PROFILE
Name:
Atom Egoyan
Birth Date:
July 19, 1960
Birth Place:
Cairo, Egypt
Nationality:
Armenian
Famous for:
The Sweet Hereafter' (1997
BIOGRAPHY
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The Sweet Hereafter

Background:

"I think with all directors there are ideas that recur, at least for the ones that have creative control of their films." Atom Egoyan

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Atom Egoyan garnered initial attention at the Sundance Film Festival for his earlier work before eventually breaking into the film scene with his commercially successful film, “The Sweet Hereafter” (1997). The Cairo-born, Canadian-bred director also gained praise for helming such films as "Next of Kin" (1984), "Family Viewing" (1988), "Speaking Parts" (1990), "The Adjuster" (1992), "Calendar" (1994), "Exotica" (1995), "Sarabande" (1997), "Felicia's Journey" (1999), "Ararat" (2002) and "Where the Truth Lies" (2005).

A four-time Cannes Film Festival winner and seven-time recipient of Canada's top Genie Awards who has also collected an impressive four awards from the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, Egoyan was a member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995 and jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996. The celebrated stylish filmmaker was also the head of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2003.

Egoyan now lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Armenian-Canadian actress Arsinee Khanjian, and their son, Arshile.


Armenian Roots

Childhood and Family:

Son to Armenian refugees Joseph Egoyan and Shushan Egoyan, Atom Egoyan was born in Cairo, Egypt, on July 19, 1960, but grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. His family eventually settled in Toronto, Canada. Egoyan was named Atom to mark the completion of Egypt's first nuclear reactor. He has one younger sister named Eve Egoyan who is a concert pianist based in Toronto. Their parents, who were painters, also ran a furniture store.

Egoyan studied International Relations and classical guitar at the University of Toronto, where he began to seriously explore the art and language of the cinema and started making his own films. While studying there, he made four short films: "Howard in Particular" (1979), "After Grad with Dad" (1980), "Peep Show" (1981) and "Open House" (1982). He graduated with a B.A. in International Relations in 1982. A member of the faculty at the European Graduate School, Egoyan has taught at the University of Toronto since September 2006, where he joined the faculty of arts and sciences as the dean's distinguished visitor in theater, film, music and visual studies.

Egoyan lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, Armenian-Canadian actress Arsinee Khanjian, who appears in all his movies. They have one son, Arshile (born September 20, 1993), named after painter Arshile Gorky. Two years after his birth, Egoyan made a short film, titled after his son, "A Portrait of Arshile" in 1995. Arshile attends the Toronto French School.

In September 1999, Egoyan was made an Officer of the Order of Canada by Governor-General Roméo Leblanc.


Ararat

Career:

Born to painter parents, Atom Egoyan initially planned on being a playwright and signed up with Toronto's Tarragon Theatre. However, after making the short films "Howard in Particular" (1979), "After Grad with Dad" (1980), "Peep Show" (1981) and "Open House" (1982) while at the University of Toronto, he became more interested in pursuing the filmmaker profession. The aspiring director enjoyed his first taste of recognition when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation agreed to broadcast one of his short film projects, “Open House” (1982).

Two years later, Egoyan made his feature film directing debut with "Next of Kin" (1984), a drama/comedy starring Patrick Tierney. His first effort garnered positive reviews and won an Interfilm Award - Honorable Mention at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival. He also earned a Genie nomination for Best Achievement in Direction.

He followed it up with "In This Corner" (1985), the 7-minute "Men: A Passion Playground" (1985) and the 30-minute "The Final Twist" (1987). He also received a Gemini nomination for Best Direction in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series for his work in the made-for-television movie “Looking for Nothing” (1988) and received his first big break with the dramatic film that he also produced, "Family Viewing" (1988), which used a variety of video images and centers on the breakdown and restoration of a dislocated family. It handed Egoyan a handful of awards, including Berlin International Film Festival's Interfilm Award - Honorable Mention and Toronto International Film Festival's Best Canadian Feature Film. It also earned him nominations at the Genie Awards, one for Best Achievement in Direction and one for Best Achievement in Film Editing.

