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de Palma, Brian

DE PALMA, Brian


Nationality: American. Born: Newark, New Jersey, 11 September 1940. Education: Attended Columbia University, New York, and Sarah Lawrence College (writing fellowship), 1963–64. Family: Married 1) actress Nancy Allen, 1979 (divorced, 1984); 2) producer Gale Anne Hurd (divorced); 3) Darnell De Palma, 1995 (divorced, 1997); one child. Career: Directed first feature, Murder a la Mod, 1967; also film teacher and instructor. Awards: Rosenthal Foundation award for Woton's Wake, 1963; Silver Bear Award, Berlin Festival, for Greetings, 1969.


Films as Director:

1961

Icarus (short); 660214, the Story of an IBM Card (short)

1963

Woton's Wake (short)

1964

Jennifer (short)

1965

Bridge That Gap (short)

1966

Show Me a Strong Town and I'll Show You a Strong Bank (short); The Responsive Eye (doc)

1967

Murder a la Mod (+ sc, ed)

1968

Greetings (+ co-sc, ed)

1969

The Wedding Party (+ pr, ed, co-sc; release delayed from 1966)

1970

Dionysus in '69 (co-d, co-ph, co-ed; completed 1968); Hi, Mom! (+ co-sc)

1972

Get to Know Your Rabbit

1973

Sisters (Blood Sisters) (+ co-sc)

1974

Phantom of the Paradise (+ sc)

1976

Obsession (+ co-sc); Carrie

1978

The Fury

1979

Home Movies

1980

Dressed to Kill (+ sc)

1981

Blow Out (+ sc)

1983

Scarface

1984

Body Double (+ pr, sc)

1986

Wise Guys

1987

The Untouchables

1989

Casualties of War

1990

The Bonfire of the Vanities (+ pr, role as Prison Guard)

1992

Raising Cain (+ sc)

1993

Carlito's Way


1996

Mission: Impossible

1998

Snake Eyes (+ co-sc, pr)

2000

Mission to Mars; Mr. Hughes



Publications


By DE PALMA: articles—

Interview in The Film Director as Superstar, by Joseph Gelmis, Garden City, New York, 1970.

Interview with E. Margulies, in Action (Los Angeles), September/October 1974.

"Phantoms and Fantasies," an interview with A. Stuart, in Films andFilming (London), December 1976.

"Things That Go Bump in the Night," an interview with S. Swires, in Films in Review (New York), August/September 1978.

Interview with Serge Daney and Jonathan Rosenbaum, in Cahiers duCinéma (Paris), April 1982.

"Double Trouble," an interview with Marcia Pally, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1984.

"Brian De Palma's Guilty Pleasures," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1987.

"Brian De Palma," an interview with Robert Plunket, in Interview (New York), August 1992.

Interview with Isabelle Huppert, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 477, March 1994.

Interview with Laurent Vachaud and Pierre Berthomieu, in Positif (Paris), no. 455, January 1999.


On DE PALMA: books—

Nepoti, Roberto, Brian De Palma, Florence, 1982.

Bliss, Michael, Brian De Palma, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1983.

Dworkin, Susan, Double De Palma: A Film Study with Brian DePalma, New York, 1984, revised edition, 1990.

Wood, Robin, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, New York, 1986.

Bouzereau, Laurent, The De Palma Cut: The Films of America's MostControversial Director, New York, 1988.

MacKinnon, Kenneth, Misogyny in the Movies: The De PalmaQuestion, New York, 1990.

Salamon, Julie, The Devil's Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goesto Hollywood, Boston, 1991.


On DE PALMA: articles—

Rubinstein, R., "The Making of Sisters," in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), September 1973.

Henry, M., "L'Oeil du malin (à propos de Brian de Palma)," in Positif (Paris), May 1977.

Brown, R. S., "Considering de Palma," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), July/August 1977.

