The son of an Australian car salesman, Fred Schepisi half-heartedly pursued a life as a priest, but left the seminary by the age of 15. Schepisi then shifted his interest to the world of TV advertising. After directing several commercials, he moved into documentary filmmaking, winning an Australian Film Institute award in the process. Schepisi then set up his own highly respected production company, The Film House. He was 36 years old before he had the time and financial backing to direct his first fictional feature, the semi-autobiographical The Devil's Playground (1976). With his race-conscious The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978), Schepisi gained international renown; he used his new industry clout to leave Australia behind for a Hollywood career, briefly returning to his native country for the wrenchingly true story of trial-by-headline, A Cry in the Dark (1988). Schepisi's American-produced output has included Iceman (1984), The Russia House (1989), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), and the long-delayed Mr. Baseball (1993). A few low-key films such as Fierce Creatures (1997) and It Runs in the Family (2003) followed, but Schepisi made a serious mark with his Golden Globe winning adaptation of Richard Russo's novel Empire Falls. The HBO mini series starred Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Helen Hunt, and Robin Wright Penn.