Alejandro González Iñárritu
Hailing from Mexico, director Alejandro González Iñárritu gained artistic respect and numerous awards across the world, thanks to creating often bleak, but powerfully emotional films. With his first feature film, the much lauded and decorated "Amores Perros" ("Love's A Bitch") (2001), González Iñárritu made an immediate impact on the film world as a director capable of creating a visceral reaction with audiences while challenging their notions of morality. Moving over to Hollywood, he directed the equally praised "21 Grams" (2003), a stark drama that dwelled on the myriad consequences of a tragic death that at once gave few easy answers while offering a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak situation. Having proved that he was a worthy talent, González Iñárritu delivered his most thought-provoking - and to some, perplexing - film with "Babel" (2006), a heartbreaking tale of love, loss and fear of the unknown. Along with longtime friends and filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro, González Iñárritu ushered in a new wave of Mexican filmmakers who were taking Hollywood by storm. In fact, it was González Iñárritu who became the first-ever Mexican director to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. By the time he directed his fourth acclaimed film, "Biutiful" (2010), González Iñárritu had established himself as one of the most compelling directors to emerge from south of the border. He secured that status with his next films, "Birdman" (2014), a surreal comedy-drama that won Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards, and "The Revenant" (2015), a thriller with a philosophical basis starring Leonardo DiCaprio, for which Iñárritu won Best Director.
Born on Aug. 15, 1963 in Mexico City, Mexico, González Iñárritu was raised in an upper class home headed by his banker father, who suddenly lost everything after declaring bankruptcy when the young boy was just five years old. But his father - who never complained about the family's difficult plight - managed to eek out a working-class living in order to keep food on the table, leaving González Iñárritu to grow up in a stable, happy home. But González Iñárritu was a poor student, resulting in him being kicked out of school at age 16. From there, he ventured down several different career paths, first becoming a commercial sailor - an experience that encouraged him to expand his formal education. While attending Iberoamericana University, González Iñárritu landed a job as a disc jockey at WFM, Mexico's No. 1 radio station, where he entertained millions with a daily three-hour program, an experience he credited as being prime training for his directing career. Following his radio stint, he landed a job in advertising as a writer and later a director of television commercials. Though ultimately unsatisfied with the superficial nature of a 30- or 60-second ad, González Iñárritu confessed that commercials did help him learn how to quickly tell a story.
González Iñárritu soon introduced himself to novelist Guillermo Arriaga and the two quickly struck a solid working friendship. The creative team originally intended to make 11 short films that underscored what they saw to be the contradictory nature of Mexico City. Instead, they focused on three and expanded them to feature length, which resulted in 36 drafts of a screenplay that became "Amores Perros" ("Love's a Bitch") (2001). The three interconnected stories about the different strata of life in Mexico City all resolve with a fatal car accident: Octavio (Gael García Bernal) is trying to raise enough money to run away with his sister-in-law (Vanessa Bauche), and decides to enter his dog Cofi into the world of dog fighting. After a fight goes bad, Octavio flees in his car, running a red light and causing the accident. Meanwhile, the newfound bliss between married couple Daniel (Álvaro Guerrero) and Valeria (Goya Toledo) prematurely ends when she loses her leg in that accident, while El Chiro (Emilio Echevarría), an ex-revolutionary-turned-homeless, witnesses the collision and carries off Octavio's injured dog. As El Chiro rejuvenates the dog, he finds himself with renewed hope of reuniting with his estranged daughter (Lourdes Echevarría). The film won numerous critics and festival awards the world over, including a 2001 BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language, as well as 13 awards at the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences' Silver Ariel Awards. "Amores Perros" was also nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar.
Thanks to the international success of his debut feature, González Iñárritu gained a sturdy foothold in the United States. In 2001, González Iñárritu was one of several top directors to sign on with BMW to direct several short films that really were merely long commercials for the company's high-priced vehicles. González Iñárritu directed "Powder Keg" (2001), starring Clive Owen as a driver who must transport a photojournalist carrying a highly important photograph that will be certain to unite a world against its leader. González Iñárritu's next project was another short-film collaboration; this time he was one of 11 directors who made shorts about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, called "11'09'01" (2002). Though the directors had complete artistic freedom, they were asked to observe a strict format: each film had to be 11 minutes, 9 seconds and 1 frame. For his episode, González Iñárritu started with a black screen as the sound of screaming voices and heavy thuds was heard. The image faded in to reveal people jumping from the towers. As one of the least politically charged of the shorts, González Iñárritu showed the chaos, confusion and humanity of that tragic day.
