Director / Writer / Producer
Cairo-born, Canadian-bred and of Armenian descent, Atom Egoyan is one of the most celebrated contemporary filmmakers on the international scene. Through his uniquely personal feature films, and numerous related projects, he has created a remarkable body of work that has received both critical acclaim and commercial success around the world.
Raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Egoyan moved to Toronto at the age of 18 where he studied International Relations and classical guitar at the University of Toronto. It was there that he began to seriously explore the art and language of the cinema, and started making his own films.
Egoyan’s nine feature films reflect his unique esthetics and explore his own very personal thematic obsessions, delving into issues of intimacy, displacement and the impact of technology and media in modern life.
His auspicious debut feature, Next of Kin (1984) earned Egoyan the Genie nomination (Canadian Academy Award) for Best Director. This film went on to win Germany’s Mannheim International Film Week Gold Ducat Award and received theatrical distribution around the world.
Family Viewing (1987) won the Locamo International Critics Prize, and was nominated for eight Genie Awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. The film gained wide notoriety when Wim Wenders declined the jury prize at the Montreal Film Festival for his own film Wings of Desire, and handed it over to Egoyan, his “Canadian colleague.”
Speaking Parts (1989) premiered at Cannes in the Director’s Fortnight and went on to achieve critical acclaim world-wide as well as Genie Awards nominations, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay.
The Adjuster (1991) premiered at Cannes in the Quinzaine des Realisateurs, and was awarded the Special Prize of the Jury at the 17th Moscow International Film Festival. The Adjuster went on to capture the Toronto/CITY Award for Best Canadian Film at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Calendar (1993) was the winner of the C.I.C.A.E. prize for Best Film in the Forum of New Cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival, and once again landed Egoyan Genie nominations for Best Direction and Screenplay.
Egoyan achieved a much wider audience with the darkly mysterious Exotica (1994). The first English Canadian film to be invited into Competition at the Cannes Film Festival in nearly a decade, Exotica was awarded that Festival’s International Critics Prize for Best Film. Honored by festival and critical associations around the world, Exotica was also named Best Foreign Film by both the French and Belgian Critics’ Associations. It was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award and for the Chicago Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay. An unqualified commercial success, Exotica was released theatrically in over 50 territories worldwide, including 500-screen US release by Miramax Films. In its native Canada, released by Alliance, Exotica played theatrically for over half a year,
surpassing all previous domestic box office records for an English Canadian film. Sweeping the Genies, Egoyan’s Exotica won eight awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
The Sweet Hereafter, (1997) had its world premiere in Official Competition at the 50th Cannes Film Festival where it became the most-honored film of the Festival, winning The Grand Prize of the Jury as well as the International Critics Prize and the Ecumenical Award for Humanist filmmaking. The movie then opened the Toronto International Film
Festival where it was doubly honored with both the International Critics Award and the Toronto/CITY Award for Best Canadian Film. The Sweet Hereafter provided Egoyan a second sweep of the Genies, winning eight Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. In Canada, the movie played continuously for more than seven
months, besting the record previously set by Egoyan’s Exotica. Sold to virtually every possible market, worldwide, The Sweet Hereafter was the subject of unprecedented critical response, named to more than 250 major top-ten lists for 1997. The Sweet Hereafter held the top position on more than two-dozen of those lists, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. Among the many other honours awarded this movie are: The National Board of Review’s Award for Ensemble Performance (presented by Francis Ford Coppola), The Independent Feature Project’s Spirit Award for Best Foreign Film and Valladolid’s Golden Spike. In February of 1998, Atom Egoyan received double Academy Award® nominations, for both Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, (for his adaptation of Russell Banks’ novel). This made him the first Canadian ever to be so honoured for work on a Canadian feature film.
Egoyan has written and directed many short films and programs for television, including the highly praised telefilm Gross Misconduct, (1993) which won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and was also nominated for four Canadian Gemini Awards, including Best Television Film; the short film En Passant which was
part of the anthology feature Montreal Vu Par, and A Portrait of Arshile which was part of a BBC collection of short films.
Internationally, Egoyan’s film works have been presented in numerous important retrospectives in Paris, New York, London, Taipei, Budapest, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, the U.K. and Armenia, as well as other locales. He has earned many exceptional honours in his career. In 1994, TIME Magazine, citing Egoyan as “one of the most important film artists working today,” named him to their “Global 100”, a roster of “young leaders for the new millennium”. In 1996, he was invited to participate as a member of the jury of the Cannes International Film Festival. And, in a 1997 ceremony, Egoyan was knighted by the French Government with the ‘Chevalier des Arts et Lettres’.
Over the past two years, Egoyan has completed several art installations, including works for the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the Venice Biennale, and, Le Fresnoy in France.
There have been numerous books published on Egoyan. Two are from Canadian publisher Coach House Press, “Speaking Parts” and “Exotica”; “Atom Egoyan”, from French publisher Dis Voir, as well as books in Italian, German and Spanish. He has also been the subject of five international documentaries.
Ever-expanding his creative role, Egoyan made his debut as an opera director in 1996, with the highly successful Canadian Opera Company production of Salome, which was subsequently presented at Houston Grand Opera and the Vancouver Opera Company. In April 1998, Tapestry Music Theatre of Toronto mounted the world premiere of his
original opera, Elsewhereless, composed by Rodney Sherman, written and directed by Egoyan. Immediately following, Egoyan directed the world premiere of Gavin Bryars’ new opera, Dr. Ox’s Experiment, for English National Opera in London.
Marrying film with his lifelong love of music, Egoyan directed renowned cellist, Yo Yo Ma in Sarabande. Inspired by Bach’s Cello Suite #4, this award-winning telefilm was part of Rhombus Media’s highly acclaimed six-part series; Yo Yo Ma: Inspired by Bach and was a selection of the 1997 Venice Film Festival.
In 1998, Egoyan served as Executive Producer on two low-budget debut features, Babyface, directed by Jack Blum premiered at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and Jack & Jill, directed by John Kalangis, premiered at the 1998 Toronto International Film Festival. Prior to that, Egoyan Executive Produced John L’Ecuyer’s critically acclaimed Curtis’s
Egoyan’s most recent feature film is Felicia’s Journey, based on the acclaimed novel by William Trevor, starring Bob Hoskins, Elaine Cassidy and Arsinee Khanjian. It premiered in competition in the 1999 Cannes Film Festival and went on to open the Toronto International Film Festival. Filmed on location in Ireland and England, Felicia’s Journey
was produced by Icon Entertainment.
His latest works include Evidence, a video installation for the Oxford Museum of Modern Arts, Notorious exhibition, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. In addition, a film adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s classic play, Krapp’s Last Tape starring John Hurt, which was filmed in Dublin.
When not traveling the world with his work, Egoyan lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife, actress Arsinee Khanjian and their son, Arshile.