World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Abel Ferrara

Abel Ferrara
Abel Ferrara at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival
Born (1951-07-19) July 19, 1951
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
Other names Jimmy Laine
Occupation director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor, cinematographer
Years active 1971–present
Spouse(s) Nancy Ferrara[1]
Partner(s) Shanyn Leigh[2]

Abel Ferrara (born July 19, 1951) is an American film screenwriter and director. He is best known as an independent filmmaker of such films as The Driller Killer (1979), Ms. 45 (1981), King of New York (1990), Bad Lieutenant (1992) and The Funeral (1996).


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Later career 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Influences 5
  • Filmography 6
  • Recurring collaborators 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Ferrara was born in the Bronx of Italian and Irish descent.[3] He was raised Catholic, which had a later effect on much of his work.[4] At 15 he moved to Peekskill in Westchester, New York. He attended the film conservatory at SUNY Purchase, where he directed several movies, which are all available on "The Short Films of Abel Ferrara" collection. Soon finding himself out of work, he directed a pornographic film titled "9 Lives of a Wet Pussy Cat" in 1976,[5] which starred his then-girlfriend. Interviewed by The Guardian in 2010, he recalled having to step in front of the camera for one scene to perform in a hardcore sex scene: "It's bad enough paying a guy $200 to fuck your girlfriend, then he can't get it up."[6]

Early career

Ferrara first drew a cult audience with his grindhouse movie The Driller Killer (1979), an urban slasher in the mold of Taxi Driver (1976), about an artist (played by Ferrara himself under the alias Jimmy Laine) who goes on a killing spree with a drill in hand. He followed it with Ms. 45 (1981), a "rape revenge" film starring Zoë Tamerlis, who later scripted Bad Lieutenant. Ferrara was next hired to direct Fear City (1984), starring Tom Berenger, Melanie Griffith, Billy Dee Williams, Rae Dawn Chong and María Conchita Alonso. True to form, it depicted a seedy Times Square strip club, where a "kung fu slasher" stalks and murders the girls after work. Berenger portrayed a disgraced boxer who has to use his fighting skills to defeat the killer.

Ferrara then worked on two Michael Mann-produced television series, directing the two-hour pilot for Crime Story (aired 18 September 1986), starring Dennis Farina, along with two episodes of the series Miami Vice: "The Home Invaders" (aired 15 March 1985, in season 1) and "The Dutch Oven" (aired 25 October 1985, in season 2).

Following his television work, Ferrara directed several feature films: tong and the Italian Mafia; the made-for-television vigilante action thriller The Gladiator (1987) with Nancy Allen; and Cat Chaser (1989), starring Peter Weller.

Next, Ferrara created one of his most well-known films, King of New York (1990), starring Christopher Walken as gangster Frank White, who runs a group of black drug dealers, including one played by Laurence Fishburne. The cast included Wesley Snipes and David Caruso. As with most of Ferrara's films, the screenplay was written by Nicholas St. John.

Ferrara next directed Harvey Keitel in an acclaimed performance as the titular Bad Lieutenant (1992). Keitel plays a foul-mouthed, sex-addicted drug-using cop who wrestles with guilt and eventually seeks redemption in a Catholic church. The script was co-written by Ms. 45 star Zoë Tamerlis. Both Ferrara and Keitel were nominated for Spirit Awards and, despite its controversial content, the film was lauded by critics. Director Martin Scorsese also named it one of his top 10 films of the 1990s.[7]

Ferrara was then hired for two Hollywood studio films: a second remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, titled Body Snatchers (1993), for Warner Bros.; and Dangerous Game (1993), starring Keitel and Madonna, for MGM.

In the mid-1990s Ferrara returned to independent filmmaking, directing two well-received movies: The Addiction (1995)[8] and The Funeral (1996).[9] The Addiction, photographed in black-and-white, starred Lili Taylor as a New York University philosophy student who succumbs to a vampire as she studies the problem of evil and philosophical pedagogy, represented by the most violent events of the 20th century. The film also features Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco, Paul Calderon, Kathryn Erbe and Michael Imperioli. It was also co-produced by Russell Simmons. The Funeral starred Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Isabella Rossellini, Benicio del Toro, Vincent Gallo and others.