The next year, Egoyan directed "Speaking Parts," a romantic drama about a struggling actor (played by Michael McManus) who becomes involved in the life of a scriptwriter (played by Egoyan's real-life wife Arsinee Khanjian). Shown at the New York Film Festival, the film received applause at the Vancouver International Film Festival where it won Best Canadian Screenplay. The film also received nominations at the Genie Awards for Best Achievement in Direction, Best Motion Picture, and Best Screenplay, Original.

Egoyan's garnered more praise for his next film projects. "The Adjuster," his drama/comedy film starring Elias Koteas, Arsinee Khanjian, Maury Chaykin, Gabrielle Rose, and Jennifer Dale, which won Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. It also received a Best Achievement in Direction nomination at the Genie Awards and a Golden St. George nomination at the Moscow International Film Festival.

Another Egoyan applauded work is "Calendar" (1993), a drama/comedy about an Armenian photographer who dumped by his wife for their driver/guide. Produced, written, directed, and edited by Egoyan (he also acted in the film), "Calendar" received praise and was nominated for Best Achievement in Direction and Best Screenplay at the Genie Awards.

When asked if the film was something of a turning point in his career, Egoyan responded, “It's funny you should ask that because I was thinking about it the other day. There were two features that I made for television in '93; one was 'Calendar' and the other was 'Gross Misconduct.' Those are the two projects when I started working with this idea of time shifting. 'Gross Misconduct' is a bit more conventional: There are titles and indications of where you are in terms of time. Now 'Calendar,' of course, was a lot more personal. There was a defining structure, but a lot of it was improvised and it was a little dream project for me. It did change things for me, because it was the first film where I used a more naturalistic acting style and I really realized that you can go further in inviting viewers' participation. This as opposed to something like 'Speaking Parts,' where the actors are quite catatonic and in this glacial freeze. I used to think the way to deal with issues of denial and emotional suppression was to actually have the performances really suppressed and stylized, but I think I've moved away from that. 'Calendar' was one of the films that helped me make that shift.

After acting opposite Bridget Fonda and Jessica Tandy in director Deepa Mehta's romantic comedy movie "Camilla" (1994), Egoyan returned to the director's chair and directed and wrote "Exotica" (1994), starring Bruce Greenwood, Mia Kirshner, Don McKellar, Arsinee Khanjian, and Elias Koteas. The film garnered rave reviews and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival as well as Best Achievement in Direction, Best Motion Picture, and Best Screenplay, Original at the Genie Awards. It was also nominated for Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival, a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, and Best Foreign Film at the Independent Spirit Awards.

The mid 1990s saw Egoyan team up with Patricia Rozema, serving as executive producer in director John L'Ecuyer's comedy film based on the autobiographical short story by Jim Carroll, "Curtis's Charm," and become a member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995 as well as member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996.

Egoyan made his stage opera directing debut with "Salome" (1996). Afterward, he directed the miniseries "Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach" (1997), which won a Special Jury Award at the São Paulo International Film Festival and nominated him for Best Direction in a Dramatic Program or Mini-Series at the Gemini Awards. Additionally, he helmed "The Hanging Garden" (1997), which won Best Canadian Film or Video over 60 Minutes at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Also in 1997, Egoyan gained widespread critical acclaim for his adaptation of Russell Banks' 1991 novel "The Sweet Hereafter.” Starring Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, and Bruce Greenwood, the film received Academy Award nominations for Best Director and for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It also scooped up awards at the Independent Spirit Awards (for Best Foreign Film), Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA; for Best Director), Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), Toronto International Film Festival (for Best Canadian Feature Film), Cannes Film Festival (FIPRESCI Prize, Grand Prize of the Jury, and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury), and Genie Awards (for Best Achievement in Direction, and Best Motion Picture).

Egoyan subsequently wrote and directed "Elsewhereless," a 1998 opera composed by Rodney Sharman, and helmed the dramatic thriller film "Felicia's Journey" (1999; starring Elaine Cassidy and Bob Hoskins), which was based on a prize winning 1994 novel by William Trevor. It won Best Screenplay, Adapted at the Genie Awards and was nominated for a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, Best Non-American Film at the Bodil Awards, Best Achievement in Direction at the Genie Awards, Best Screenplay, Adapted at the Golden Satellite Awards, and a Golden Spike at the Valladolid International Film Festival.