Matusa, P., "Corruption and Catastrophe: De Palma's Carrie," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Fall 1977.

Garel, A., "Brian de Palma," in Image et Son (Paris), December 1977.

Byron, Stuart, "Rules of the Game," in Village Voice (New York), 5 November 1979.

Jameson, R.T., "Style vs. 'Style'," in Film Comment (New York), March/April 1980.

Button, S., "Visceral Poetry," in Films (London), November 1982.

Eisen, K., "The Young Misogynists of American Cinema," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 8, no. 1, 1983.

Brown, G. A., "Obsession," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), December 1983.

Rafferty, T., "De Palma's American Dreams," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1984.

Fisher, W., "Re: Writing: Film History: From Hitchcock to De Palma," in Persistence of Vision (Maspeth, New York), Summer 1984.

Denby, David, and others, "Pornography: Love or Death?" in FilmComment (New York), November/December 1984.

Braudy, Leo, "The Sacraments of Genre: Coppola, De Palma, Scorsese," in Film Quarterly (Los Angeles), Spring 1986.

Hugo, Chris, "Three Films of Brian De Palma," in Movie (London), Winter 1989.

White, Armond, "Brian De Palma, Political Filmmaker," Film Comment (New York), May/June 1991.

Muse, Eben J., "The Land of Nam: Romance and Persecution in Brian De Palma's Casualties of War," in Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 3, 1992.

Spear, Bruce, "Political Morality and Historical Understanding in Casualties of War," in Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 3, 1992.

Barry, Norman, in Radio Times (London), 5 November 1994.

Barry, Norman, in Radio Times (London), 10 June 1995

Ingersoll, Earl G. "The Constitution of Masculinity in Brian De Palma's Film Casualties of War," in Journal of Men's Studies, August 1995.

Uffelen, René van, "Realisme even buiten spel. Het Topshot," in Skrien (Amsterdam), October-Noevenber 1995.

Scorsese, Martin, "Notre génération," March 1996

Hampton, Howard, "Rerun for Your Life: TV's Search and Destroy Mission," in Film Comment (New York), July-August 1996.

Vaz, Mark Cotta, "Cruising the Digital Backlot," in Cinefex (Riverside), September 1996.

Krohn, Bill, "Tornadoes, martiens et ordinateurs," in Cahiers duCinéma (Paris), September 1996.

Carlson, Jerry W., "Down the Streets of Time: Puerto Rico and New York City in the Films Q&A and Carlito's Way," in Post Script (Commerce), vol. 16, no. 1, Fall 1996.

Magid, Ron, "Making Mission Impossible," in American Cinemtographer (Hollywood), December 1996.

Librach, Ronald S., "Sex, Lies, and Audiotape: Politics and Heuristics in Dressed to Kill and Blow Out," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), July 1998.

Eisenreich, Pierre, "Y a-t-il une vie après le stéréotype?" in Positif (Paris), no. 456, February 1999.


* * *

The conventional dismissal of Brian De Palma—that he is a mere "Hitchcock imitator"—though certainly unjust, provides a useful starting point, the relation being far more complex than such a description suggests. It seems more appropriate to talk of symbiosis than of imitation: if De Palma borrows Hitchcock's plot-structures, the impulse is rooted in an authentic identification with the Hitchcock thematic that results in (at De Palma's admittedly infrequent best) valid variations that have their own indisputable originality. Sisters and Dressed to Kill are modeled on Psycho; Obsession and Body Double on Vertigo; Body Double also borrows from Rear Window, as does Blow Out. The debt is of course enormous, but—at least in the cases of Sisters, Obsession, and Blow Out, De Palma's three most satisfying films to date—the power and coherence of the films testifies to the genuineness of the creativity.

