Alex Proyas is an innovative and versatile filmmaker, with a penchant for large-scale science fiction productions. Maintaining prolific careers in both commercials and feature films, Proyas often uses the smaller venue as a testing ground for his big screen imagination, an inspired move that has rendered him a master of visual imagery.
Born in Egypt to Greek parents, Proyas moved to Sydney, Australia, when he was three years old. By 18, he was a distinguished freshman at the Australian Film and Television School, and a classmate of Jane Campion, for whom he composed the score to A Girl's Own Story. During his first year at school, Proyas wrote and directed Groping, the 1982 Best Short Film winner at both the Sydney and London Film Festivals. In his second year, he formed a production company along with two peers, called Meaningful Eye Contact. Dissatisfaction with school led Proyas to drop out in 1984, as he began directing music videos through the firm. The success of his video for the Crowded House single "Don't Dream It's Over" gained Proyas several video awards and brought the director to the U.S. in 1987. The next few years saw him directing videos for American artists, such as Fleetwood Mac and Yes, and returning to Australia to work with Crowded House and INXS.
In 1989, INXS' management and Meaningful Eye Contact produced Proyas' first feature, Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. The low-budget science fiction thriller (which he co-wrote and directed) attracted very little positive attention; its shortcomings were the result of Proyas' inexperience rather than his lack of talent. As Meaningful Eye Contact folded, Proyas quickly began directing television commercials. Throughout the early '90s, he helmed international ad campaigns for Nike, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and American Express, among many others.
Proyas returned to feature film with 1994's sinister comic book adaptation The Crow. Unfortunately, the movie is mostly remembered for the tragic on-set death of its star, Brandon Lee, a misfortune that overshadows its craft. As a commercial director, Proyas had become notorious for creating supernatural city environments through elaborate cinematography and special effects. He commanded The Crow's urban landscapes and architecture, pulling mystery out of the brightest window and sentiment out of the darkest alley. The effort established him as a feature director.
After The Crow, Proyas continued cultivating a script he had begun in 1990, a paranoid thriller (soon to be called Dark City) based on both science fiction literature and hard-boiled detective stories. Released in 1998, Dark City was heralded by critic Roger Ebert as the Best Film of the Year and won the Australian Film Circle Award for Best Screenplay.
Despite his success in features, Proyas has not abandoned other modes of filmmaking. In 1994, the same year as The Crow's release, Proyas was the cinematographer for the award-winning animated short Secrets of the City. His own short film, Book of Dreams: Welcome to Crateland was nominated for the Golden Palm at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. In 1999, after signing a first-look feature film deal with New Line Cinemas, he also signed with Bicoastal Chelsea Pictures to direct commercials.
Proyas' future looks to hold the same eclectic mix of filmmaking. Bicoastal Chelsea Pictures has opened a Sydney branch to accommodate Proyas as a commercial director. The firm is located downstairs from Proyas' own production company, Mystery Clock Cinema. Besides launching a groundbreaking filmmaking website, Mystery Clock has several feature projects in development for Proyas, among them are a remake of the Italian film 10th Victim, a science fiction murder mystery called Hardwired, and a film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's Masque of the Red Death. Proyas will also direct and executive produce the television series Riverworld (based on the book collection), for the Sci-Fi Channel.