Entering the new millennium, Egoyan directed the film adaptation of Samuel Beckett's play "Krapp's Last Tape," starring John Hurt. In 2002, he devised the art installation "Steenbeckett," which opened in London in February, and was showered with praise one more time for co-producing, writing and directing "Ararat," which follows a director making a movie about the Armenian genocide of the early 20th Century and stars Charles Aznavour, Christopher Plummer, and David Alpay. Although the film-within-the-film was given only a limited release in most countries and failed to make a significant impact at the box office, it won Best Motion Picture at the Genie Awards and a WGC award at the Writers Guild of Canada. It was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Direction - Feature Film and Outstanding Achievement in a Feature Film at the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) Awards, Best Screenplay, Original at the Genie Awards, and Golden Spike at the Valladolid International Film Festival.

"Since no widely released dramatic film had ever cinematically presented the genocide, it was important that any film project would need to show what happened. We live in a popular culture that demands images before we allow ourselves to believe, and it would be unimaginable to deal with this history without presenting what the event looked like. 'Ararat' is a story about the transmission of trauma. It is cross-cultural and inter-generational. The grammar of the screenplay uses every possible tense available, from the past, present and future, to the subjective and the conditional. I firmly believe that this was the only way the story could be told. It is dense and complicated because the issues are so complex. Ultimately, one has to trust the viewer to sort out how everything is connected and how the collective human linkage of action and responsibility is both the wonder and tragedy of our condition." Atom Egoyan

Egoyan became the head of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2003, and the following year, he opened “Camera Bar,” a 50-seat cinema-lounge on Queen Street West in Toronto. He returned behind the camera in 2005 when he directed "Where the Truth Lies," the film version of the acclaimed novel by Rupert Holmes that stars Alison Lohman, Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth. Although the film generated some controversy for its NC-17 rating in the United States, it managed to win Best Screenplay, Adapted at the Genie Awards.

Recently, in 2007, Egoyan produced Sarah Polley's Golden Globe winning and Academy Award nominated feature film directorial debut, "Away From Her," starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. He also joined 34 directors from 5 continents and 25 different countries to make "Chacun Son Cinema," a collection of 33 short films in which each participant made their own three-minute film on the theme of the movie theater.


Awards:

  • Genie: Best Screenplay, Adapted, "Where the Truth Lies," 2006

  • Genie: Best Motion Picture, "Ararat," 2003

  • Writers Guild of Canada: WGC Award, "Ararat," 2003

  • Genie: Best Screenplay, Adapted, "Felicia's Journey," 2000

  • Independent Spirit: Best Foreign Film, "The Sweet Hereafter," 1998

  • Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA): Best Director, "The Sweet Hereafter," 1998

  • Writers Guild of Canada: WGC Award, "The Sweet Hereafter," 1998

  • Toronto International Film Festival: Best Canadian Feature Film, "The Sweet Hereafter," 1997

  • Cannes Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, Grand Prize of the Jury, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, "The Sweet Hereafter," 1997

  • Genie: Best Achievement in Direction, Best Motion Picture, "The Sweet Hereafter," 1997

  • São Paulo International Film Festival: Special Jury Award, "Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach," 1997

  • Atlantic Film Festival: Best Canadian Film or Video over 60 Minutes, "The Hanging Garden," 1997

  • Cannes Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, "Exotica," 1994

  • Genie: Best Achievement in Direction, Best Motion Picture, Best Screenplay, Original, "Exotica," 1994

  • Toronto International Film Festival: Best Canadian Feature Film, "Exotica," 1994

  • Toronto International Film Festival: Best Canadian Feature Film, "The Adjuster," 1991

  • Moscow International Film Festival: Special Jury Prize, "The Adjuster," 1991

  • Vancouver International Film Festival: Best Canadian Screenplay, "Speaking Parts," 1989

  • Berlin International Film Festival: Interfilm Award - Honorable Mention (Forum of New Cinema), "Family Viewing," 1988

  • Toronto International Film Festival: Best Canadian Feature Film, "Family Viewing," 1987

  • Mannheim-Heidelberg International Filmfestival: Interfilm Award - Honorable Mention, "Next of Kin," 1984

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