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Biography #2

Alex Proyas is a member of the latest generation of Australian filmmakers to burst upon the world since the belated Australian New Wave of the Seventies was inaugurated by the international success Peter Weir's aptly named The Last Wave.

Since then Australia has not only produced a score of world-class filmmakers who regularly work in Hollywood, it has also become the center of a thriving home-grown film industry, as exemplified by Proyas's return to Sydney, his home town, to undertake the daunting technical and logistical challenges of Dark City, which required the building of fifty elaborate, highly stylized sets at Sydney's new American-financed Fox Studios.

Born in Egypt, Proyas has lived in Sydney since he was three. Admitted to the Australian Film and Television School at the young age of seventeen, he attracted attention with his short film Groping, made during his first year, which won the Most Outstanding Short Film Award at the 1982 London Film Festival, the Greater Union Best Short Film Award at the Sydney Film Festival and the Boomerang Award at the 1982 Melbourne Film Festival. In 1987 Proyas made his debut feature, a post-apocalyptic western called Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, which also won festival awards but was not distributed in the United States.

Proyas first made an international reputation for himself as a sought-after maker of music videos and commercials. He founded his own Sydney-based production company, Meaningful Eye Contact, during his second year of film school, and subsequently signed with Propaganda Films in Los Angeles, then with U.K.-based Limelight Films, before re-signing with Propaganda in 1990. His videos (for INXS, Crowded House, Fleetwood Mac, Joe Jackson, Rick Springfield, Cutting Crew, Colin Hay and Yes, among others) and commercials (for a diverse list of international clients including Nike, Coca Cola, Pepsi, American Express, Swatch, Nissan, Kleenex, Phipps, Castrol, TDK, Hitachi, Verve, Philips and Dunlop) have won numerous awards all over the world.

"I always intended to do features, but I still do ads between features, says Proyas. It pays the bills, and it's fun. It's done in a month, and you get to look at a bunch of very exciting new images for a short time, so you don't get too sick of them."

Proyas's breakthrough as a feature director was the 1994 adaptation of James O'Barr's cutting edge punk comic-book novel The Crow, which will always be remembered as the last film of Brandon Lee, son of the legendary Bruce Lee, who lost his life in a gunshot accident during the last weeks of filming. Devastated by Lee's death, Proyas returned to Australia with the intention of abandoning the film, but came back a month later at the insistence of Lee's family to finish it. The resulting film was not only a commercial hit, but a critical success for its star, who achieved the posthumous status of a legend in his own right for his haunting portrayal of a man who returns from the dead to avenge his own murder.

Dark and intensely morbid, The Crow was proclaimed a triumph by Playboy and the best film of its kind since Batman by the Chicago Tribune's Roger Ebert. The visual brilliance of The Crow is a marvel, wrote Rolling Stone's Peter Travers.

The film echoed a vein in Proyas's short-form work that was best exemplified by his black-and-white short Eyeball for MTV, in which a man's eye pops out when he sneezes, rolling around the room and knocking against a Victrola that begins whining I've Got My Eye On You. (A Backstage article cited as another example of Proyas's Edward Gorey-esque humor a spot for AC Delco car care entitled Opera, which brought "new meaning to opera's infamous 'fat lady' time test, to highlight the longevity of AC Delco car parts. At the end we see the singer, covered with cobwebs, still dutifully singing.")

Proyas is currently writing a screenplay for a comedy set in the real world that he is enjoying as a rest after the two years of sitting in rooms with writers creating the rules for the completely invented world of Dark City and ways of communicating them economically to an audience. But science fiction fans should not despair: As part of his two-picture deal with New Line, Proyas is also committed to do a new version of the climactic film in Hammer Films' legendary Quatermass series, created by esteemed science fiction writer Nigel Kneale: Quatermass and the Pit, about the origin of Evil.

updated 01-Jan-2000