Central to the work of both directors are the tensions and contradictions arising out of the way in which gender has been traditionally constructed in a male-dominated culture. According to Freud, the human infant, while biologically male or female, is not innately "masculine" or "feminine": in order to construct the socially correct man and woman of patriarchy, the little girl's masculinity and the little boy's femininity must be repressed. This repression tends to be particularly rigorous and particularly damaging in the male, where it is compounded by the pervasive association of "femininity" with castration (on both the literal and symbolic levels). The significance of De Palma's best work (and, more powerfully and consistently, that of Hitchcock before him) lies in its eloquent evidence of what happens when the repression is partially unsuccessful. The misogyny of which both directors have been accused, expressing itself in the films' often extreme outbursts of violence against women (both physical and psychological), must be read as the result of their equally extreme identification with the "feminine" and the inevitable dread that such an identification brings with it.

Sisters is concerned single-mindedly with castration: the symbolic castration of the woman within patriarchy, the answering literal castration that is the form of her revenge. The basis concept of female Siamese twins, one active and aggressive, one passive and submissive, is a brilliant inspiration, the action of the entire film arising out of the attempts by men to destroy the active aspect in order to construct the "feminine" woman who will accept her subordination. The aggressive sister Dominique (dead, but still alive as Danielle's unconscious) is paralleled by Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), the assertive young reporter who usurps the accoutrements of "masculinity" and eventually assumes Dominique's place in the extraordinary climactic hallucination sequence in which the woman's castration is horrifyingly reasserted. Sisters, although weakened by De Palma's inability to take Grace seriously enough or give the character the substance the allegory demands, remains his closest to a completely satisfying film: the monstrousness of woman's oppression under patriarchy and its appalling consequences for both sexes have never been rendered more vividly. Blow Out rivals it in coherence and surpasses it in sensitivity: one would describe it as De Palma's masterpiece were it not for one unpardonable and unfortunately extended lapse—the entirely gratuitous sequence depicting the murder of the prostitute in the railway station, which one can account for only in terms of a fear that the film was not "spicy" enough for the box office (it failed anyway). It can stand as a fitting counterpart to Sisters, a rigorous dissection of the egoism fostered in the male by the culture's obsession with "masculinity." It is clear that Travolta's obsession with establishing the reality of his perceptions has little to do with an impersonal concern for truth and everything to do with his need to establish and assert the symbolic phallus at whatever cost—the cost involving, crucially, the manipulation and exploitation of a woman, eventually precipitating her death. Since Body Double—a tawdry ragbag of a film that might be seen as De Palma's gift to his detractors—De Palma seems to have abandoned the Hitchcock connection, and it is not yet clear that he has found a strong thematic with which to replace it. The Untouchables seems a work of empty efficiency; it is perhaps significant that one remains uncertain whether to take the patriarchal idyll of Elliott Ness's domestic life straight or as parody. Casualties of War is more interesting, though severely undermined by the casting of the two leads: one grasps the kind of contrast De Palma had in mind, but it is not successfully realized in that between Sean Penn's shameless mugging and Michael J. Fox's intractable blandness. Like most Hollywood movies on Vietnam, the film suffers from the inability to see Asians in terms other than an undifferentiated "otherness": it is symptomatic that the two Vietnamese girls, past and present, are played by the same actress. His return to the film of political protest (and specifically to the Vietnam War) brings De Palma's career to date full circle: his early work in an independent avant-garde (Greetings, Hi, Mom!) is too often overlooked. But nothing in Casualties of War, for all the strenuousness of its desire to disturb, achieves the genuinely disorienting force of the remarkable "Be Black, Baby" sections of Hi, Mom!. Following Casualties of War—a film to which he had a deep personal commitment, whatever its success or failure as a comment upon the Vietnam War, violence against women, or the power of traumatic memory—De Palma seemed intent upon remaking his own public image by choosing an unusual property for him, the social satire The Bonfire of the Vanities. He did put a personal stamp upon the material, most notably (and paradoxically) by paying tribute to the Orson Welles of Touch of Evil, opening the film with an extremely long and intricate tracking shot and using distorting wide-angle lenses almost constantly (though less imaginatively than Welles). Unfortunately the visual flair did nothing to compensate for some disastrous miscastings and craven attempts to soften the book's scathing cynicism, or for the unfocused script in general and De Palma's own inability to do satiric comedy without obnoxious overemphasis. Raising Cain, a return to more comfortable territory—the lurid pop-Freudian thriller, the genre through which De Palma had achieved greatest fame and critical admiration—puzzled those who claimed he was merely repeating himself. But for connoisseurs it was intentionally a delicious self-parody—or at least a virtuoso filmmaker's display of his special talents—most flagrantly in a spectacularly choreographed steadicam shot in which a psychiatrist spouting endless exposition is always on the verge of walking out of the frame, and in the delirious slow-motion climax.

