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Alexander Cox (born Bebingtonmarker, Merseyside, 15 December 1954) is a Britishmarker film director, screenwriter, nonfiction author and sometime actor, notable for his idiosyncratic style and approach to scripts. Cox has previously cited Luis Buñuel and Akira Kurosawa as influences, as well as the great Western movie directors Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, and John Ford. Cox also wrote a book on the history of the genre called 10,000 Ways to Die. While he once directed films for Universal Pictures, such as Repo Man and Walker, since the late 1980s, he has found himself on a self-described blacklist, and turned to producing independent films. Cox is an atheist. He was originally set to direct Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but was replaced by Terry Gilliam due to creative differences with Hunter S. Thompson. By August 2009, Cox had announced completion of Repo Chick, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival the following month, but he remained ambivalent as to whether the film would ever be distributed to theaters. His previous film, Searchers 2.0, was not released theatrically, and only appears on DVD in Japan.

Film career

Hollywood and major studio period (1978-1987)

Cox attended law school at Oxford, but left to pursue a film career. Seeing difficulties in the UK film scene at the time, Cox first came to Los Angelesmarker to attend film school at UCLAmarker in 1977. Here he produced his first film, Edge City/Sleep is for Sissies, a 40-minute surreal short about an artist struggling against society. After graduation, he formed Edge City Productions with two friends with the intention of producing low-budget feature films.

Cox wrote a screenplay for Repo Man, which he hoped to produce for a budget of $70,000. While seeking this funding, he met Michael Nesmith, who agreed to produce the film, and convinced Universal Studios to back the project with a budget greatly increased to over a million dollars. During the course of the film's production, management changed, and new management had far less faith in the project. The initial theatrical release was limited to Chicago, followed by Los Angeles, and was short lived. After the success of the soundtrack album (notable for featuring many popular LA punk bands), there was enough interest in the film to earn a re-release in a single theater in New York City. This ran for 18 months and eventually earned $4,000,000, despite arriving after the movie was already on video and cable.

Continuing his fascination with punk music, Cox's next film was an independent feature shot in London and Los Angeles, following the career and death of bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, initially title Love Kills and later renamed Sid and Nancy. It was met warmly by critics and fans, though criticized by some for its inaccuracies. The production of this movie also sparked a relationship with Joe Strummer of The Clash, who would continue to collaborate with the director on his next two films.

Cox had long been interested in Nicaraguamarker and the Sandinistas (both Repo Man and Edge City made references to Nicaragua and/or Latin American revolution), and visited in 1984. The following year, he hoped to shoot a concert film there featuring The Clash, The Pogues, and Elvis Costello. When he couldn't get backing, he decided instead to write a film that they would all act in. The film became Straight to Hell. Collaborating with Dick Rude (who also co-starred beside Strummer, Sy Richardson, and Courtney Love), he imagined the film as a spoof of the Spaghetti Western genre, filmed in Almeria, Spainmarker, where many classic Italian westerns were shot. Straight to Hell was widely panned critically, but successful in Japan and retains a cult following.

Continuing his interest in Nicaragua, Cox took on a more overtly political project, with the intention of filming in Nicaragua. He asked Rudy Wurlitzer to pen the screenplay, which followed the life of William Walker, set against a back drop of anachronisms that drew parallels between the story and modern American intervention in the area. The $6,000,000 production was backed by Universal, but the completed film was too political and too violent for the studios tastes, and the movie went without promotion. When Walker failed to perform at the box office, it ended the directors involvement with Hollywood studios, and led to a period of several years in which Cox would not direct a single film. Despite this, Cox and some critics maintain that it is his best film.

Mexican period (1988-1996)

Following the commercial failure of Walker, Alex Cox struggled to find feature work. Effectively blacklisted he finally got financial backing for a feature from investors in Japan, where his movies had been successful on video. Cox had scouted locations in Mexico during the pre-production of Walker and decided he wanted to shoot a movie there, with a local cast and crew, in Spanish. Producer Lorenzo O'Brien penned the script. Inspired by the style of Mexican directors including Arturo Ripstein, he shot most of the movie in plano secuencia; long, continuous takes shot with a hand-held camera. El Patrullero was completed and released in 1991, but struggled to find its way into theaters.

