Richard Kelly (director)

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Richard Kelly
Born James Richard Kelly
(1975-03-28) March 28, 1975 (age 46)
Newport News, Virginia, U.S.
Occupation Film director, screenwriter, film producer
Years active 1996–present
Notable work Donnie Darko

James Richard Kelly (born March 28, 1975), better known as Richard Kelly, is an American film director and writer, known for writing and directing the cult classic Donnie Darko in 2001.

Early life

Kelly was born James Richard Kelly in Newport News, Virginia, the son of Lane and Ennis Kelly.[1] He grew up in Midlothian, Virginia, where he attended Midlothian High School and graduated in 1993.[2] When he was a child, his father worked for NASA on the Mars Viking Lander program. He won a scholarship to the University of Southern California to study at the USC School of Cinema-Television where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He made two short films at USC, The Goodbye Place and Visceral Matter, before graduating in 1997.[3]

Film career

Donnie Darko was given a budget of $4.5 million.[4] This was his first feature and was nominated for 21 small awards, winning 11 of them, including a nomination for a Saturn Award. The film later ended up #2 on Empire magazine's list of 50 greatest independent films of all time, behind Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.[5]

He has written numerous scripts that have not been produced, most famous of which are the adaptations of Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and Louis Sachar's Holes. The latter screenplay is available as a PDF on an unofficial Richard Kelly fansite,[6] and Kelly hopes that he will one day secure the rights to the former, so that fans may read that one as well.[citation needed]

His fourth film, and second feature, Southland Tales, a rough cut of which screened in competition at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival,[7] was released November 16, 2007 and stars Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, Kevin Smith and Miranda Richardson.

In 2008, Kelly's production company Darko Entertainment announced that it was producing the adaptation of the bestselling book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell with director Bob Gosse.[8][9] The book's author Tucker Max detailed Kelly's involvement in the process on his blog.[10][11]

After the release of The Box,[12] he said he was working on a thriller "set in Manhattan in the year 2014. We hope to shoot the movie in 3-D, and part of the movie would be filmed using full CGI motion capture."[13] In 2011 he announced that he was writing and directing Corpus Christi, a Texas-set film to be produced by Eli Roth.[14] It was reported that Corpus Christi was no longer happening due to financial and casting problems. Kelly stated that he would instead focus on a thriller titled Amicus slated for a 2014 release, although as of April 2015, no further information on Amicus has been released.

Themes and style

Although Kelly's films differ considerably in setting and characters (Donnie Darko is about a suburban teenager, Southland Tales is an L.A. epic, and The Box is about a married couple in Richmond, Virginia), they share similar themes of time travel, existentialism, and spirituality.

Kelly's style is composed of Steadicam based tracking shots and camera movement in general, satirical elements (as seen sparsely in Donnie Darko and much more prominently in Southland Tales), comedy, drama, and enigmatic plots. Music also plays a large role in Kelly's films and one of his most famous scenes is in a closing segment of Donnie Darko where we are shown a montage of several characters awakening from their dreams to Gary Jules's version of the Tears for Fears song "Mad World".

Kelly's enthusiasm and direction can be traced back to his viewing of the film Brazil, as told to author Robert K. Elder in an interview for The Film That Changed My Life.[15]

I think the greatest thing I learned from Terry is that every frame is worthy of attention to detail. Every frame is worthy of being frozen in time and then thrown on a wall like an oil painting, and if you work hard on every frame, the meaning of your film becomes deeper, more enhanced.[16]


Year Film Other notes
1996 The Goodbye Place Short film
1997 Visceral Matter Short film
2001 Donnie Darko
2007 Southland Tales
2009 The Box Based on the short story by Richard Matheson
Year Film Other notes
1996 The Goodbye Place Short film
1997 Visceral Matter Short film
2001 Donnie Darko
2005 Domino
2007 Southland Tales
2009 The Box Based on the short story by Richard Matheson
Year Film Other notes
2009 Dirty Girl
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell Based on the Tucker Max short story "The Austin Road Trip Story" in his book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Rogue's Gallery
The Box
World's Greatest Dad
2010 Fade[17] Based on the novel by Robert Cormier

Awards and nominations



  2. The New York Times
  3. Notable Alumni, USC School of Cinematic Arts.
  4. Future Movies Interview 2003
  5. The 50 Greatest Independent Films, Empire Online
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Festival de Cannes: Southland Tales". Retrieved 2009-12-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Siegel, Tatiana (June 5, 2008). "Darko to serve Tucker Max's 'Beer'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-06-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Darko Entertainment Adapting I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
  10. "IHSTBIH Blog Entry: Darko to serve Tucker Max's Beer". June 6, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Tucker Max shares his opinion of Darko Entertainment Richard Kelly's homepage
  12. "Video Interviews with the Director and Stars of 'The Box'". BloodyDisgusting. November 3, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Eggertsen, Chris (November 3, 2009). "Richard Kelly Planning 3-D Thriller!". BloodyDisgusting.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Zeitchik, Steven (2011-02-17). "Richard Kelly looks to cash in another comeback ticket". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-02-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Kelly, Richard. Interview by Robert K. Elder. The Film That Changed My Life. By Robert K. Elder. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. N. p54. Print.
  17. Siegel, Tatiana (January 7, 2009). "Darko acquires invisibility tale 'Fade'". Variety. Archived from the original on November 12, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links