Facts about Nicolas Roeg
Nicolas Roeg Biography
Nicolas Roeg was the English film director and cinematographer best known for atmospheric and unsettling dramas like Walkabout (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976).
Born in London, Nicolas Roeg began working at Marylebone Studios there when he was 19 years old. He worked his way up through the camera department to become cinematographer on films like Masque of the Red Death (1964, directed by Roger Corman) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966, directed by Francois Truffaut). Soon he was directing his own films, beginning with the oddball gangster movie Performance (1969, co-directed by Donald Cammell) which starred real-life Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger as a reclusive rock star.
Walkabout starred Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg (the director’s son) as Australian children stranded in the Outback and rescued by an aboriginal child. Don’t Look Now was a creepy psychological thriller with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a married couple in Venice as they grieve the death of their child; the movie’s love scene, with its time-shifted intercut between the couple making love and dressing afterwards, became Roeg’s signature film moment. The Man Who Fell to Earth starred another rock star, David Bowie, as a space alien who crashes on Earth while seeking water to save his planet.
Roeg’s movies were never commercial hits, due in part to their downer endings and in part to his challenging style, which made use of “mosaic-like montages and… elliptical details which become very important later on” (as film writer Jason Wood put it). But Roeg’s powerful visuals and inventive approaches to storytelling had a big impact on directors like Steven Soderbergh, who created his own time-shifted love scene for the movie Out of Sight.
Nicolas Roeg’s other films as director included Bad Timing (1980, starring Art Garfunkle) and The Witches (1990, starring Anjelica Huston). He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2011.
Nicolas Roeg was married three times: to Susan Stephen (from 1957 until their divorce in 1977); to actress Theresa Russell (from 1982 until their divorce); and to actress Harriet Harper (from 2005 until his death in 2018). With Susan Stephen he had four children: Waldo, Nicolas Jr. (known as Nico), Sholto and Luc. With Theresa Russell he had two children, Max and Statten… Nicolas Roeg was the original cinematographer on David Lean‘s classic 1965 film Dr. Zhivago, but was fired from the film mid-shoot over creative differences with Lean. Freddie Young took his place and received sole cinematographer credit on the film.