Carlito's Way again harked back to earlier De Palma successes, this time to crime drama, with an emotional intensity somewhere between the hallucinatory Scarface and the more coolly impersonal The Untouchables. If the film ultimately could not rise beyond the conventional trajectory of its plot—ex-hood trying to go straight is drawn back into crime by his old buddy, despite the outreach of a saintly woman—it at least boasted a brilliant impersonation of a crooked lawyer by Sean Penn and some splendid De Palma set pieces, like the chase through Grand Central Terminal. The film reminds us that De Palma is unsurpassed among film directors in portraying furies: not the collective surges of violence rendered by a Sam Peckinpah, but the private demons unleashed within or witnessed by (the same thing on dream level) "ordinary" people as well as crime kings and raving lunatics. De Palma's cinematic flourishes have often been called "operatic," but perhaps the better analogy is with the Lisztian keyboard virtuoso, someone who can tap profound emotional depths one moment but skitters over the surface at other times; who frequently improvises upon others' themes but is always unmistakably himself, for better or worse.

—Robin Wood, updated by Joseph Milicia

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De Palma, Brian

Brian De Palma, 1940–, American film director, b. Newark, N.J. Heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, he is especially known for bloody, shocking, and suspenseful thrillers. Sometimes accused of voyeurism and misogyny, De Palma has also been praised for his visual stylishness and technical virtuosity. His first feature, the comedy The Wedding Party (1963, released 1969), was followed by several other unprepossessing movies. He became a major Hollywood director with the release of Carrie (1976), adapted from a Stephen King novel, a film that is alternately sensitive, humorous, and horrifying. His other dark shockers include the Hitchcockesque Dressed to Kill (1980), Blowout (1981), and Body Double (1984); he also directed the gangster epics Scarface (1983) and The Untouchables (1987), a major box-office hit. Among his later films are Casualties of War (1989), Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Mission: Impossible (1996), Snake Eyes (1998), and Mission to Mars (2000). De Palma also wrote and directed Raising Cain (1992), Femme Fatale (2002), and Redacted (2007), a violent, provocative, and confrontational film about the Iraq war.

See Brian De Palma: Interviews (2003), ed. by L. F. Knapp; studies by M. Bliss (1983), S. Dworkin (1984), L. Bouzereau (1988), K. MacKinnon (1990), and E. Peretz (2007).

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De Palma, Brian

Brian De Palma

Director and screenwriter

Born Brian Russell De Palma, September 11, 1940, in Newark, NJ; son of Anthony (an orthopedic surgeon) and Vivenne (also Vivienne) De Palma; married Nancy Allen (an actress), 1979 (divorced, 1983); married Gail Anne Hurd (a film producer), 1991 (divorced, 1993); married Darnell Gregorio, 1995 (divorced, 1996); children: Lolita (with Hurd), Piper (with Gregorio). Education: Graduated from Columbia University, 1962; enrolled in the master of fine arts program at Sarah Lawrence, 1962–64.

