Fred Schepisi biography
The Eye of the Storm Director
Date of Birth: December 26, 1939
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Fred Schepisi considered becoming a priest in his early teens, but left the seminary where he was studying at age 15. He landed a job at an advertising agency, working his way up from a messenger to copywriter. Eventually, he began directing TV commercials for the company, then left to start his own agency called The Film House. Schepisi’s first foray into filmmaking was in 1973, with a 30-minute piece called The Priest, as a segment of the feature film, Libido. His work earned him a Silver Award from the Australian Film Institute. He next made his own full-length feature, The Devil’s Playground (1976), which drew on his 18-month stay at a Catholic monastery as a teen. His second feature film, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), was nominated for three Australian Film Institute awards as well as the Cannes Film Festival’s Golden Palm award.
His success drew Hollywood’s attention, and Schepisi found himself with several offers. He made the move to California, and wound up directing an American western, Barbarosa (1982), starring Willie Nelson and Gary Busey. He directed several more American films, including the comedy Roxanne (1987) starring Steve Martin, before returning to Australia for A Cry in the Dark (1988), based on the true story of a woman who claimed her baby had been stolen by a dingo, only to be charged with murdering the child herself. The film featured outstanding performances by Meryl Streep and Sam Neill as the child’s parents, and it went on to win Australian Film Institute awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay awards.
Schepisi returned to the States for his next film, The Russia House (1990), based on the novel by John Le Carré and starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer. He followed that up with several more American films, including Six Degrees of Separation (1993), starring Stockard Channing and I.Q. (1994), starring Walter Matthau, Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins. He flew to England to helm the director’s chair for Last Orders (2002), starring Michael Caine, then returned to the States to direct three generations of the Douglas family (Kirk, his son Michael, and Michael’s son Cameron) in A Few Good Years (2002).
Next up for Schepisi is Picasso at the Lapin Agile (2003), based on the play by comedian Steve Martin, starring Martin and Kevin Kline.