González Iñárritu then went on to direct his next feature, "21 Grams" (2003), starring Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts. Once again, González Iñárritu used a tragic event to bring three stories together, where the main characters learn to preserve hope for the future despite their own mortality. Shown at numerous festivals across the world, including Toronto, Montreal and London, the film focused on a college professor (Penn) in dire need of a heart transplant, while a recovering drug addict-turned-devoted wife and mother sees only a hopeful future ahead. But when her husband (Danny Huston) and two young daughters are tragically killed in an accident, she becomes devastated, while the professor suddenly finds a new lease on life. Meanwhile, an ex-con (Del Toro) - the man responsible for the accident - finds his religious faith tested in a time when his low-income family struggles to make ends meet. González Iñárritu avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, while once again receiving critical acclaim and numerous award nominations for his work.
González Iñárritu increased the level of ambition for his next film, "Babel" (2006), a heartbreaking examination of confusion, fear and the depths of love. Set on different continents - Asia, Africa and North America - "Babel" told three separate stories brought together by a single random act of violence when a woman (Cate Blanchett) traveling with her husband (Brad Pitt) is seriously wounded by a random bullet fired by two Moroccan boys (Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid). Woven into the narrative are the couple's Mexican housekeeper (Adriana Barraza) trying to cross the border with the help of her drunken nephew (Gael García Bernal), and a deaf and emotionally neglected Japanese girl (Rinko Kikuchi) scouring Japan for love in the wrong places, all of which culminates into tense emotions brought about by the failure to communicate. Both "Babel" and González Iñárritu were nominated for a slew of awards, with the film winning a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama and earning a Best Picture nod at the 79th Annual Academy Awards. In fact, the director started the season on a strong note, winning the Best Director award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, though he was ultimately shut out at the Globes and Oscars. But it was at Cannes that controversy brewed after González Iñárritu barred his collaborator, Guillermo Arriaga, from the festival after a falling out over who deserved full credit for the script. With their partnership dissolved, González Iñárritu moved on to direct "Biutiful" (2010), which starred Javier Bardem as a conflicted father, husband and smalltime criminal leader who tries to put his affairs in order after learning that he has only weeks to live. "Biutiful" was another artistic triumph for the director, with the film becoming Mexico's official entry for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. González Iñárritu's next major project was the surreal comedy-drama "Birdman" (2014), starring Michael Keaton as a former movie star attempting to revitalize his career by producing and starring in a Broadway play. The film met with widespread critical acclaim, with Keaton and Edward Norton as a rival actor commanding particular praise for their performances. A critical and commercial success, the film won Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards. Iñárritu quickly followed it up with the neo-Western thriller "The Revenant" (2015), starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a frontiersman left for dead by his cohorts who seeks revenge in unforgiving conditions. Though the violent film as a whole polarized critics and audiences, its impressive visuals led to a Best Director award at the 2016 Oscars.
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Started his career as a DJ at the top-rated Mexican radio station WFM
Began composing music for feature films, including "Garra de tigre" (1989)
Formed the company Zeta Films to produce advertising, short films and television programs
Helmed first half-length feature, "Detrás del dinero," featuring Spanish actor/singer Miguel Bosé
Feature film debut as director, "Amores Perros," a gritty look at the underbelly of Mexican life; also co-wrote with Guillermo Arriaga; garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film
Helmed "Powder Keg," the fifth short in the BMW 'The Hire' series; shown over the Internet at bmwfilms.com
Directed the Mexico segment of the independent feature "11'09"01 September 11," a collective movie about the influence of 9-11 on the world
Made U.S. feature debut, directing the death-minded drama "21 Grams," starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio del Toro; written by Guillermo Arriaga
Helmed the ensemble feature, "Babel," which consists of four stories set in Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico and Japan and starred Gael García Bernal, Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt; earned Golden Globe and Directors Guild of America nominations for Best Director; also received Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Picture
Formed an independent production co. with fellow Mexican filmmakers, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron
Under the newly formed independent production co., signed a deal with Universal's Focus Features to finance and co-own five movies, which will have a combined budget of around $100 million
Produced Rodrigo García's independent film "Mother and Child"
Produced and directed the Spanish language film, "Biutiful," starring Javier Bardem as an underworld figure and devoted single dad
Directed the Academy Award winning "Birdman"