Addresses: Contact—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

Career

Director of films, including: Icarus, 1960; Woton's Wake, 1962; Greetings, 1968; The Wedding Party, 1969; Dionysus in '69, 1970; Hi, Mom!, 1970; Get to Know Your Rabbit, 1972; Sisters, 1973; Phantom of Paradise, 1974; Obsession, 1976; Carrie, 1976; The Fury, 1978; Home Movies, 1980; Dressed to Kill, 1980; Blow Out, 1981; Scarface, 1983; Body Double, 1984; Wise Guys, 1986; The Untouchables, 1987; Casualties of War, 1989; The Bonfire of the Vanities, 1990; Raising Cain, 1992; Carlito's Way, 1993; Mission: Impossible, 1996; Snake Eyes, 1998; Mission to Mars, 2000; Femme Fatale, 2002; The Black Dahlia, 2006.

Awards: Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award, National Society of Film Critics, for student film Woton's Wake, 1963; Silver Berlin Bear, Berlin International Film Festival, for Greetings, 1969; Grand Prize, Avoriaz Film Festival, for Phantom of the Paradise, 1975; Grand Prize, Avoriaz Film Festival, for Carrie, 1977; Blue Ribbon Award for best foreign language film, for The Untouchables, 1988.

Sidelights

As a director, Brian De Palma is known for following his own dark muse. Over the course of his four-decade filmmaking career, De Palma has turned out some of the movie industry's most remembered—and controversial—films. De Palma's creepy yet showy films are populated with mind-boggling characters and twisty plots that leave moviegoers feeling slightly unhinged. In his 1976 stunner Carrie, the main character crucifies her mother with kitchen utensils; in 1983's Scarface, a man's arm is removed with a chainsaw, and in 1984's Body Double, an assailant uses a power drill to murder a woman. Often knocked for being too violent, De Palma is a director critics either love or hate. His technical skills and artful approach to moviemaking, however, make it hard to simply dismiss him as a second-tier director.

De Palma was born into an Italian-Catholic family on September 11, 1940, in Newark, New Jersey, the youngest of three boys. When De Palma was five, the family relocated to Philadelphia, where he attended a Quaker school but received a religious education in the Presbyterian church. Growing up, De Palma had little interest in movies. Instead, physics occupied his young mind and he spent his teenage years entering—and winning—science fairs. He also tooled around with electronics, designing his own computers. Another hobby included watching his father, an orthopedic surgeon, perform surgical procedures. In a 1975 interview with David Bartholomew, reprinted in the book Brian De Palma: Interviews, De Palma admitted that when he was young, he was more scientist than artist. "I thought science, now that was something really important. I was brought up in the '50s when going to the moon was the most important thing man would ever have to do."

After De Palma graduated from a private high school in the late 1950s, he enrolled at Columbia University intent on studying physics and technology. Once there, De Palma discovered movies—he became hooked after watching Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. De Palma soon turned his back on science to concentrate on drama and acted in a few plays at Columbia. The idea of filmmaking so captivated De Palma that he sold his electronic equipment to buy film equipment, thereby trading one preoccupation for another.

De Palma's first film was the mid-length Icarus in 1960. Two years later, he released Woton's Wake, which follows the exploits of a sculptor who finds that a piece of his abstract art has morphed into a woman. The 30-minute flick, which ends with a mushroom cloud, won the 1963 Rosenthal Foundation Award. After graduating from Columbia, De Palma attended Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, New York, and spent 1962 to 1964 enrolled in its master of fine arts program. While there he made The Wedding Party, a semi-improvised comedy that marked Robert De Niro's first film appearance. The film, however, was not released until 1969.

Looking at De Palma's early films, it is clear he caught the anti-establishment fever that gripped his peers. Thus, De Palma dwelled in satire, producing 1968's Greetings, an X-rated comedy that paid homage to those who dodged the Vietnam war. De Palma, himself, escaped service due to asthma. Greetings, which featured De Niro as an aspiring filmmaker and peeping tom, satirized the Kennedy assassination, free love, Vietnam, and amateur filmmaking. The antiwar film, which cost $43,000 to make, brought in $1 million and made De Palma a cult icon. Next, he made Dionysus in '69, a split-screen film in which De Palma simultaneously showed the actors on one half of the screen and the audience on the other. It is a technique that would become a De Palma trademark.

