March 26, 1971
Feature film director, Music video director
PhotosView All (5)
Following in the footsteps of such A-list directors as David Fincher and Spike Jonze, young up-and-coming director Francis Lawrence began his career helming music videos before taking the leap into features. Born in Vienna and raised in Los Angeles since he was three, Lawrence got his start making music videos nearly by accident. Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1980s, Lawrence was naturally drawn to filmmaking. In addition to writing screenplays, Lawrence directed his own Super-8 movies in high school. From there, Lawrence attended Loyola Marymount University where he studied filmmaking and continued producing his own short projects. After graduation, Lawrence began shooting music videos in the mid-1990s for an independent label owned by a friend. Five years later, he was directing videos for some of the biggest artists in the business, including Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Will Smith and Gwen Stefani. As Lawrence's reputation in the music video community exploded, so too, did the director's hipness quotient in Hollywood. By the dawn of the new millennium, Lawrence's gifts as a visionary genius had attracted the attention of actress Jennifer Lopez, who at the time, was launching into her very public metamorphosis into the media icon known as J-Lo. By 2004, Lawrence had earned an established track record and a well-earned reputation as one of the most visually talented video directors around. After the commercial success of his first two films, comic book adaptation "Constantine" (2005) and post-apocalyptic thriller "I Am Legend" (2007), Lawrence joined the top tier of Hollywood action directors when he took over as director of "The Hunger Games" with the series' second installment, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013), and its sequels.Lawrence entered the world of feature filmmaking with his first effort, "Constantine" (2005), a supernatural thriller with religious overtones and a dash of film noir based on the DC Comic book series, Hellblazer. His only challenge to becoming a feature director was the film's star -- Keanu Reeves had told manager Warner Bros. executives that he wanted no music video directors -- a request that should have eliminated Lawrence from the competition before he stepped foot in the gate. But the director wooed Reeves in a meeting with detailed storyboards and a mind for the complexities of the character. Impressed, Reeves used his carte blanche to get him the job. Lawrence was immediately beset by fans of the comic-book series who raised hell over the casting of Reeves -- they complained he wasn't faithful to the original character, who was blonde and British; the antithesis of Reeves' black-haired Southern Californian dude. But test screenings of the movie were glowing and the comic-book purists were forced to accept the former "Matrix" messiah as the tormented demon hunter obsessed with sending Satan's minions back to hell with the hope of saving his own dark soul. Despite a flurry of stunning special effects -- the scenes from hell were some of the most graphic caught on film -- and a complex anti-hero, critics were less than thrilled with Lawrence's freshman outing. Financially, however, the film was a success for the rookie director, grossing more than $225 million internationally. In 2007, Lawrence returned with "I Am Legend," a post-apocalyptic action/horror movie based on the Richard Matheson tale of the same name. With Will Smith in the lead role of plague survivor Robert Neville, the film was a blockbuster hit despite having its special effects work heavily criticized. Rather than helming another fantastical feature, Lawrence executive produced the TV drama "Kings" (NBC, 2009), starring Ian McShane, and also directed the first four installments of the series. The ambitious show, however, didn't make it past 13 episodes, and Lawrence returned to movies, taking on the literary adaptation "Water for Elephants," a period piece featuring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.