Egoyan, Atom 1960–
Egoyan, Atom 1960–
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Eh-goy-en"; born July 19, 1960, in Cairo, Egypt; immigrated to Canada, 1962; naturalized Canadian citizen; son of Joseph (a furniture store manager) and Shushan (a furniture store manager; maiden name, Devletian) Egoyan; married Arsinée Khanjian (an actress); children: Arshile (son). Education: Trinity College, University of Toronto, B.A., 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Classical guitar.
ADDRESSES: Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Office—Ego Film Arts, 80 Niagara St., Toronto, Ontario M5V 1C5, Canada. Agent—Robert Newman, International Creative Management (ICM), 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
CAREER: Director, producer, film editor, actor, and writer. Ego Film Arts, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, director, beginning 1982; also affiliated with Playwrights Unit, Toronto. Director of films, including After Grad with Dad, 1980; Peep Show, 1981; Men: A Passion Playground, 1985; The Final Twist, 1987; A Portrait of Arshile (short film), 1995; Bach Cello Suite #4: Sarabande, 1997; The Line (short film), 2000; and Diaspora (short film), 2001. Director of television movies, including In This Corner, 1985; Looking for Nothing, 1989; Gross Misconduct, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 1992; and Krapp's Last Tape, RTE, Channel 4, and the Irish Film Board, c. 2000; director of episodes of television series, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone; director of stage productions, including Salome, 1996. Actor in motion pictures, including Next of Kin, 1984; La boite a soleil, 1988; Calendar, Zeitgeist, 1992; and Camilla, Miramax, 1994; A Portrait of Arshile, 1995; and The Stupids, 1996. Cannes International Film Festival, member of jury, 1996.
MEMBER: Academy of Canadian Television and Radio Artists, Directors Guild of Canada.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grant from Hart House Film Board, University of Toronto; film festival prize, Canadian National Exhibition, for Howard in Particular; grants from Canadian Council and Ontario Arts Council; Gold Ducat Award, Mannheim International Film Week Festival, 1984, for Next of Kin; Toronto City Award for excellence in a Canadian production, Toronto Film Festival, 1987, International Critics Award for best feature film, Uppsala Film Festival, 1988, and Priz Alcan, Festival du Nouveau Cinema, 1988, all for Family Viewing; prize for best screenplay, Vancouver International Film Festival, 1989, for Speaking Parts; Special Jury Prize, Moscow Film Festival, Golden Spike, Valladolid Film Festival, Toronto City Award, Toronto Film Festival, and award for best Canadian film, Sudbury Film Festival, all 1991, all for The Adjuster; Golden Gate Award, San Francisco Film Festival, 1992, for Gross Misconduct; prize for best film in "new cinema," International Jury for Art Cinema, and prize from Berlin International Film Festival, both 1994, both for Calendar; Genie Awards, best picture, best director, and best writer, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, International Film Critics Award, Cannes Film Festival, Prix de la Critique for best foreign film, and Toronto City Award, Toronto International Film Festival, all 1994, all for Exotica; 1995 Toronto Arts Award; Chevalier Des Arts et Lettres, knighted by French government, 1997; Academy Award nominations for best adapted screenplay and best director, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1997, for The Sweet Hereafter; Genies (eight), including best picture and best director, 1997, for The Sweet Hereafter; Gemini Award for best short dramatic programs, 1998, for Sarabande; Outstanding Canadian Award, Armenian Community Centre, 1998; Officer of the Order of Canada, 1999; Anahid Literary Award, Armenian Centre of Columbia University, 1999; Genies (4), including best screenplay, 1999, for Felicia's Journey. Honorary doctorates from numerous universities and colleges, including Trinity College, University of Toronto, Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, University of Victoria, Brock University, Ontario College of Art, and Queen's University.
(And director) Speaking Parts, Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989.
(And director and producer) The Adjuster, Orion Classics, 1991.
(And director, producer, and coeditor) Calendar, Zeitgeist, 1992.
(And director and producer) Exotica, Miramax, 1994, Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
(And director and producer) The Sweet Hereafter, Fine Line Features, 1997.
(And director) Felicia's Journey (based on a novel by William Trevor), Artisan Entertainment, 1999.
(And director; and producer, with Robert Lantos) Ararat, Miramax, 2002, published with introduction by Egoyan as Ararat: The Shooting Script, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 2002.
(And director) Where the Truth Lies (based on a novel by Rupert Holmes), THINK Films, 2005.