By the early 1970s, De Palma had attracted the attention of several Hollywood studios and Warner Brothers tapped him to direct Get to Know Your Rabbit. The film tells the tale of a corporate executive, played by Tom Smothers, who abandons his career and becomes a tap-dancing magician. There was tension on the set and De Palma was removed from the film, though he received credit for his directing. The ill-fated studio debut did nothing to further De Palma's career. Disgruntled with Hollywood, De Palma returned to New York, where he has spent most of his career.

De Palma went back to independent filmmaking, scraping together funding from investors and his own pocket. During the 1970s, he made some gruesome, twisted tales, including 1973's Sisters and 1974's musical thriller Phantom of the Paradise, which won the grand prize at the 1975 Avoriaz Film Festival. It was Sisters, however, that cemented De Palma's reputation as a master of the offbeat slasher film, though some critics simply called him a Hitchcock copycat.

Sisters featured Margot Kidder as a set of separated Siamese twins—she played both roles. In the film, one twin brings home a man, the other sister finds out and his brutal murder ensues while a neighbor watches through the window. Once again, De Palma made use of the split-screen technique. For nearly ten minutes, he built suspense by showing the murder cover-up on one side of the screen, while on the other side, viewers watched the neighbor frantically trying to launch an investigation—and get in the apartment—before it is too late. Critics called Sisters the most shocking film since Hitchcock's Psycho. De Palma said he got the idea for the film after reading a 1966 Life magazine article about a set of Russian Siamese twins who were developing psychological problems as they aged. After seeing the article, De Palma was struck with a desire to explore these types of bonds.

De Palma's next super shocker was 1976's Carrie, which film buffs maintain is one of the most brilliant adaptations of a Stephen King novel. Carrie features Sissy Spacek as a shy teenager, taunted by her peers and her religious fundamentalist mother. She does, however, possesses telekinetic powers. The film begins with a promiscuous slow-motion look inside a girls' locker room, contains the infamous prom scene where Carrie is doused with a bucket of pigs' blood and climaxes in a confrontation where Carrie uses her telekinetic powers to impale her mother with kitchen utensils. De Palma's cinematography created other noteworthy scenes as well, including the dance floor scene where the camera circles counterclockwise as Carrie and her prom date turn in the opposite direction, thereby fully capturing the wooziness felt by the characters in that moment. Spacek's portrayal of pain and humiliation earned her an Academy Award nomination, which was rare for horror films. In addition, De Palma met his first wife, Nancy Allen, on the set and she appeared in a number of his later films.

In 1980, De Palma released Dressed to Kill, which created an uproar among feminists who felt the film's graphic content—murder and rape—promoted violence against women. Some critics, however, hailed it as a masterpiece. This movie followed the fate of an unhappily married woman, played by Angie Dickinson, who has a tryst with a stranger and ends up sliced to death in the elevator of his apartment building. The film employed several of Hitchcock's storytelling techniques, including the act of killing off a main character early on—as in Psycho—thereby turning the film into a murder mystery instead of the character study it began as. Dressed to Kill made money, though De Palma was labeled a misogynist after its release. De Palma received similar criticism after the release of 1984's Body Double.

In an interview with Jean Vallely in the book of De Palma interviews, the director said critics simply misunderstood what he was trying to do in Dressed to Kill. "It's like pop art, in a sense. When pop art first came out, the academic, mainline critics just dismissed it as shocking and ridiculous. How could anyone find anything artistic about a painting of a Brillo box? And when people started writing seriously about rock & roll, they were called nitwits…. Same with my movie. It can be dismissed on so many levels: The genre is dimestore stuff, it's dirty, it's bloody, what does it have to do with art? But you always have to fight that."

