Ferrara, Abel 1952(?)–

views updated

Ferrara, Abel 1952(?)–

(Jimmy Boy L., Jimmy Laine)

PERSONAL: Born July 11, 1952 (some sources say July 19, 1951), in Bronx, NY; married, wife's name Nancy; children: Endira, Lucy (both adopted). Education: Attended Rockland Community College and State University of New York, Purchase.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Three Legged Cat Productions, Inc., 1355 Westwood Blvd., Ste. 214, Los Angeles, CA 90024.

CAREER: Director of films, including (and cinematographer) Nicky's Film, 1971; The Hold Up, 1972; Could This Be Love?, 1973; (and cinematographer) Not Guilty: For Keith Richards, 1977; (under name Jimmy Boy L., and editor) Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy, 1977; (and editor) Driller Killer, Rochelle, 1979; Ms. Forty-five (also known as Angel of Vengeance), Rochelle, 1981; Fear City (also known as Border and Ripper), Chevy Chase Distribution, 1985; China Girl, Vestron, 1987; Cat Chaser, LIVE, 1989; King of New York, New Line Cinema, 1990; Bad Lieutenant, LIVE, 1992; Body Snatchers, Warner Brothers, 1993; Dangerous Game (also known as Snake Eyes), 1993; The Addiction, October Films, 1995; The Funeral, October Films, 1996; California (short film), Toutankhamoun, 1996; The Blackout, Trimark Pictures, 1997; New Rose Hotel, 1998; 'R Xmas, Moonlight Films, 2001; Mary, 2005; and Go Go Tales, 2005. Producer of film White Boy (also known as Menace), 2002.

Actor in films, including (as man in junkyard) Nicky's Film, 1971; (uncredited voice) The Hold Up, 1972; (under the name Jimmy Laine, as old man) Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy, 1977; (under name Jimmy Laine; as Reno Miller), Driller Killer, Rochelle, 1979; (under name Jimmy Laine, as first rapist) Ms. Forty-five. (also known as Angel of Vengeance), Rochelle, 1981; At Sundance, 1995; (as himself) Dans les coulisses du clip "California,", 1996; (as himself) Abel/Asia, 1998; (as himself) Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty, 2003; (as himself) Épreuves d'artistes, 2004; and (as himself) Odyssey in Rome, 2005. As Jimmy Laine, musician for film The Blackout, Trimark Pictures, 1997; lyricist and singer, The Bad Lieutenant, LIVE, 1992.

Director of television series episodes, including "The Dutch Oven" and "The Home Invaders," Miami Vice, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1984–85; "Gladiator," Crime Story, NBC, 1986; and "Love on the Train," Subway Stories: Tales from the Underground, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1997. Contributed to The Loner (special), ABC, 1988, a music video by Ben Folds Five, and taped reading Closed on Account of Rabies.



(With Zoe Tamarlaine Lund) Bad Lieutenant, LIVE, 1992.

The Blackout, Trimark Pictures, 1997. (with Scott Pardo) 'R Xmas, Moonlight Films, 2001.

Author of screenplays Dangerous Game (also known as Snake Eyes), 1993; New Rose Hotel, 1998; and (with Simone Lageoles) Mary, 2005. Songwriter for films, including "Grand Street Stomp" for Driller Killer and "Chinatown Tonight" and "Hot and Bothered" for Cat Chaser.

SIDELIGHTS: Abel Ferrara began making amateur films as a teenager and developed a cult following with his first professional productions, including Driller Killer, the story of a mentally ill New York painter who drills into the heads of winos and other victims. Born in the Bronx, Ferrara was raised in upstate New York, where he first met screenwriter Nicholas St. John, with whom he has had a long-running professional relationship.

