Tony Kaye: British film director (1952-) | Biography
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Tony Kaye
British film director

Tony Kaye

Tony Kaye
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro British film director
Is Film director Cinematographer Music video director Film producer
From United Kingdom
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music
Gender male
Birth 8 July 1952, London, England, UK
Age 71 years
Star sign Cancer
Residence London, England, UK
Kent Institute of Art & Design
Grammy Award for Best Music Video 2007
The details (from wikipedia)


Tony Kaye (born 8 July 1952) is an English director of films, music videos, advertisements, and documentaries. He directed the 1998 film American History X.

Life and career

Kaye was born to an Haredi Jewish family in Stamford Hill, London, United Kingdom.

He made his name as a director of television commercials with award-winning spots for British Rail InterCity ("Relax", 1988) and the Solid Fuel Advisory Council ("Furry Friends", 1988), as well as his 1993 advertisement for Dunlop Tyres ("Tested for the Unexpected") set to the sound of Venus in Furs by the Velvet Underground. By 1996 he had won 23 British Design and Art Direction (D&AD) awards, and in 2012 was jointly named "most awarded director" (co-equal with Frank Budgen) at the organisation's 50th anniversary.

Kaye made several music videos, including the video for "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash, which won a Grammy Award, "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "What God Wants" by Roger Waters, and "Help Me" and "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum.

American History X

His feature film debut was American History X (1998), a drama about racism starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong. Kaye disowned the final cut of the film and unsuccessfully attempted to have his name removed from the credits. The film was critically lauded and Norton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film. The battle over artistic control of the film, which has become part of Hollywood folklore, all but destroyed Kaye's career. He delivered his original cut on time and within budget – but when the producer, New Line Cinema, insisted on changes, the arguments began. The debate quickly escalated. Kaye spent $100,000 of his own money to take out 35 full-page ads in the Hollywood trade press denouncing Norton and the producer, using quotations from a variety of people from John Lennon to Abraham Lincoln. He attended a meeting at New Line to which (to ease negotiations) he brought a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Tibetan monk. When the company offered him an additional eight weeks to re-cut the film, he said he had discovered a new vision and needed a year to remake it, and collaborated with Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott on new narration for the script. Finally, when the Directors Guild refused to let him remove his name from the New Line version of the film, he demanded it to be credited to "Humpty Dumpty" instead, and filed a $200 million lawsuit when the company refused.

Later career

Kaye's second feature, a documentary called Lake of Fire, was about the abortion debate in the United States. It opened in Toronto in September 2006. The movie was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (though it did not earn a nomination), and was nominated for Best Documentary Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, and the Satellite Awards. Lake of Fire took Kaye 18 years to make.

Kaye's third feature film was a crime drama titled Black Water Transit starring Laurence Fishburne, Karl Urban, Evan Ross, Brittany Snow, and Stephen Dorff. The film was shot in New Orleans during the summer of 2007. A rough cut was screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival but the film was never released to cinemas. As of 2017 the film is unfinished due to the production company's bankruptcy and the ensuing litigation.

Kaye's fourth feature film, Detachment (2011), starring Adrien Brody, as well as featuring Kaye's daughter Betty, is a drama about teachers. It centers on Brody as a struggling substitute teacher in a failing New York public school. It premiered in April 2011 at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film screened and won awards at the following film festivals: Deauville American Film Festival, Woodstock film festival (Honorary Maverick Award for Kaye) Valenciennes International Festival of Action and Adventure Films in France, Tokyo International Film Festival, São Paulo International Film Festival, and Ramdam Film Festival in Tournai, Belgium.

In early 2016 Kaye was set to direct Joe Vinciguerra's screenplay titled Stranger Than the Wheel, starring Shia LaBeouf, and in 2018 he was to direct Honorable Men, a crime drama written by Gary DeVore. However, neither project has since come to fruition. Since 2020, he has announced several new projects in development: African History Y starring Djimon Hounsou; Civil, a drama set amid the civil rights movement; and Tremendum, a partially animated film inspired by conversations Kaye had with Marlon Brando. He is also set to direct dark comedy film The Trainer written by Vito Schnabel and Jeff Solomon.

Personal life

Kaye's wife is Chinese-American artist Yan Lin Kaye. They have two daughters: Shanghai and Eema Emet Kaye.


As director

  • American History X (1998)
  • Lake of Fire (2006) (documentary film)
  • Black Water Transit (2009; unreleased)
  • Detachment (2011)

As actor

  • Spun (2002) (cameo)
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 01 Oct 2023. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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