Mike Mills (director)

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Mike Mills
Michael Chadbourne Mills

(1966-03-20) March 20, 1966 (age 58)
  • Director
  • writer
  • designer
Years active1995–present
(m. 2009)

Michael Chadbourne Mills (born March 20, 1966) is an American film and music video director, writer and graphic designer. He made his directorial debut with the independent film Thumbsucker (2005). His followup films include Beginners (2010), 20th Century Women (2016), and C'mon, C'mon (2021). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for 20th Century Women.


Early life and education

Michael Chadbourne Mills [1] was born in Berkeley, California, [2] the son of Paul Chadbourne Mills, an art historian and museum director, and Janet L. Dowd, a draftsperson. [3] [4] [5]

He graduated from Cooper Union in Lower Manhattan, New York City. [6]


Mike Mills has created music videos for acts including Moby, Yoko Ono and Air. Air named the fifth song on their album Talkie Walkie after Mills. [7] [ failed verification ] He has also worked as a graphic designer on promotional material and album covers for such acts as Beastie Boys, Beck, Sonic Youth, They Might Be Giants, and Ol' Dirty Bastard. In addition he has created graphics for X-Girl, Marc Jacobs, and produces his own line of posters and fabrics called Humans by Mike Mills. [8] Mills played guitar and performed background vocals with the short-lived indie rock band Butter 08 along with Yuka Honda and Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto, Russell Simins of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Rick Lee of Skeleton Key. The band released one self-titled album in 1996 on the now defunct Grand Royal record label. [9]

Thumbsucker (2005) was his feature-film directorial debut, for which he also created the film posters. In 2007, Mills filmed the feature-length documentary Does Your Soul Have A Cold?, which explored the issues around the introduction of anti-depressants to Japanese culture. The film premiered at SXSW Festival and was part of IFC's documentary film series. [10] In 2010 he directed the Focus Features independent comedy Beginners which starred Ewan McGregor, Mélanie Laurent, and Christopher Plummer. The film is both a romantic comedy and a film about a son reflecting on his memories of his father. Amy Taubin of Film Comment praised Mills calling it a breakthrough, writing, "Mike Mills treats love and loss with a disarming tenderness and a refusal of sentimentality that make Beginners, his second feature, something of an anomaly among male identity flicks." [11] Plummer went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. [12] [13]

His next feature film was the A24 coming-of-age drama 20th Century Women (2016) which starred Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Billy Crudup. [14] [15] [16] The film had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, and was released on December 28, 2016. [17] [18] The Hollywood Reporter film critic David Rooney praised the film saying, "Mills uses some of the same devices as Beginners to illuminate his characters' cultural formation, notably historic montages of their birth years or backgrounds prior to coming together. And he also glances ahead to their future lives, after the arc of the movie. But the quilting is more seamless here because the eccentricities are so integral to the writing and performances." [19]

He has released some of his art/documentary photography works with the two books, Gas Book 11 (2003) and Humans (2006). In 2009, the Berlin-based culture magazine 032c devoted an issue to Mills. For the occasion Mills was interviewed by Nick Currie, best known for his work as Momus, in a piece called "Getting Through the New Depression". [20] In 2019, he directed the short film I Am Easy to Find starring Alicia Vikander, which accompanied the album of the same name by The National. [21]

Mills' latest directorial feature film was the 2021 black-and-white drama film entitled C'mon C'mon starring Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, and Gaby Hoffmann. The film was distributed by A24 and had its world premiere on 2 September 2021 at Telluride Film Festival. [22] [23] Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent praised Phoenix's performance noting it as "a career best", and further applauded Mills as "a master of intimate, unforced emotion and the kind of simple wisdom that always sounds best when it’s coming from the minds of children". [24]


Mills has cited as his cinematic influences, Alain Resnais, François Truffaut, Yasujirō Ozu, Ermanno Olmi, Woody Allen, and Jim Jarmusch. [25] [26] [27]

Personal life

Mills' mother died of brain cancer in 1999. Six months after she died, his father Paul came out as gay at the age of 75 and after 45 years of marriage. Five years later, his father died of cancer. [6]

Mills is married to fellow artist and film director Miranda July, [28] with whom he has a child, born in February 2012. [29] [30]



2005 Thumbsucker Sony Pictures Classics
2010 Beginners Focus Features
2016 20th Century Women A24
2021 C'mon C'mon

Documentary film

Short films

1995 An Introduction to Harmolodics short
1995Skating with Dave and Jaredshort
1998Hair Shoes Love and Honestyshort
1999The Architecture of ReassuranceShort film
2000Not How Or When Or Why But YesShort film
2000DeformerShort film
2001 Paperboys Documentary short
2019 I Am Easy to Find short

Music videos

1995"Men in Black" Frank Black
1996"2 Kindsa Love" Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
1997"Le soleil est près de moi" Air
"Hey Hey You Say" Papas Fritas
"Spokes" Pond
1998"Afrodiziak" Bran Van 3000
"All I Need"Air
"Kelly Watch the Stars"Air
"Sexy Boy"Air
"Party Hard" Pulp
"Legacy" Mansun
1999"Temperamental" Everything but the Girl
"Sometimes" Les Rhythmes Digitales
"Run On" Moby
"1, 2, 3, 4" Titán
2001"Bad Ambassador" The Divine Comedy
"It's Automatic" Zoot Woman
2002"Concrete Sky" Beth Orton
2003"Stardust" Martin Gore
"Walking on Thin Ice" Yoko Ono
2007"The Dress" Blonde Redhead
"My Impure Hair"Blonde Redhead
"Silently"Blonde Redhead
"Top Ranking"Blonde Redhead
2019"Light Years" The National
"Hairpin Turns"The National
"Hey Rosey"The National

Other works

Record sleeves


Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResultRef
2001 Santa Fe Film Festival Best DocumentaryPaperboysWon
2005 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Thumbsucker Nominated
2005 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Nominated
2006 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Nominated
2011 SXSW Film Festival Audience Awards Beginners Nominated
2011 Independent Spirit Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
2011 Gotham Awards Best Feature Won
2011 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Original ScreenplayNominated
2011 Detroit Film Critics Society Best Original ScreenplayNominated
2011Kansas City Film Critics Circle AwardsBest Original ScreenplayWon
2011Phoenix Film Critics Society AwardsBest Original ScreenplayNominated
2011 San Diego Film Critics Society Best Original ScreenplayNominated
2011Utah Film Critics Association AwardsBest Original ScreenplayNominated
2016 Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay 20th Century Women Nominated [31]
2016 Independent Spirit Award Best Screenplay Nominated
2016 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Original ScreenplayNominated
2016 Austin Film Critics Association Best Original ScreenplayNominated
2016 Florida Film Critics Circle Best Screenplay Nominated
2016 Dorian Awards Screenplay of the YearNominated
2016Hawaii Film Critics SocietyBest Original ScreenplayNominated
2016North Carolina Film Critics AssociationBest Original ScreenplayNominated
2021 SCAD Savannah Film Festival Auteur AwardWon [32]


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