A director whose former career as a DJ has instilled in him a spectacular comprehension of pacing and a near-unparalleled ability to weave a compelling, nonlinear tale, Alejandro González Iñárritu stunned filmgoers worldwide with his vital and affecting directorial debut, Amores Perros. Striking a fine balance between brutality and beauty while offering well-defined characters that seem as real as their stark surroundings, Iñárritu's unforgettable take on life in contemporary Mexico City earned the first-time feature director an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film among many other honors -- leaving expectations for a strong sophomore follow-up much higher than usual.
A native of Mexico City whose familiarity with his surroundings no doubt contributed to Amores Perros' vivid presentation of his home turf, Iñárritu earned a living as a DJ on the top-rated Mexican station WMF before becoming one of the youngest television producers in Mexican history. A musician at heart, Iñárritu also scored six Mexican films in the late '80s. Viewing his television work as a precursor to his feature aspirations, Iñárritu was soon introduced to noted Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, and the pair quickly found that they shared much in common with one another, including a unique view of life in Mexico City. In the following years, Iñárritu would study filmmaking under Polish director Ludwik Margules, and following continued studies in Maine and Los Angeles, it seemed the aspiring film director was ready to make his move.
An early collaboration with Arriaga found the pair working well together, and the duo soon re-teamed to craft Iñárritu's debut feature, Amores Perros. A complex, labyrinthine tale that painted an undeniably affecting portrait of life in the writers' hometown, the film took home prizes from the Cannes and Chicago International Film Festivals among many others -- effectively making director Iñárritu an international, near-overnight success. Of course, with a debut as powerful as Amores Perros, expectations for a strong follow-up were stratospherically high, and after directing a short film for BMW and offering a contribution to 11'01''01, Iñárritu was finally up to the challenge. Once again, he collaborated with Arriaga for the screenplay, as well as with Amores Perros' cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto. The resulting 21 Grams didn't earn Iñárritu the universal acclaim of his previous feature, but it did offer a strong follow-up and an honest meditation on life and death. With a stellar cast including Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams (named for the measurement of weight that a body supposedly loses at the moment of death) signaled great things to come from the talented filmmaker.
After serving as executive producer for Rodrigo García's drama Nine Lives in 2005, Iñárritu stepped back behind the camera to complete the trilogy set into motion by Amores Perros and 21 Grams with Babel (2006). A film that was similar in both structure and execution to its two predecessors, Babel featured actors Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, and Rinko Kikuchi in three stories that detailed the familial pain and anxiety experienced by contemporary parents and their children. After receiving heaps of critical praise, Babel eventually took home a Golden Globe for Best Drama. In 2010 he directed the drama Biutiful, which follows a man struggling not to succumb to his darker side.
In 2014, Iñárritu directed, co-wrote and co-produced Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning four, including three for Iñárritu for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The following year, Iñárritu released The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The film received 12 Academy Award nominations, the most that year, including another Best Director nom for Iñárritu. When Iñárritu won Best Director again, he became only the third director to win back-to-back Oscars; the last to do so was Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1950 and 1951.