In 1996 he directed a music video for French singer Mylène Farmer's song California.

Later career

After making The Blackout (1997) with Matthew Modine and Dennis Hopper, he contributed to the omnibus HBOtelevision movie Subway Stories. Ferrara then made New Rose Hotel (1998), which reunited him with Christopher Walken.

Ferrara in 2008.

Ferrara returned three years later with 'R Xmas (2001), which starred Drea de Matteo and Ice-T. After recording two commentaries for Driller Killer and King of New York, he made Mary (2005), the religious-themed film starring Forest Whitaker, Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, Heather Graham, Stefania Rocca and Matthew Modine. The multi-plot film concerns an actress (Binoche) who stars in a Passion of the Christ-like movie about Jesus, where she plays Mary Magdalene, with whom she subsequently becomes obsessed. Matthew Modine portrays the director of the film, who bears striking similarities to Mel Gibson. Mary premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2005. It swept the awards ceremony, garnering the Grand Jury Prize, SIGNIS Award and two others. It was also seen at the Toronto Film Festival.[10] In 2007, he directed a comedy with Modine, Bob Hoskins and Willem Dafoe, Go Go Tales. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was either highly acclaimed or vehemently disliked. Ferrara began preparations for Jekyll and Hyde in 2009, which was to star Forest Whitaker and 50 Cent. After disagreements with Warner Bros. the film was indefinitely shelved in 2010.

A Ferrara film, the docudrama called Napoli Napoli Napoli, is scheduled to premiere at the Rome Film Festival. Ferrara plays a small role as a mugger in the independent film Daddy Longlegs (2010). Also in 2010, Ferrara teamed up with Film Annex, an online film distribution platform and Web Television Network, to launch In a press release about the new web channel, Ferrara said, “We have been looking for a place, a home to express what we are doing and to avoid the misinformation found when we are not active on a website. With Francesco Rulli, the Founder of Film Annex, we hope to create a distribution platform for the work, both past and present, while actively interacting with our audience, collaborators and other filmmakers."[11]

In April 2011, Ferrara began shooting his first feature in four years, 4:44 - Last Day on Earth, starring Willem Dafoe and Ferrara's longtime companion Shanyn Leigh. This is Dafoe's third collaboration with Ferrara after 1998's New Rose Hotel and his last feature film, 2007's Go Go Tales. The film was shot in one location, an apartment, set during the course of the last 24 hours before the biblical apocalypse. Ferrara's longtime cinematographer Ken Kelsch shot the film. 4:44 - Last Day on Earth competed at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in September 2011 and released in theatres in March 2012.[12] In April 2013, Ferrara began shooting a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual assault case titled Welcome to New York. It stars Gérard Depardieu in the role of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Jacqueline Bisset as Anne Sinclair.[13] It was released on May 17th, 2014 on VOD because the film failed to be picked up for theatrical distribution.[14]

He recently finished shooting a biographical film titled Pasolini about the acclaimed Italian director, poet, journalist and intellectual who was murdered in 1975. The film stars Willem Dafoe in the title role.[15]

It has been confirmed that Ferrara and Dafoe will collaborate for a fifth time in a film inspired by Carl Jung's The Red Book. The script has been written by Ferrara and Chris Zois and will be titled Siberia.[16][17]

Personal life

Ferrara currently lives in Rome, Italy. Originally raised as a Roman Catholic, Ferrara has converted to Buddhism. Ferrara is also about to become the father of a girl with a Russian woman he identified only as Christina.[18][19] Ferrara also implied in a 2012 interview that he has other children of his own who lived with him and have seen his films. In that same interview he also discussed his alcoholism and drug addiction.[20]

Ferrara was married to Nancy Ferrara.[1] He has also dated Shanyn Leigh.[2]


Ferrara has admitted that Pier Paolo Pasolini has served as influence in becoming a filmmaker.[21] He also credited Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen as influences,[22] as well as Rainer Werner Fassbinder.[23]