Other films (as writer, director, producer, and film editor) include Next of Kin, 1984, and Family Viewing, 1987; writer and director of short films, including Howard in Particular, 1979, and Open House (broadcast as part of the television series Canadian Reflections), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1982; writer and director of "En passant," a segment of the film Montreal vu par, 1992.
Speaking Parts (essays, interviews, and script for Speaking Parts), Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Exotica (includes interview with Egoyan and script for Exotica), introduction by Geoff Pevere, Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
(Editor, with Ian Balfour) Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.
Author of plays, including "The Doll."
SIDELIGHTS: Atom Egoyan is a prominent independent filmmaker whose works reflect some of the more peculiar and alienating aspects of modern life. Egoyan was born in Egypt and moved with his family to Canada when he was only two years old. He studied at the University of Toronto, where his interests turned to filmmaking. His works at that time included the short films Howard in Particular and Open House. After college graduation Egoyan joined a playwright's group in Toronto. The appeal of filmmaking, however, proved too great for Egoyan, and after earning grants from Canadian arts councils he undertook the writing and directing of Next of Kin, his first feature film.
In Next of Kin, a listless Canadian youth leaves his troubled home and poses as the missing son of an Armenian couple, who respond by welcoming him into their lives. Next of Kin's themes of alienation and identity—coupled with Egoyan's technical precision, particularly his use of the camera as an overtly voyeuristic device—earned Egoyan the Gold Ducat Award from the Mannheim International Film Week Festival in 1984, but he otherwise received little attention as a new filmmaker.
Egoyan fared better with his second film, Family Viewing, which he completed after directing various episodes of atmospheric television shows such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. Like these programs, and Egoyan's own Next of Kin, Family Viewing is an often unnerving drama. It features a troubled husband who determines to eliminate evidence of his past by replacing home videos with footage of him and his lover engaged in sexual acts. In the course of these and other questionable activities, the protagonist runs afoul of his teenage son, who undertakes a scheme to restore the family to at least a modest degree of harmony and stability. Brian D. Johnson, who profiled Egoyan in Maclean's, described Family Viewing as a film that "explored video as a literal metaphor for distressed, disembodied memory," and he noted that the film brought attention to Egoyan "at film festivals around the world."
Speaking Parts, Egoyan's next film, shares with Next of Kin notions of deception and voyeurism. Here a hotel maid finds herself so obsessed with a coworker that she regularly watches films in which he appeared as a mere extra player. The aspiring actor, in turn, attempts to endear himself to a screenwriter who is staying at the hotel. The screenwriter, however, is preoccupied with the status of a script already submitted to a prospective film producer. New Statesman and Society contributor Suzanne Moore, noting Egoyan's own preoccupation with "the isolation of modern life and the proliferation of media images," declared that Speaking Parts "confirms [Egoyan] as a filmmaker of dark originality."
Egoyan followed Speaking Parts with The Adjuster, a characteristically peculiar drama in which an otherwise alienated insurance adjuster connects profoundly with his clients, many of whom he has placed together in a nearby motel, by tending their needs even as he draws out their stay by delaying the resolutions of their cases. The central character's wife, meanwhile, is a government censor who regularly absconds with the pornographic films she is supposed to be censoring. Nation reviewer Stuart Klawans deemed the movie "one of the very best nonmall films now playing."
In 1992 Egoyan completed Calendar, another sex-and-videotape drama in which a photographer is accompanied by his wife to Armenia, where he intends to photograph churches for inclusion in a calendar. In Armenia, the protagonist is dismayed by his own inability to connect to the land and culture of his ancestors. His wife, however, is less troubled, and manages to enter into a love affair with their tour guide. Interactions between the hero's wife and the tour guide are ironically preserved by the very video camera that the photographer is using to capture the Armenian imagery. Like Egoyan's previous films, Calendar fared well at film festivals, winning prizes from both the International Jury for Art Cinema and the Berlin International Film Festival.
Exotica, has more of a mysterious tone than either The Adjuster or Calendar. Exotica details the interactions, and memories, of various figures gathering regularly at a striptease club. Among this band of loners is a customer preoccupied with both his daughter's death and the wellbeing of a particular dancer, an announcer equally concerned with the dancer, and the dancer herself, who had been both the dead daughter's babysitter and the forlorn announcer's lover. The relationships between these and still other characters are slowly disclosed as the film proceeds, although the final sequences serve to deepen, rather than diminish, the characters' personal secrets and obsessions. An Entertainment Weekly reviewer described Exotica as "an elaborate shell game" and added that it is "a gorgeous tease." The scripts for both Speaking Parts and Exotica have been published in volumes that also feature commentaries on Egoyan's life and work.
