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Niccol, Andrew

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Film, People.

(1964-    ) New Zealand filmmaker who migrated to London in the mid-eighties, where he directed television commercials before moving to Hollywood in the nineties to write and direct feature films. After being bought out of his contract to direct his spec screenplay The Truman Show (1998) in favour of veteran Australian director Peter Weir, he made his debut as writer-director with the stylish Genetic Engineering dystopia Gattaca (1997). S1m0ne (2002) returned to some of the themes of The Truman Show in a broader Hollywood Satire about a Virtual Reality screen siren who becomes a Frankenstein Monster; it was followed by his first non-sf film, the dark arms-trade satire Lord of War (2005), and a series of as yet unrealized sf and fantasy projects followed, including the Will Smith vehicle The City That Sailed, in which Manhattan Island crosses the Atlantic, and River Road, a Prison-escape Fabulation later retooled for a space setting under the new title The Cross, before his next film as writer-director In Time (2011), a spirited but poorly received chase film set in a dystopian future whose currency is lifespan. His next film was The Host (2013), from Stephenie Meyer's novel of Alien Parasitism The Host (2008); this was his first adapted work. Anon (2018) deals with crime in a future of total surveillance where privacy has ceased to exist and even personal memories are recorded; but the system, it proves, can be hacked.

Niccol is unusual in specializing in original sf projects, often to a narrative template of individual rebellion against a Dystopian system, with a satirist's interest in topically driven explorations of wilful collective blindness to societal fissures and moral or media fabrications; this tends to be laid on with the trowel, but is offset by a strong advertising-trained visual sense in both style and narrative. (The opening credit sequence of Gattaca walks us through the faking of a genetic identity; that of Lord of War shows the lifecycle of a bullet from manufacture to kill from the shell's point of view.) That his early satires, particularly The Truman Show and S1m0ne, now seem somewhat dated and overtaken by real-world developments is less a sign of actual prescience than of technological and extrapolative misprisions, and his leading roles have a tendency to go up to eleven, but at the very least he is a strongly individual voice pursuing idea-led sf films from within an intellectually resistant Hollywood. [NL]

Andrew Niccol

born Paraparaumu, New Zealand: 10 June 1964


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