Leaving Las Vegas
“Film is very important to our culture. It is the main story telling medium. If it's not representational both of either the gender or race of the culture in which we live, it is an incomplete picture. So it's crucial that women are reflected in the statistics of how many directors there are. What do women bring to film making? They bring a female perspective and in a way, that's enough. To argue what a female perspective is not really my place, but I know it when I see it!” Mike Figgis
Academy Award nominated British film director, writer, and composer Mike Figgis garnered rave reviews for his romantic drama film "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995; starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue). Afterward, the filmmaker, who had previously directed such films as "Stormy Monday" (1988), "Internal Affairs" (1990), "Liebestraum" (1991), "Mr. Jones" (1993), and "The Browning Version" (1994), continued to add to his resume by directing "One Night Stand" (1997), "Miss Julie" (1999), and "Timecode" (2000).
On a more personal note, Figgis had been romantically linked to actress Saffron Burrows. He has two grown up sons with Bienchen Figis.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Carlisle, Cumbria, England, on February 28, 1948, Michael Figgis grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, before eventually relocating with his family to Newcastle, England, at age 8. Figgis, who studied music in London, later taught film part time at the London Polytechnic.
Figgis is a cousin of Irish filmmakers Jonathan Figgis and Jason Figgis who run the award winning film production company October Eleven Pictures in Ireland. He is also cousins with Susie Figgis, who has worked extensively as a casting director for several notable directors.
Figgis has two sons, Louis Arlen Figgis (born in 1975; named after Louis Armstrong and Harold Arlen) and Louis Figgis (born in 1980; also named for Armstrong) with Bienchen Figis. They followed their father into the film industry as an editor and producer respectively.
For several years, Figgis had been romantically linked to actress Saffron Burrows (born in 1973), who appeared in some of his movies, including "One Night Stand" (1997), "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" (1999), "Miss Julie" (1999), and "Time Code" (2000).
A patron of the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Mike Figgis Digital Lounge is named after him.
As a teenager, Mike Figgis, who studied music in London, performed with a R&B group called “Gas Board,” featuring future Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry. In the 1970s, he toured with the experimental theater group “The People Show” as a musician and soon began acting. He left “The People Show” in the early 1980s to concentrate on writing and directing film and theater in his own theater company, “The Mike Figgis Group.”
In 1984, Figgis directed and wrote his first TV movie, "The House" (1984), a war drama starring Stephen Rea, for Britain's Channel 4 that was adapted from the performance piece "Slow Fade." Four years later, he made his feature writing and directing debut with the jazz-infused thriller "Stormy Monday" (1988), in which he also wrote the music. The film, which boasted an impressive cast that included Sean Bean, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting, and Melanie Griffith, won a Special Mention at the Mystfest, where it was also nominated for Best Film. The film also received a Best Young Film nomination at the European Film Awards.
Entering the 1990s, Figgis directed Richard Gere and Andy Garcia in the thriller set in Los Angeles, "Internal Affairs." He also co-wrote the music, received credit as a musician, and acted in film in the part of Hollander. He followed it up with the psychological erotic thriller "Liebestraum" (1991; starring Kim Novak, Kevin Anderson, Alicia Witt, and Taina Elg), which he directed, wrote the screenplay, and composed the music. That same year, he also helmed, scripted, and wrote music for the "Mara" segment of HBO's made-for-television short films based on works by American authors, "Women & Men 2: In Love There Are No Rules," starring Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgwick, Ray Liotta, Andie MacDowell, Scott Glenn, and Juliette Binoche.
In 1993, Figgis clashed with producer Ray Stark over the final cut of the romantic drama film starring Richard Gere, Lena Olin, Delroy Lindo, and Anne Bancroft, "Mr. Jones.” Afterward, he directed a remake of the 1951 film based on the 1948 play by Terence Rattigan, "The Browning Version" (1994), starring Albert Finney. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Best Actor (Albert Finney) Award at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards in 1994. It was also nominated for the Best Screenplay of the BAFTA Awards in 1995.