Egoyan's 1997 film The Sweet Hereafter received wide critical acclaim. The film reflects a departure from Egoyan's artistic methods in at least one important regard, wrote Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic, "with no aesthetic preening." The film's themes, too, seem uncharacteristic, Kauffmann noted, namely the "love of children" and "the idea of community." The plot of The Sweet Hereafter revolves around the crash of a school bus that kills most of its young passengers and the impact of the crash on the small town where they had lived. The cohesion of the community is accented by an arrival from the outside world: a lawyer who seeks to acquire new clients among the grieving parents and who, despite the somewhat predatory nature of his visit, seems to be a decent man with problems of his own. The filmmaker was praised for both the screenplay and his direction. Kauffmann wrote: "Egoyan, reticently and honestly, makes us feel that the whole town is haunted by lost loves."
Egoyan's later films reflect the elements that have come to define his signature themes: alienation and intimacy, pain and healing, and the power of cameras, television, and other technological devices to alter the reality of everyday life. Felicia's Journey was described by Emanuel Levy in Variety as a "psychological drama" about "the fateful encounter between a naive adolescent girl and a serial killer." Patricia Hluchy, writing in MacLean's, called the film "a small masterpiece of literary creepiness, a tale of deception told with exhilarating insight." Nation contributor Stuart Klawans wrote that the film is "droll, disquieting, enigmatic." Noting that the movie was different in some ways from the novel it is based on, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News contributor Chris Hewitt wrote that it "remains faithful to its spirit." Hewitt went on to note: "It's the best kind of movie, the kind that helps us understand the behavior of people who aren't like us."
Egoyan's next film, Ararat is about the production of a holocaust movie in Egoyan's ancestral homeland of Armenia, where the crime of genocide took place. The film is "well mounted" in many respects, according to Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy. Tom McSorely, writing in Take One, noted: "As the worlds of these characters overlap and intersect, versions of the event itself multiply, and the contexts within which we are placed as spectators of these constructed versions blur the framelines of history, memory and representation." In a review in Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum called the film a "sweeping, ambitious, characteristically elliptical meditation on history, identity, and the Armenian Massacre of 1915." Hollywood Reporter contributor Michael Rechtshaffen wrote that the film is "an intricately scripted, beautifully photographed meditation on redemption and reconciliation."
Egoyan's film Where the Truth Lies investigates, via one character, writer Karen O'Connor, the story behind the breakup of the fictional, once-famous nightclub singing-comedy act of Lanny Morris and Vince Collins. Journalist O'Connor focuses on what really happened the night a dead woman was found in the duo's hotel suite in a bathtub, an event that hastened the team's eventual breakup. Owen Gleiberman, writing in Entertainment Weekly, called the movie a "sexy, tantalizing, and befuddling noir murder mystery." In a review in Back Stage, Simi Horwitz wrote that the film is a "dark spin on Hollywood life in the 1950s." Ray Bennet called the film "a big slick and sexy mystery" and "a sumptuous tale of show business hype and duplicity."
Egoyan also teamed up with Ian Balfour to edit Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film. In this anthology of thirty-two essays, writers expound on the theme that in some aspect every film is a foreign film. Sukhdev Sandhu, writing in the New Statesman, called the book "remarkable," noting that it "not only explores the history and contemporary usage of subtitles but uses them as a metaphor for discussing a very wide range of topics, from Borges's opinions on Citizen Kane … to White House tapes of Osama Bin Laden admitting his part in the destruction of the World Trade Center."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Ismert, Louise, and Michael Tarantino, Atom Egoyan: hors d'usage (installation art exhibition catalog), Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2002.
Newsmakers 2000, Issue 2, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Back Stage, October 20, 2005, Simi Horwitz, review of Where the Truth Lies, p. 7.
Back Stage West, November 25, 1999, Jamie Painter, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 6.
Cineaste, winter, 1999, Richard Porton, "The politics of Denial: An Interview with Atom Egoyan," p. 39, and Richard Porton, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 42; summer, 2005, Roy Grundmann, review of Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film, p. 79.
Daily Variety, July 3, 2002, Tamsen Tillson, review of Ararat, p. 51; May 16, 2005, Todd McCarthy, review of Where the Truth Lies, p. 4.
