David Mackenzie (director)
David Mackenzie is a Scottish film director and co-founder of the Glasgow-based production company Sigma Films. He has made ten feature films including Young Adam, Hallam Foe, Perfect Sense and Starred Up. In 2016, Mackenzie's film Hell or High Water premiered at Cannes and was theatrically released in the United States in August. In October 2016, Mackenzie boarded Damnation - a TV pilot for Universal & USA Network. Mackenzie also directed Outlaw King, a historical film for Netflix.
Mackenzie and his films have been described as not fitting neatly into any particular genre or type.
Life and careerAfter studying at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, Mackenzie began his directorial career with a series of well-regarded shorts, the first being Dirty Diamonds. After that came California Sunshine, Somersault and Marcie's Dowry. All were nominated and won numerous awards internationally.
Mackenzie's debut feature film is titled The Last Great Wilderness. His brother, actor Alastair Mackenzie, plays a character looking to exact revenge by burning down his wife's lover's house in the Highlands. The film begins as a comedy gangster thriller, then wanders into horror film territory before subverting all expectations and delivering something altogether different instead. It premiered at TIFF in 2002.
He followed this with his acclaimed adaptation of Scots beat writer Alexander Trocchi's cult novel, Young Adam. It features Ewan McGregor as a young drifter working on a river barge as he disrupts his employers' lives while hiding the fact that he knows more about a dead woman found in the river than he admits. Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan and Emily Mortimer also star. The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2003, and played TIFF and Telluride, winning Best Film and Best Director at the 2004 BAFTA Scotland awards. Tilda Swinton and Ewan McGregor both won Scottish BAFTAs for their performances. The film also won the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at EIFF, and British Newcomer of the Year at the London Critics Circle Awards and was nominated for four BIFA nominations and several European Film Academy Awards.
In 2005 Mackenzie directed Asylum, adapted from Patrick McGrath's book and starring Natasha Richardson, Sir Ian McKellen, Hugh Bonneville and Marton Coskas. It follows Richardson's character as she becomes very curious about one of her psychiatrist husband's inmates, a man who was found guilty in the murder and disfigurement of his former wife. It was nominated for Berlin's Golden Bear and won the Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.
Next, Mackenzie directed the highly regarded Hallam Foe, starring Jamie Bell and Sophia Myles. The film is adapted from the book by Peter Jinks and follows the voyeuristic title character as he runs away to Edinburgh and becomes transfixed by a beautiful woman who looks uncannily like his late mother. Again, this film won many awards including a Silver Bear in Berlin 2007, the Golden Hitchcock and Kodak Award for Cinematography at the Dinard Festival 2007, and the 2008 National Board of Review Award for Top Independent Film, as well as numerous other awards.
In 2009 he directed the sex satire Spread, which marked Mackenzie's first feature in the USA. The film follows Ashton Kutcher's LA gigolo as he begins living with a rich older client played by Anne Heche. Spread had its premiere at Sundance.
Mackenzie followed this by returning to Glasgow to make sci-fi romance Perfect Sense. The film follows a burgeoning romance between Ewan McGregor and Eva Green against the backdrop of a global pandemic of people losing their senses one by one. The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and picked up awards at film festivals around the world including Edinburgh, Bratislava and Philadelphia International Film Festivals.
After Perfect Sense, Mackenzie directed the comedy musical You Instead . The film stars Luke Treadaway and Natalia Tena as two rival rock stars who get handcuffed together for 24 hours at a music festival where they're both due to perform. It was filmed over five days at the Scottish music festival T in the Park in 2010. The cast and crew had to adopt a kind of guerrilla filmmaking approach to shoot amidst the chaos of a music festival. It premiered at both T in the Park in 2011 and Austin based music and film festival SXSW.
Mackenzie's next film was the prison drama Starred Up. It features Jack O'Connell as a young offender who is moved into an adult prison where his estranged and incarcerated father resides. O'Connell stars alongside Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend. The film is based on the writer Jonathan Asser's experiences as a voluntary therapist in HM Prison Wandsworth. It premiered at Telluride 2013 and went on to win numerous awards, including the BAFTA Scotland 2014 Best Film and Best Director Awards, get nominated for seven BIFAs and holds a remarkable 99% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Mackenzie returned to the States to make Hell or High Water, starring Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster. The film follows two brothers as they go on a bank robbing spree across Texas, whilst being pursued by a Texas Ranger and his partner. The film premiered in the 2016 Cannes Un Certain Regard competition, and was met with critical acclaim internationally. It was the highest grossing independent film of 2016 and its achievements have been recognised with four Academy Award nominations - including Best Picture - and several Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.
In late 2016, Mackenzie directed a TV pilot called Damnation for Universal Cable Productions and the USA Network. Described as an epic saga of the secret history of the 1930s American heartland, it chronicles the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden, God and greed, charlatans and prophets. Damnation was picked up to series by the USA Network in May 2017 and will be released by Netflix outside of the USA.
In 2018 Mackenzie's tenth feature, Outlaw King starring Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh and Billy Howle, was released on Netflix. The film tells the true David and Goliath story of Scottish king Robert the Bruce as he fights to repel the occupying English army. The film is produced by Gillian Berrie and Sigma Films.
On June 30, 2020 Mackenzie's short titled What is Essential? debuted on Netflix as part of their anthology series Homemade, which follows stories from 17 filmmakers from around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The short was co-devised with his daughter Ferosa and follows her experience turning 16 under lockdown.
Mackenzie lives in Scotland with his partner Hazel Mall and their three children: Ferosa, Luke and Arthur.
His father was Royal Navy Rear Admiral David John Mackenzie who served from 1943 to 1984 and fought in Falklands War, and his mother was Ursula Sybil Balfour. They were married in 1965, until their deaths in 2015.
- Dirty Diamonds
- California Sunshine
- Marcie's Dowry
BAFTA Scotland Awards">BAFTA Scotland">BAFTA Scotland Awards
Golden Globes">Golden Globe Award">Golden Globes
Directed Recognised Performances
Sigma FilmsAlong with producer Gillian Berrie, David Mackenzie is a partner in Sigma Films. As well as producing Mackenzie's own films, the company has produced other directors' pictures including Andrea Arnold's Red Road, Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin, Lars von Trier's Dogville and Robert Carlyle's The Legend of Barney Thomson.
Sigma Films founded the production and post-production facility Film City Glasgow and runs Jumpcut, a new-entrants scheme dedicated to providing a fast-track into the screen industries for young and disadvantaged people.