Born in England and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, director Mike Figgis studied music in London, where he helped form a rhythm and blues group called the Gas Board that included amongst its members a young Bryan Ferry. Figgis' roots as a musician would later be made readily apparent in his screen work, as he has scored several of his films. Following his tenure with the Gas Board, he went on to work with an experimental British comedy/variety group known as The People Show. After being turned down by the National Film School, Figgis bankrolled his own 60-minute TV movie, The House (1976), gaining an entree into mainstream filmmaking.
In 1988, Figgis made his feature directorial and screenwriting debut with Stormy Monday. A moody character study set against the backdrop of the jazz and crime worlds, it received a moderately strong reception. Earning probably his greatest recognition for his successful direction of Richard Gere in Internal Affairs (1990) and the near-surrealistic Mr. Jones (1993), Figgis attracted strong notices for his 1994 remake of The Browning Version. However, it was with his highly acclaimed Leaving Las Vegas (1995) that the director really hit the big time. A somber, resolutely unsentimental portrait of the last days of a writer determined to drink himself to death, the film earned Figgis Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director Academy Award nominations, and provided Nicolas Cage with an Oscar for Best Actor. Figgis followed up this success two years later with One Night Stand; an ensemble drama centering on the repercussions of adultery, it received only a lukewarm critical reception. Figgis rebounded in 1999, releasing two films that year. The first, The Loss of Sexual Innocence, was a story revolving around a young man's sexual evolution, while the second, Miss Julie, was an adaptation of August Strindberg's play about an illicit love affair between a titled young woman (Saffron Burrows) and her servant (Peter Mullan).