Recurring collaborators

Ferrara has recast many of the same actors in his films, most notably Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe.[25] Other actors he has recast include Annabella Sciorra and Matthew Modine as well as character actors such as Victor Argo, Paul Calderón and Giancarlo Esposito.[26] David Caruso is another one of Ferrara’s frequent film collaborators.[27] Ms. 45 (1981) star Zoë Lund collaborated with Ferrara again on Bad Lieutenant (1992), which she co-wrote.[28] Gretchen Mol has worked with Ferrara twice.[29] Forest Whitaker starred in Ferrara's films Mary (2005) and Body Snatchers (1993).[30]


  1. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (19 November 1993). "Dangerous Game (1993) Review/Film; A Movie Within a Movie, With a Demure Madonna".  
  2. ^ a b Longworth, Karina (21 March 2012). "New York Is Over. (But First, Weather on the 1s in Abel Ferrara's Last Day on Earth)".  
  3. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (1990-10-28). "MOVIES The Prince of Darkness Director Abel Ferrara practices a kind of gonzo filmmaking, and his violent vision isn't a particularly popular one in Hollywood". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  4. ^ Lim, Dennis (2008-10-12). "Struggling With Faith and Gentrification". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  5. ^ Paszylk, Bartlomiej. "The Driller Killer". The Pleasure and Pain of Cult Horror Films: An Historical Survey. McFarland. p. 153.  
  6. ^ Abel Ferrara: 'I made Scarface look like Mary Poppins'. interview, 5 August 2010, Guardian. Retrieved on 2012-04-15.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert & The Movies (show #1426), 26 February 2000. Retrieved on 2012-04-15.
  8. ^ "The Addiction (1995): Awards". Allmovie. Retrieved Feb 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Funeral (1996)". Allmovie. Retrieved Feb 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ "2005 TIFF Archives (10 posts)". Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "Film Annex and Abel Ferrara Create Web TV Channel". May 26, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Venezia 68: International competition of feature films". Venice. Retrieved 2011-08-28. 
  13. ^ Child, Ben (February 6, 2012). "Gerard Depardieu to star in film inspired by Dominique Strauss-Kahn". The Guardian (London). Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  14. ^ Donadio, Rachel (May 18, 2014). "Cannes Film Festival: Strauss-Kahn Film Under Fire".  
  15. ^ "'"Director Abel Ferrara on Mysterious 1975 Death of Pier Paolo Pasolini: 'I Know Who Killed Him.  
  16. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (14 May 2015). "He’s Back! Abel Ferrara To Launch Willem Dafoe-Starrer ‘Siberia’ On Croisette".  
  17. ^ Rife, Katie (14 May 2015). "Get Involved, Internet: Help Abel Ferrara and Willem Dafoe make a movie about dreams".  
  18. ^ Johnson, Richard (8 October 2014). "‘Pasolini’ director Abel Ferrara turns to Buddhism".  
  19. ^ Shoard, Catherine (23 May 2014). "'"Abel Ferrara at Cannes: 'You gotta be careful what you say … but I'm not.  
  20. ^ Walker, Luke (15 March 2012). "Breaking Bad: The Second Coming of Abel Ferrara". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  21. ^ Kasman, Daniel (7 June 2014). """The Pursuit of Freedom: Abel Ferrara Discusses "Welcome to New York. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  22. ^ Carli, Vittorio. "Abel Ferrara Interview". Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  23. ^ Cryptekeeper 041 Abel Ferrara/4H44 dernier jour sur terre at YouTube
  24. ^ Hopewell, John (August 16, 2013). "Ferrara, Dafoe Re-team for ‘Pasolini’".  
  26. ^ Dee, Jake (7 January 2014). "DISSECTING DIRECTOR ABEL FERRARA!". 
  27. ^ "Indie Filmmaker Abel Ferrara Will Bring Short Eyes Back to Broadway". 24 February 2010. 
  28. ^ Vestby, Ethan (9 December 2013). "Abel Ferrara On Artistic Freedom, Collaboration, ‘Ms. 45,’ Pier Paolo Pasolini & More". 
  29. ^ Hillis, Aaron (26 February 2009). "GRETCHEN MOL INDULGES IN “AN AMERICAN AFFAIR”".  
  30. ^ Nastasi, Alison (19 November 2009). "Abel Ferrara's 'Jekyll and Hyde' Coming Soon From Warner Bros.".  

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Abel Ferrara at the Internet Movie Database
  • Guardian interview, 5 August 2010
  • Nicky's Film sound design and remix contest
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.