The storied career of Jersey born film director Brian De Palma
Did you know that famed movie director Brian De Palma was born in New Jersey? I didn’t, but he was, on September 11th, 1940 in Newark.
De Palma is responsible for some of the best movies I grew up with, including Carrie, Scarface, and The Untouchables. He grew up the son of a surgeon in the Philadelphia area and was a math/physics whiz kid as a youth. He went to Columbia University as a physics student where he got interested in filmmaking. After getting his degree, he went on to Sarah Lawrence to get a master’s degree in drama.
He started shooting documentaries and small films and cast Robert DeNiro in his first credited screen role in The Wedding Party before moving to Hollywood. His big breakthrough came in 1976 with the horror/suspense/thriller Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel. The film was a huge hit and the two lead actresses, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, were both nominated for Oscars.
After directing successful films like Dressed to Kill and Blowout, De Palma made another landmark film, Scarface in 1983. The movie traced the rise of Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Al Pacino) as he ascends through the drug trade, becoming a crime boss along the way. The movie was criticized for its ultra-violence but was another box office hit. On a side note, the next year he directed Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video. In 1987, De Palma made another Hollywood classic: The Untouchables. The film tells the story of Prohibition era federal agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) as he tries to take down crime kingpin Al Capone (Robert DeNiro who shows off his baseball-bat skills). Sean Connery won an Oscar for his portrayal of Ness’s sidekick, Jim Malone.
In 1993, he reunited with Pacino for Carlito’s Way and, in 1996, he teamed up with Tom Cruise for the blockbuster, Mission: Impossible, which grossed over $450 million worldwide. He continues to work; he was working on a film called The Predator about sexual harassment when the pandemic interrupted production.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.