestigious English arts documentary program "The South Bank Show," Harron was walking to work one day when she passed a used bookstore and found a copy of the "SCUM Manifesto" written by Solanas, a lesbian feminist on the fringes of the Warhol circle. Though she began toying with the idea of a documentary on Solanas, she took no immediate action. After hosting "UK Late" (1990), a smart-set talk show, she returned to New York in 1991 to produce segments of "Edge," a PBS documentary series, for awhile sharing an apartment with a pre-drag RuPaul. She showed her proposal for the Solanas documentary to producers Christine Vachon and Tom Kalin, who encouraged her to make a dramatic feature film instead. Eventually, American Playhouse International financed "I Shot Andy Warhol," which attempted to capture the spirit of the artist at his most creative, before his celebrity became greater than his work. Lili Taylor delivered a brilliant portrayal as the delusional Solanas, supported by Stephen Dorff as Candy Darling, Tahnee Welch as Viva and Jared Harris as Warhol. Convincing in its period detail, it debuted at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and enjoyed great critical success after its release.
Invited by producer Edward Pressman to have a go at adapting Bret Easton Ellis' "American Psycho" (2000), Harron approached the material as a black comedy, believing that the excessive violence in the incendiary novel had blinded people to its satiric look at the 80s and the decadent Wall Street culture which dominated New York City. With Harron attached as director and Christian Bale set to star, "American Psycho" found a home at Lions Gate Films, but when a hot-from-"Titanic" Leonardo DiCaprio expressed, she dropped off the project she had nurtured to that point. DiCaprio's case of cold feet led to her and Bale's return. The story of vacuous broker Patrick Bateman, the personification of the yuppie excess who frequently ends his nights of expensive dining, drinking and cocaine snorting with cold-hearted sexual encounters and vicious murders was slapped with an NC-17 rating, reportedly over a sex scene involving Bateman and two prostitutes. "American Psycho" debuted at the Sundance Boasting a supporting cast including Willem Dafoe (the detective pursuing him), Reese Witherspoon (a girlfriend), Jared Leto (his arch rival) and Chloe Sevigny (his secretary) opened to mixed reviews, with most critics praising the acting but questioning the need for the film to be made.
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Moved to the East Village in NYC; began writing for <i>Punk</i> Magazine; first American journalist to interview The Sex Pistols
Wrote first in-depth article about English punk in the American press for <i>Village Voice</i>
Hosted "UK Late", a British TV talk show
Returned to New York as producer of PBS' "Edge", a monthly magazine program exploring American pop culture; served as segment producer for "Art Crisis" and "Oliver Stone"; roomed with a pre-drag queen RuPaul
Co-wrote and directed first feature, "I Shot Andy Warhol"; shunned by Warhol pal Lou Reed, leader of the Velvet Undergound, drew solace from the fact that she did have Warhol friends on board, including the Undeground's John Cale who provided the original score
Helmed "Animal Farm" episode of HBO's "Oz" (aired in August), executive produced by Levinson and Fontana
Primetime episodic debut as director, the "Sins of the Fathers" episode of NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street" (aired in January), show executive produced by Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana
Co-scripted and helmed the controversial "American Psycho", starring Christian Bale; while shooting in Toronto (substituting for NYC), the film ran into protests from a victim's rights advocacy group led by the mother of one of the two victims of Paul Bernardo and his wife, who allegedly drew inspiration for their atrocities from the Bret Ellis Easton source material; slapped with an NC-17 rating over a sex scene between Bale's character and two women; premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
Directed an episode of Showtime's lesbian drama "The L Word"
Directed an episode of the HBO funeral drama, "Six Feet Under"
Co-scripted and helmed the HBO biopic, "The Notorious Bettie Page" starring Gretchen Mol in the title role