Joe Johnston

Active - 1980 - 2018  |   Born - May 13, 1950   |   Genres - Science Fiction, Adventure, Action, Fantasy, Children's/Family

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Getting his start in film as an effects technician on the original Star Wars (1977), it should come as no surprise that director Joe Johnston is generally drawn toward movies that lay it on pretty thick in the special effects and fantasy department. After all, Johnston would move on to work on some of the highest grossing effects-heavy fantasy films ever to thrill moviegoing audiences, even earning an Academy Award for best visual effects for his contributions to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

A former resident of Austin, TX, Johnston began his fruitful collaboration with George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd/Industrial Light & Magic with his work on the mythological trilogy that some sci-fi fans consider the Holy Grail of film. Defining childhoods of the 1970s and 1980s by capturing the imagination of filmgoers and giving substance to the far-off worlds that dreams are made of, Johnston refined his talents to help in capturing the larger-than-life worlds that modern special effects provided ever-growing opportunities for. Lending those same talents to the first two installments in Steven Speilberg's Indiana Jones series (Raiders and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)) in the early '80s, Johnston would play a key role in bringing the pulse-pounding cliffhangers that thrilled silent-film audiences up to date for a new generation unfamiliar with the thrills and chills experienced by their parents and grandparents.

Soon becoming even more intimately involved with his films by taking his maiden voyage as a producer in 1988 with Willow, it wasn't long before Johnston made the natural progression of wanting to sculpt his own creative visions and take to the director's chair. His opportunity to direct arose with the making of the popular family fantasy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in 1989. Spawning a lucrative franchise of numerous sequels and an eventual television series, Honey proved that Johnston could capture the magic he had spent so long creating and prompted him to devote his time almost exclusively to directing films. Though his next couple of imaginative yarns, The Rocketeer (1991) and The Pagemaster (1994), were only moderately successful, they still held on to the energy of his freshman effort and showed promise for projects to come. Johnston came even closer to the mark in 1995 with Jumanji, before shifting gears to the notably more personal October Sky in 1999. 2001 found Johnston tentatively approaching the ranks of the two visionaries he had been so successful in creating special effects for when he agreed to direct Jurassic Park III. Though the production was riddled with rumors of constant improvisation and last-minute script changes (when there was a script to be changed), in addition to one main star's questionable comments regarding the seat-of-their-pants production, Johnston remained calm and collected, commenting that it indeed was a chaotic shoot, but he was more than happy with the outcome and professionalism of the cast and crew.

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