About Gavin Hood
Born on May 12, 1963 in Johannesburg, South Africa to the son of a famous nature photographer, Hood had surprisingly little exposure to the outside world. In fact, he never saw a television set until he was 13 years old. Up till then, his only look outside was from 16mm home movies of birthday parties. He eventually saw "E' Lollipop" (1977), a South African film about two childhood friends - one black, the other white - who get separated when one leaves for New York. It was an experience straight from Hood's own life when he left behind his best friend, the son of his Zulu nanny, to attend private school. After that transformative viewing, Hood wanted to get into film and theater, but family and friends convinced him that he would never make any money in that vocation. So instead, he attended the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he earned degrees in economics and law. After graduation, he practiced law for six months, but his drive to make films led him to quit and pursue an acting career.
In 1989, Hood was cast in "The Game," a top-rated South African drama that gave him a small degree of celebrity. Making his feature debut, he landed a small part in "Curse 3: Blood Sacrifice" (1991), a straight-to-video schlock horror flick about a sea demon terrorizing a South African village. Hood soon left acting for a short time, selling everything he owned to move to Los Angeles, where he studied screenwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1993, he won the Diane Thomas Screenwriting Award for his script "A Reasonable Man" - Steven Spielberg and Michael Douglas were among the judges - a courtroom drama that opened several doors for him. But he encountered Hollywood meddling from the start, particularly from producers who wanted to put an American spin on his South African story, while at the same time, changing the stark tone with a happy ending. So instead of allowing Hollywood executives from dismantling his story, Hood declared that he would direct the project himself. Just like that, the opened doors were slammed shut.
Hood returned to South Africa, where he began writing and directing educational television dramas for the newly-formed Department of Health about the impact of AIDS, prostitution and child abuse. His work scored him an Artes Award - South Africa's equivalent of an Emmy - and earned him a nomination for another. Meanwhile, Hood found the occasional acting gig on American productions shot in Johannesburg, landing supporting roles in "Armed and Deadly" (HBO, 1994), a sci-fi thriller about an android threatening to destroy Washington, DC with a neutron bomb, and "Operation Delta Force II: Mayday" (HBO, 1998), a seafaring actioner about a group of terrorists threatening to destroy a cruise ship. Hood returned to directing with "The Storekeeper" (1998), a 22-minute short that told the tragic story of an elderly owner of a remote general store who takes the law into his own hands after suffering the murder of his night watchman. Shot on 35mm and lacking dialogue, "The Storekeeper" went on to win 13 international film festival awards, including the Grand Prize at the Melbourne International Film Festival.
His success from "The Storekeeper" allowed Hood to fulfill his ambition to shoot "A Reasonable Man" (1999). A tense and disturbing tale about a young South African herd boy (Loyiso Gxwala) who kills a baby he believes is possessed by an evil spirit, Hood based his film on a 1933 court case he first encountered in law school. Hood also placed himself in the lead as the defense attorney who defends the young boy and battles his own guilt over killing a young black man while fighting in Angola. "A Reasonable Man" played the international festival circuit and won the Ecumenical Jury Award at the 1999 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic. Hood next directed "In Desert and Wilderness" (2001) after being called to fill in for Polish director Maciej Dutkiewicz, who was suffering kidney stones. The film was based on Henryk Sienkiewicz's 1912 novel about two young teens kidnapped by Egyptian rebels who are forced to traverse the vast African desert after they escape. "In Desert and Wilderness" won numerous festival awards, including a Bronze Griffon at the 2001 Giffoni Film Festival and Best Film at the 2002 Chicago International Children's Film Festival. It also became Poland's highest-grossing film for that year.
In 2003, Hood was approached by British producer Peter Fudakowski to adapt Athol Fugard's popular 1983 novel, Tsotsi, for the big screen. The director dove into the project, turning the unapologetic novel into a labor of love about violence in post-apartheid South Africa. The tense urban drama traced six days in the life of Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae), a ruthless young gang leader whose impromptu carjacking results in the accidental kidnapping of an infant, forcing him to care for the baby while gradually rediscovering his humanity. The film earned Hood international kudos and numerous award wins, including the People's Choice Award at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival and Best Foreign Film at the 2006 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. "Tsotsi" was also nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Meanwhile, Miramax snagged distribution rights, making "Tsotsi" the first of what Hood hoped would be more exposure for his films in America.
Hood went right to work on his Hollywood career, directing the political thriller "Rendition" (2007), which followed a CIA analyst (Jake Gyllenhaal) to Cairo, where he witnesses the brutal interrogation of a foreign national by the Egyptian secret police. The analyst begins to seriously doubt the nature of his mission, while the foreign national's pregnant wife (Reese Witherspoon) goes on a frantic search for her missing husband. Despite a tautly structured story, attractive leads and timely subject matter, "Rendition" failed to win much attention at the box office. Hood had the complete opposite experience with his next film, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009), which took in a whopping $85 million its opening weekend. In late March 2009, prior to its release, a full-length copy of the film with incomplete effects shots was leaked over the Internet, which spurned outrage among fans and an FBI investigation to determine the source of the leak. When "Wolverine" was finally released a month later, critics were decidedly mixed. While Hood's ability with strong, coherent action sequences was on full display, some derided the bland storyline and lack of purpose. Still, the film opened the 2009 summer season with a bang.
|Nerissa Black. Wroked together on "In Desert and Wilderness" (2001) and "Tsotsi" (2005)|
|St. Stithians College|
|University of Witwatersrand|
|University of Witwatersrand|
|University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles , California|
|Directed Hugh Jackman in the title role of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"|
|Helmed first Hollywood film, "Rendition" starring Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal|
|Directed and penned the screenplay adaptation of Athol Fugard's popular novel, "Tsotsi"|
|Directed second film, "In Desert and Wilderness"|
|Directed first feature film "A Reasonable Man" from his previous script; also played the lead role as the defense attorney|
|Received first Academy Award nomination for directing the 22-minute short, "The Storekeeper"|
|Began writing and directing educational television dramas for the newly-formed Department of Health|
|Had a supporting role in the HBO movie, "Armed and Deadly"|
|Returned to South Africa after a failed attempt to get "A Reasonable Man" made into a film|
|Wrote the script for "A Reasonable Man"|
|Moved to Los Angeles to study screenwriting|
|Had a small role in the straight to video, "Curse 3: Blood Sacrifice"|
|First gained attention in the South African TV drama, "The Game"|
|Briefly practiced law before quiting to pursue acting|