One of Ireland's most celebrated directors, Neil Jordan has made his name directing moody, often politically charged films that focus largely on themes of love, betrayal, and the darker realms of the human psyche.
Born February 25, 1950, in Sligo County, Ireland, Jordan began his career as an acclaimed fiction writer. He entered the film industry in 1981 as a script consultant on John Boorman's Excalibur, and subsequently made a documentary about the making of the film. After scripting another film, Traveller, Jordan wrote and directed his first film, the stylish 1982 crime drama Angel. Starring Stephen Rea as a saxophone player who witnesses a series of brutal murders, it explored the darker, violent impulses of the human mind, a theme that Jordan would revisit time and again in his later films.
After attracting his first wave of international recognition for In the Company of Wolves (1984), his horror-tinged retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, Jordan had his first real success with Mona Lisa (1986). Shown in competition at the Cannes Festival and starring Bob Hoskins as a gruff, good-hearted ex-con, it was an innovative, mysterious meditation on obsession, betrayal, and love and its many variations. Hoskins earned numerous honors for his performance, including a BAFTA award, and Jordan became recognized as an emerging talent in international cinema.
The director's reputation suffered two successive blows when he came to the U.S. to make High Spirits (1988) and We're No Angels (1989), two comedies that both proved to be massive disappointments. Jordan rebounded somewhat when he returned to Ireland to direct The Miracle (1991), a poignant drama about two Irish teens, but it was with his subsequent effort, 1992's The Crying Game, that his reputation was truly established. A bonafide sleeper hit, the film -- a psychological thriller revolving around a reluctant IRA "volunteer" (Stephen Rea) -- offered a haunting exploration of the themes of love, betrayal, and obsession on which Jordan had so often focused, as well as a genuinely shocking plot twist. The director received a score of honors for the film, including an Oscar and a New York Film Critics Circle award for his screenplay.
With a major international hit under his belt, Jordan returned to Hollywood to direct his first big-budget extravaganza, a highly anticipated (and publicized) adaptation of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (1994). Gothic, lush, and featuring marquee darlings Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as its leads, the film was highly popular with audiences, although less so with critics.
Substantially greater acclaim surrounded Jordan's next effort, the 1996 Michael Collins. A biopic of the legendary co-founder of the IRA and driving force behind the creation of the Irish Republic, the film was both controversial (particular criticism was leveled at it by certain English commentators) and widely praised. It featured a particularly strong performance by Liam Neeson in the title role, and Jordan -- who had nurtured its script for 13 years before making the movie -- won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Jordan next returned to the realm of psychological terror with The Butcher Boy (1997). A horrifying, darkly comic look at a troubled boy's disintegration into insanity and violence, it earned comparisons to films ranging from The 400 Blows to A Clockwork Orange. Jordan earned wide acclaim for his handling of such inarguably difficult material, earning the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion.
After a disappointing Hollywood outing, the thriller In Dreams (1999), Jordan resurfaced later that year with The End of the Affair. Based on a Graham Greene novel, it starred Rea, Julianne Moore, and Ralph Fiennes as three points of a tumultuous love triangle. The film, set in London during World War II, returned Jordan to the familiar territory of love, loss, and all that comes in between.
Jordan founded his own production company, Company of Wolves, that created two films on which he was listed as producer. Jordan returned to the director's chair for The Good Thief, a low-key noir starring Nick Nolte that drew its inspiration from the work of the great French director Jean-Pierre Melville.
Jordan remained active throughout the 2000s, appearing in films such as Breakfast on Pluto (2005, The Brave One (2007), and Ondine (2009). In 2011, he wrote and produced The Borgias, which was picked up by Showtime the same year.