Figgis next garnered widespread acclaim when he received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, for "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995), in which he also wrote the original score, was featured as a musician on the soundtrack, and played Mobster No 1. The romantic drama film about a relationship between a suicidal alcoholic (played by Nicolas Cage) and a Las Vegas prostitute (played by Elisabeth Shue) also helped Figgis win Best Director Awards at the Independent Spirit Awards, the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association (DFWFCA) Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) Awards, the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) Awards, and the San Sebastián International Film Festival. It also earned him nominations at the BAFTA Awards (for Best Screenplay – Adapted), Directors Guild of America (for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures), Golden Globes (for Best Director - Motion Picture), Independent Spirit Awards (for Best Screenplay), San Sebastián International Film Festival (for the Golden Seashell), and the Writers Guild of America Awards (for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published).
Following his big break, Figgis executive produced Annette Haywood-Carter's coming-of-age movie "Foxfire" (1996; starring Hedy Burress and Angelina Jolie), which is based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel "Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang." He also produced, directed, wrote the screenplay and music for "One Night Stand" (1997), a romantic drama featuring Wesley Snipes, Nastassja Kinski, Kyle MacLachlan, Ming Na, and Robert Downey Jr. in which he also appeared as a hotel clerk and credited as a trumpet player. The film was nominated for Outstanding Original Score at the Satellite Awards and a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
During the rest of the decade, Figgis scored an exclusive two-year production deal with Columbia Pictures in 1998 and directed two 50-minute independent documentaries, "Flamenco Women" and "Just Dancing Around" (both in 1999), which were screened at NYC's Anthology Film Archives as "Two Dance Videotapes by Mike Figgis." He also produced, directed, and wrote music for the film adaptation of August Strindberg's classic naturalistic play, "Miss Julie" (1999), starring Saffron Burrows and Peter Mullan. The film that was shot on 16mm in 16 days with two hand-held cameras on one set won a Golden Seashell at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. It was also nominated for a Grand Prix at the Flanders International Film Festival and a Golden Seashell at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. Meanwhile, he also directed, scripted, wrote music, and played the trumpet in the experimental film "The Loss of Sexual Innocence" (1999), starring Julian Sands and Saffron Burrows.
“I came to a conclusion when I first read the play. In order for this to be even remotely successful, I had to have a very clear idea of why she's saying what she's saying. I came to the conclusion that she'd already decided to kill herself way before she ever appeared. Within the confines of that form of madness, a pre-suicidal mind set, like when you take drugs or you're the condemned man, a completely new set of rules kick in. You can fall in and out of love in ten minutes. Everything happens in an accelerated way. It's the perfect license for that sort of behavior.” Mike Figgis (on "Miss Julie,” 1999)
Hitting the new millennium, Figgis produced, scripted, and directed the experimental drama film "Timecode.” Shot on videotape, the movie that stars Salma Hayek, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kyle MacLachlan, was transferred to film for the theatrical release, but the VHS and DVD releases present the original videotape stock. It was nominated for a Video Premiere Award for Best DVD Audio Commentary at the DVD Exclusive Awards in 2001. Figgis also directed David Gray’s music video "Babylon (Version 2)."
In 2006, Figgis began working on “The Four Dreams of Miss X,” a series of short promotional films for the lingerie company Agent Provocateur. The films feature Kate Moss in the title role and were released online during late 2006 and early 2007 with the individual titles "Shadows," "Scale," "Exhibitionist," and "Narcissus." He also became 2007 Givenchy Ange Ou Demon’s fragrance ad director.
“Now there is no reason to prevent anybody from making a film. The technology exists, the equipment is much cheaper than it was, the post-production facilities are on a laptop computer, the entire equipment to make a film can go in a couple of cases and be carried as hand luggage on a plane. There is nothing to stop people making films.” Mike Figgis
British Independent Film: Special Jury Prize, 2000
San Sebastián International Film Festival: Golden Seashell, "Miss Julie," 1999
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association (DFWFCA): Best Director, "Leaving Las Vegas," 1996
Independent Spirit: Best Director, "Leaving Las Vegas," 1996
National Society of Film Critics (NSFC): Best Director, "Leaving Las Vegas," 1996
Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Director, "Leaving Las Vegas," 1995
San Sebastián International Film Festival: Silver Seashell - Best Director, "Leaving Las Vegas," 1995
Mystfest: Special Mention, "Stormy Monday," 1988