Beginning in the 1990s, Ferrara turned out films at a fast pace, including King of New York, starring Christopher Walken, and Bad Lieutenant, which features Harvey Keitel as a morally bankrupt New York City police officer. Ferrara directed a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which he called simply Body Snatcher and set on an army base in the South. Another frequent Ferrara collaborator, cinematographer Ken Kelsch, captured the action and violence of these and other films of the period, including Dangerous Game, also starring Keitel as a director and Ferrara's real-life wife, Nancy, as Keitel's wife. The Addiction, shot in black and white, features Lili Taylor as a philosophy Ph.D. candidate who becomes a vampire. Walken and Chris Penn play brothers seeking revenge for the killing of a gangster in The Funeral, set in 1930s New York. Nick Hasted noted in the Independent that both films, which were written by St. John, "are about the sin and redemption of creatures abandoned in the slime."

Ferrara did not fight in Vietnam, but he watched friends go to war, some never to return, and that period has manifested itself in many of his films. Hasted felt that "The Addiction is possibly the first Ferrara film to put that displaced obsession on screen. Lilli Taylor's vampiric excesses are mixed in with grim, blown-up photos in her philosophy classes, photos of Dachau, of Cambodia, and of My Lai, the village in which American troops massacred Vietnamese children…. The Addiction suggests that the impulses that make My Lais are in everybody." Hasted wrote that these two films "aren't only about sin. Like all his work with St. John, they're about redemption, too. The Addiction includes a moment where Lili Taylor's vampire is offered forgiveness as she takes communion. In The Funeral, Walken's gangster Ray is reminded, as he is about to shoot someone, that he does not have to pull the trigger."

New Rose Hotel is based on a story by William Gibson. Willem Dafoe is X, who with his friend Fox (Walken) tries to get a Japanese biologist named Hiroshi (Yoshitaka Amano) to leave his German company to work for a Japanese firm. 'R Xmas, which premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, is based on a story by Cassandra de Jesus and stars Drea de Matteo as "the wife" and Lillo Brancato as "the husband," the only names by which they are known. The film, set in Manhattan, encompasses just one day, Christmas Eve 1993, in the week before Mayor Rudy Giuliani took over from Mayor David Dinkins and cleaned up the city's notoriously ineffective police department. The Latino couple (she's Puerto Rican and he's Dominican) are typical upscale New Yorkers, except they also run a drug empire. When the husband is kidnapped, a thug (played by Ice-T) gives the wife an ultimatum.

Kevin Thomas and Manohla Dargis wrote in the Los Angeles Times that "'R Xmas never reaches the highs (and lows) of a Bad Lieutenant, but unlike … New Rose Hotel, neither is it inexplicable. If you look through the new film's haze of mood … you can discover an unlikely fable about New York." A New York Post reviewer noted that "Ferrara nicely juxtaposes the festivities of the season—lots of kids, Christmas trees and tinkling bells—with the sleazy world of drug dealing, which doesn't take a day off, even for Christmas. 'R Xmas introduces a new Ferrara—sophisticated and restrained. It's a look that becomes him."

Keitel is cast as Ray Ruby, the owner of a lap dance club in the comedy Go Go Tales. The cast also includes de Matteo, Robert Carlyle, Nino D'Angelo, and supermodels Naomi Campbell and Eva Herzigova as dancers. Ferrara directed Juliet Binoche in the title role in Mary, the story of an actress who becomes obsessed with Mary Magdalene after playing her in a film.

Ferrara has acted in some of his films and has composed, and sometimes sung, songs for the scores. He has also played himself in several films, including Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty. Leslie Felperin wrote in Daily Variety that the film "gets up so close and personal with one of U.S. cinema's most erratic talents that the focus, metaphorically and almost literally, gets slightly fuzzy." Calling the film "Fascinating and frustrating in near equal measures," Felperin concluded by saying that "Ferrara's intelligence and robust personality are vividly captured."



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Daily Variety, August 19, 2003, Leslie Felperin, review of Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty, p. 14.

Independent (London, England), April 3, 1997, Nick Hasted, "Sick Stories of Sin and Laughter," p. 8.

Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2002, Kevin Thomas and Manohla Dargis, review of 'R Xmas, p. E15.

New York Post, November 22, 2002, review of 'R Xmas, p. 57.


Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (May 9, 2005), "Abel Ferrara."


A Short Film about the Long Career of Abel Ferrara (video documentary short), Three Legged Cat Productions, 2004.

About this article

Ferrara, Abel 1952(?)–

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article