Dallas Morning News, October 27, 2005, Philip Wuntch, review of Where the Truth Lies.
Entertainment Weekly, March 24, 1995, review of Exotica, pp. 46-47; November 19, 1999, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 111; November 22, 2002, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Ararat, p. 54; October 21, 2005, Owen Gleiberman, review of Where the Truth Lies, p. 53.
Europe Intelligence Wire, October 7, 2002, review of Ararat.
Film Journal International, November, 2005, Lewis Beale, review of Where the Truth lies, p. 110.
Guardian (London, England), May 30, 1998, Suzie Mackenzie, "Life is Sweet," profile of author, p. 28; May 22, 2002, Derek Malcolm, review of Ararat, p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter, May 21, 2002, Michael Rechtshaffen, review of Ararat, p. 10; February 11, 2003, "Jury Head Egoyan Reflects on Berlin," interview with author, p. 10; May 16, 2005, Ray Bennet, review of Where the Truth Lies, p. 11; August 22, 2005, Gregg Kilday, "'Truth' Hurts as Thinkfilm Plans to Appeal NC-17," p. 3; September 8, 2005, Nicole Sperling, "NC-17 Upheld for Thinkfilm's 'Truth,'" p. 3.
Houston Chronicle, November 19, 1999, Jeff Millar, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 4; November 27, 2002, Kevin Thomas, review of Ararat, p. 9.
Independent, June 25, 1999, Michael Glover, review of Felicia's Journey, p. S13.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, November 17, 1999, Chris Hewitt, review of Felicia's Journey, p. K6684.
Maclean's, October 3, 1994, Brian D. Johnson, review of Family Viewing, pp. 45-47; September 13, 1999, Brian D. Johnson, "Atom's Journey: Canada's Celebrated Director Reveals the Rite of Passage behind His Cinematic Obsessions," p. 54; November 15, 1999, Patricia Hluchy, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 148; June 3, 2002, Brian D. Johnson, "Riviera Rendezvous: powered by David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan, Canada Delivers a Double Whammy at Cannes," p. 46; November 18, 2002, Brian D. Johnson, review of Ararat, p. 116.
Nation, July 13, 1992, Stuart Klawans, review of The Adjuster, p. 64; December 6, 1999, Stuart Klawans, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 50.
National Catholic Reporter, November 29, 2002, Joseph Cunneen, review of Ararat, p. 16.
New Republic, December 8, 1997, Stanley Kauffmann, review of The Sweet Hereafter, p. 30; December 16, 2002, Stanley Kauffmann, review of Ararat, p. 26.
New Statesman, January 1, 2005, Sukhdev Sandhu, review of Subtitles, p. 89.
New Statesman and Society, September 22, 1989, Suzanne Moore, review of Speaking Parts, p. 43.
New Yorker, November 18, 2002, Anthony Lane, review of Ararat.
People, October 24, 2005, review of Where the Truth Lies, p. 33.
Sarasota Herald Tribune, March 17, 2000, Amanda Schurr, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 20.
Sunday Times (London, England), March 10, 2002, Waldemar Januszczak, "The Best Canadian Art Stays with You for Ever. The worst …; Art," review of art exhibit by the author, p. 10.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), March 10, 2002, John McEwen, review of exhibition at the Museum of Mankind, p. 12.
Take One, September-November, 2002, Tom McSorley, review of Ararat, p. 8.
United Press International, September 14, 1999, review of Sandy McLean, Felica's Journey, p. 1008256u6249.
Variety, May 24, 1999, Emanuel Levy, review of Felicia's Journey, p. 65; June 3, 2002, Todd McCarthy, review of Ararat, p. 26; October 2, 2000, Dennis Harvey, review of Krapp's Last Tape, p. 24; May 13, 2002, Brendan Kelly, "'Ararat' Draws Ire: Egoyan's Hot Button Screens Out of Competition," p. 14; June 3, 2002, Todd McCarthy, review of Ararat, p. 26; May 23, 2005, Todd McCarthy, review of Where the Truth Lies, p. 35.
WWD, October 10, 2005, Jacob Bernstein, "Atomic Reaction," interview with author, p. 24.
Atom Egoyan Home Page, http://www.egofilmarts.com (February 1, 2006).
Kamera.co.uk, http://www.kamera.co.uk/ (February 1, 2006), Monika Maurer, "A Quick Chat with Atom Egoyan."
Onion A.V. Club, http://www.theavclub.com/ (November 18, 1999), "Atom Egoyan."