Over the years De Palma did make some movies that earned critical acclaim, such as his 1983 American gangster film Scarface, written by Oliver Stone. Set in 1980s Miami, the film featured Al Pacino in a breakout performance as a Cuban émigré involved in the cocaine trade. Like De Palma's other films, Scarface was rife with violence—more than 2,000 bullets were fired in the film—yet it was the first fully realized drama De Palma had ever produced.

More mainstream entertainments followed, including The Untouchables, a 1987 film about Chicago gangsters during the Prohibition. The Untouchables brought in nearly $80 million in domestic sales and earned Sean Connery an Academy Award for best actor. There was also 1996's Mission: Impossible, staring Tom Cruise, which proved to be the third highest-grossing film of the year. As usual, De Palma received some criticism, this time for advancing a too-complicated plot. In addition, reviewers criticized De Palma for concentrating on the exploits of Cruise's character, rather than using teamwork to get the job done as in the original television series.

De Palma flopped with 1990's The Bonfire of the Vanities, an adaptation of Tom Wolfe's bleak yet comic novel about race and class in New York City. Some critics did not blame De Palma; they blamed the film's failure on a studio trying to squeeze a crowd-pleaser out of a highly sophisticated plot. The film follows the unraveling of an arrogant and highly successful Wall Street tycoon named Sherman McCoy, played by Tom Hanks.

One central scene in the film involves the uppity Sherman getting tossed in jail. In an interview with Bruce Weber in the De Palma book of interviews, De Palma discussed his identification with that scene. De Palma confessed that in 1963, he got drunk and stole a motorcycle in Manhattan. "Some cops pulled me over, and I was feeling a little self-destructive. And I knocked one down. And they ran me down and shot me." De Palma later pled guilty to grand larceny and assault and drew a suspended sentence. The experience of spending the night in jail, though, helped De Palma understand Sherman's feelings when he is thrown in jail. "When you're brought up as a middle-class kid from Philadelphia, you've gone to private schools and Columbia, and suddenly you're in the tank? Whoa! You're in there with people you've sort of read about in the newspaper. And you realize you're just one, and everybody is equal before the law."

With more than 35 films under his belt, De Palma was still going strong in the mid-2000s, filled with ideas. "Once I get a good idea it doesn't let go," De Palma noted in the Vallely interview. "I walk around, doing my normal activities, but I'm in a daze, because I'm trying to figure out how to get this character over to that point so he can meet this other character." When De Palma gets an idea, he sketches out his thoughts in stick-figure pictures on index cards and sticks them on his office wall.

More than 40 years into his career, De Palma was still concentrating on movies involving murder and mayhem. In 2002, De Palma released another suspense flick, Femme Fatale, and followed with 2006's detective thriller The Black Dahlia, about a murder in 1940s Los Angeles. It drew some high praise from critics when it opened at the Venice Film Festival.

Though De Palma has created some memorable films and distinctive scenes, he has yet to be recognized as one of the great directing talents. De Palma, however, does not care. "It doesn't bother me," De Palma told the Guardian's Steve Rose. "Because I've always been against the establishment from day one. I've never been accepted as that conventional artist. Whatever you say about David Lynch or Martin Scorsese, they are considered major film artists and nobody can argue with that. I've never had that. I've had people say it about me. And I've had people say that I'm a complete hack and you know, derivative and all those catchphrases that people use for me. So I've always been controversial. People hate me or love me."

Sources

Books

Knapp, Laurence F., editor, Brian De Palma: Interviews, University Press of Mississippi, 2003.

Periodicals

Guardian (London, England), September 8, 2006, p. 6.

Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2006, p. E1.

New York Times, September 17, 2006, sec. p. 1.

Washington Post, July 27, 1980, p. G1.

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