Born to Armenian parents, he moved with his family at a very young age to Victoria, BC, an experience in cultural displacement he has often cited as a profound influence on his life and work. Recurring themes in Egoyan's work such as alienation, voyeurism and the futile pursuit of emotional fulfilment can be seen as the director's attempt to express the condition of cultural dislocation.
After attending public school in Victoria, Egoyan moved to Toronto to study International Relations at the University of Toronto. There, he became intensely involved in campus theatre as a playwright, and, as did David CRONENBERG before him, made his first films.
Atom Egoyan's work, personal as the motivations behind it may be, evokes profound public resonance, both nationally and internationally. Since his first feature, Next of Kin (1984), premiered at the Festival of Festivals in Toronto (now called the Toronto International Film Festival his international reputation has grown. Family Viewing (1987) was named Best Canadian Feature Film at the 1987 Festival of Festivals. Speaking Parts (1989) and THE ADJUSTER (1991) were both invited to debut at the Cannes Film Festival in France. EXOTICA (1994) was invited into the coveted Official Competition category at Cannes and went on to become the most successful English-Canadian movie export since the resolutely low-brow PORKY'S in 1982. By 1997, only Cronenberg, whose influence on Egoyan's work is obvious and profound, rivalled the younger filmmaker's international prominence.
Egoyan's rise in the world of international film became evident with the release of The Sweet Hereafter (1997), his first screenplay based on another work, in this case a novel by American Russell Banks. Premiered in 1997 at the Cannes Film Festival, winner of 8 GENIE AWARDS in Canada and nominated for 2 awards at the 1998 Academy Awards in Hollywood, THE SWEET HEREAFTER was a critical, if not a box office, success. Felicia's Journey (1999), based on a novel by Irish author William Trevor, was Egoyan's first film set outside Canada and the first to be non-independently produced.
After directing a one-hour film version of Samuel Beckett's play, Krapp's Last Tape (2000), Atom Egoyan turned his full attention to writing and directing the feature film ARARAT. Ararat had its world premiere out of Official Competition at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. Starring Charles Aznavour and Christopher PLUMMER, Ararat is a drama about the personal, cultural and historical repercussions of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey.
In 2005 he directed Where the Truth Lies, a thriller starring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth as a comedy duo implicated in the murder of a female fan. The film received mixed reviews and failed at the box office in both Canada and the US. In 2008 he followed up with a more personal film (and one with a much lower budget) entitled Adoration, a gnarled and engaging narrative revolving around a high school student and his use and misuse of the Internet to create a fiction about his family. Returning the following year to a more commercial film project, Egoyan directed international stars Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, and Julianne Moore in Chloe, an erotic thriller produced by Hollywood mogul Ivan REITMAN.
Stylistically and narratively, Atom Egoyan's work has been influenced by Cronenberg's clinical detachment, expositional minimalism and resolute intellectualism. But Cronenberg's remoteness from the emotional undercurrents of his characters is counterpointed by Egoyan's genuine interest in the causes, effects and permutations of diminished human interaction in the electronic era. Egoyan's films all end on nearly operatic emotional epiphanies and are rooted in the romantic search for self-fulfilment through intimacy. He is capable of producing moments of profound and intentional hilarity.
In addition to making feature films, Egoyan has also directed several television episodes and one made-for-TV movie. In 1996 he directed the CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY'S Toronto production of Salome, and wrote the libretto for Elsewhereless (1998), a chamber opera on which he collaborated with Canadian composer Rodney Sharman. Egoyan has also served on several international film juries at the world's most prestigious film festivals, such as those in Cannes, Berlin and Toronto.
In 2011 Atom Egoyan became a distinguished scholar in residence at Ryerson University in Toronto, developing future film and theatre projects and mentoring students of these dramatic arts.
Author GEOFF PEVERE Revised: TOM MCSORLEY
Links to Other Sites
The website for Canada’s prestigious Genie Awards. From the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.
Chloe: Mother of Mercy! Is This the End of Atom Egoyan?
A critique of Atom Egoyan’s eclectic filmmaking career from northernstars.ca.
Canuck directors say small is good
A brief article about Canadian filmmakers opinions about the advantages of focusing on smaller film projects. From thestar.com.
See a review of Atom Egoyan's film "The Adjuster". Cast includes Elias Koteas, Arsinée Khanjian, Maury Chaykin, Gabrielle Rose, Jennifer Dale, and others. From timeout.com.
Toronto New Wave
Read an article by Wyndham Wise about the "Toronto New Wave," an especially creative generation of Toronto filmmakers who emerged during the eighties. From the Canadian Film Encyclopedia.
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