Shortly after this, Cox was invited to adapt a Jorge Luis Borges story of his choice for the BBC. He chose Death and the Compass. Despite being a British production and an English-language film, he convinced his producers to let him shoot in Mexico Citymarker. This film, like his previous Mexican production, made extensive use of long-takes. The completed 55-minute film aired on the BBC in 1992.

Cox had hoped to expand this into a feature-length film, but the BBC was uninterested. Japanese investors gave him $100,000 to expand the movie in 1993, but the production ran over-budget, allowing no funds for post-production. To secure fund, Cox directed a "work for hire" project called The Winner. The movie was edited extensively without Cox's knowledge, and he had his name removed from the credits as a result, but the money was enough for Cox to fund the completion of Death and the Compass. The finished, 82-minute feature received a limited theatrical release in the US, where the TV version had not aired, in 1996.

Liverpool period (1997-2006)

In 1996, producer Michael Nesmith hired Alex Cox to write and direct an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. After creative disagreements with the producer and Thompson, he was fired from the project, and his script rewritten when Terry Gilliam took over the film (Cox later sued successfully for a writing credit, as much of his outline had been kept).

In 1997, Alex Cox made a deal with Dutch producer Wim Kayzer to produce another dual TV/feature production. Initially, Cox had hoped to shoot in Mexico, but later decided to set his story in Liverpoolmarker, Rotterdammarker, Tokyomarker and Almeria, Spainmarker. The story follows businessmen in Liverpool who leave their hotel in search of food and slowly drift further from their starting point, all the while believing they are still in Liverpool. The film was completed for a small budget of $250,000, and did not receive a theatrical release in America. Following this, Cox moved backed to Liverpool and became interested in creating films there.

Cox had long been interested in the Jacobean play, The Revenger's Tragedy, and upon moving back to England, decided to pursue adapting it to a movie. Collaborating with fellow Liverpudlian screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, the story was recast in the near future, following an unseen war. This adaptation consisted primarily of the original play's dialog, with some additional bits written in a more modern tone. The film is also notable for its soundtrack, composed by Chumbawamba.

Following this, Cox directed a short film set in Liverpool for the BBC called I'm a Juvenile Delinquent - Jail Me!. The 30-minute film satirized reality telivision as well as the high volume of petty crime in Liverpool which, according to Cox, is largely recreational.

Microfeature period (2007-Present)

In 2006, Alex Cox tried to get funding for a series of eight very low budget features set in Liverpool and produced by local talent. The project was not completed, but the director grew interested in pursuing the idea of a movie made for less than £100,000. He had originally hoped to shoot Repo Man on a comparable budget, and hoped that the lower overhead would mean greater creative freedom.

Searchers 2.0 --named for, but in no way based on The Searchers -- became Cox's first film for which he has sole writing credit since Repo Man, and marked his return to the comedy genre. A road movie and a revenge story, it tells of two actors, loosely based on and played by Del Zamora and Ed Pansullo, who travel from Los Angeles to a desert movie screening in Monument Valley in the hopes of avenging abuse inflicted on them by a cruel screenwriter, Fritz Frobisher (Sy Richardson). Although the film was unable to achieve a release in America or Europe, Cox claimed the experience of making a movie with a smaller crew and less restrictions was energizing.

Alex Cox had attempted to get a Repo Man sequel, titled Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday, produced in the mid '90s, but the project fell apart. For his next microfeature, he wrote a fresh attempt at a Repo follow-up, although it contained no recurring characters, so as to preserve Universal's rights to the original. Repo Chick was filmed entirely against a green screen, with backgrounds of digitial composites, live action shots, and miniatures matted in afterwards, to produce an artificial look. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Sept 9, 2009.

Partial list of works

Feature films



Documentaries



Television



Books

  • 10,000 Ways to Die (2008)
  • X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker (2008)


References

External links




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