The Wings of the Dove
English film director Iain Softley first became known for his work on music documentaries and music videos before making an auspicious feature directorial debut with the Beatles film “Backbeat” (1994), from which he picked up a Cleveland International Film Festival Award, a London Critics Circle Film ALFS Award for British Newcomer of the Year and BAFTA's Alexander Korda nomination for Best British Film. Three years later, he had his breakthrough feature with the film version of “The Wings of the Dove” (1997), starring Helena Bonham Carter. The film was nominated for four Oscars and won two out of five BAFTA nominations, among other honors. Softley received a Chicago International Film Festival nomination for his work on the film. His other directing credits include the Kevin Spacey science fiction vehicle “K-PAX” (2001), the box office hit thriller “The Skeleton Key” (2005) and the fantasy film “Inkheart” (2008).
Childhood and Family:
Iain Softley was born in 1958 in London, England. He developed an early love for music and painting and at age 18, took a year off school to paint in France. Iain attended St Benedict's School in Ealing, West London, in which he played the role of Thomas Becket in its 1975 production of T.S. Elliot's play “Murder in the Cathedral.” After graduating, he continued his studies at Queens' College, in Cambridge, where he became a member of its dramatic society, the BATS, and directed many theatrical productions before turning his attentions to music videos and finally films.
Iain is married to film producer Sarah Curtis.
The Skeleton Key
After directing and designing theater productions in college, Iain Softley worked for a local documentary unit at Britain's Granada TV. It was not long before he joined the BBC in Southampton and made 30 documentaries for television. Softley, however, did not gain prominence in Britain until he pursued a career as a music video director.
Softley made his feature directing debut with the Beatles film “Backbeat” (1994), which he co-wrote with Michael Thomas and Stephen Ward. Centered primarily on the relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon, which were played by Stephen Dorff and Ian Hart, respectively, and Sutcliffe's German girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr, which was portrayed by Sheryl Lee, the film won a Best Film Award at the 1994 Cleveland International Film Festival, the
Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music at the 1995 BAFTA Awards, an Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer (Ian Hart) and an ALFS Award for British Newcomer of the Year from the 1995 London Critics Circle. “Backbeat” has since been adapted into a stage production, which premiered on February 9, 2010, at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.
Softley subsequently made his American debut with “Hackers,” a thriller he executive produced. Starring Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Jesse Bradford, Matthew Lillard, Fisher Stevens, Renoly Santiago and Laurence Mason, the film received mixed reviews from critics.
One memorable moment came when Softley directed the big screen adaptation of the 1902 Henry James novel “The Wings of the Dove” (1997), with the screenplay by Hossein Amini. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott and Linus Roache, the film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, and five BAFTA Awards, including two wins for Best Cinematography and Best Make Up/Hair. In addition, Softley was nominated for a Gold Hugo for Best Film at the 1997 Chicago International Film Festival for his effort. Around this time, Softley also directed Toni Braxton's music video “How Could an Angel Break My Heart” (1997).
Softley resurfaced four years later when he directed Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack and Alfre Woodard in the science fiction movie “K-PAX” (2001), which was based on a novel of the same name by Gene Brewer (also co-wrote the screenplay). The film grossed over $65 million at the box office against a budget of $48 million. Under his direction, Spacey and Woodard respectively received a Saturn nomination for Best Actor and an Image nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.
In 2005, Softley directed and produced the supernatural horror movie “The Skeleton Key,” starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard and Joy Bryant. The film, released in cinemas in the U.K. on July 29, 2005, and the U.S. on August 12, 2005, enjoyed commercial success despite receiving mixed reviews from critics. Produced with a budget of $43 million, it grossed over $91 million worldwide. In the U.S., the film debuted at No. 2 at the box office. “The Skeleton Key” was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and an Empire Award for Best Horror.
In 2008, Softley directed and produced the fantasy film “Inkheart,” which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Cornelia Funke. Starring Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis and Jim Broadbent, the film earned mixed to negative reviews from critics and was not a success at the box office.
Softley has signed on to direct and write the screenplay of “Trap for Cinderella,” an adaptation of the 1963 award winning novel by French author Sébastien Japrisot. The film will star Kerry Fox, Tuppence Middleton and Elizabeth Healey and is set to be released in the U.K. in 2012.
London Critics Circle Film (ALFS): British Newcomer of the Year, “Backbeat,” 1995
Cleveland International Film Festival: Best Film, “Backbeat,” 1994