Neil Jordan

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Neil Jordan
Neil Jordan by David Shankbone.jpg
Jordan at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival
Neil Patrick Jordan

(1950-02-25) 25 February 1950 (age 72)
Sligo, Ireland
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, novelist
Years active1979–present
Spouse(s)Vivienne Shields
Brenda Rawn (2004–present)

Neil Patrick Jordan (born 25 February 1950) is an Irish film director, screenwriter, novelist and short-story writer. His first book, Night in Tunisia , won a Somerset Maugham Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979. [1] [2] He won an Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay) for The Crying Game (1992). He has also won three Irish Film and Television Awards, as well as the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival for Michael Collins (1996) and the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival for The Butcher Boy (1997).


Jordan also created The Borgias (2011 TV series) for Showtime and Riviera (2017 TV series) for Sky Atlantic.

Early life

Jordan was born in Sligo, the son of Angela (née O'Brien), a painter, and Michael Jordan, a professor. [3] He was educated at St. Paul's College, Raheny. Later, Jordan attended University College Dublin, where he studied Irish history and English literature. He graduated in 1972 with a BA in History. He became involved in student theatre there, where he met Jim Sheridan, who also was later to become an important Irish film director. Of his religious background, Jordan said in a 1999 Salon interview: "I was brought up a Catholic and was quite religious at one stage in my life, when I was young. But it left me with no scars whatever; it just sort of vanished." He said about his current beliefs that "God is the greatest imaginary being of all time. Along with Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, the invention of God is probably the greatest creation of human thought." [4]


Neil Jordan's career began in the late 1970s working for the Irish television channel, RTÉ. Included in his work was writing storylines for the children's fantasy series, Wanderly Wagon . [5]

In 1981, when John Boorman was filming Excalibur in Ireland, he recruited Jordan as a "creative associate". A year later Boorman was executive producer on Jordan's first feature Angel , a tale of a musician caught up in the Troubles played by Stephen Rea who has subsequently appeared in almost all of Jordan's films to date. During the 1980s, he directed films that won him acclaim, including The Company of Wolves and Mona Lisa , both made in England. The Company of Wolves, a dark and sexually-themed reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale based on short stories by Angela Carter, became a cult favourite.

As a writer/director, Jordan has a highly idiosyncratic body of work, ranging from mainstream hits like Interview with the Vampire to commercial failures like We're No Angels to a variety of more personal, low-budget arthouse pictures. He was also the driving force behind the cable TV series The Borgias .

Neil Jordan at the German premiere of The Brave One, 2007 Neil Jordan.4756.jpg
Neil Jordan at the German premiere of The Brave One , 2007

Unconventional sexual relationships are a recurring theme in Jordan's work, and he often finds a sympathetic side to characters that audiences would traditionally consider deviant or downright horrifying. His film The Miracle , for instance, followed two characters who struggled to resist a strong, incestuous attraction. Interview with the Vampire, like the Anne Rice book it was based on, focused on the intense, intimate interpersonal relationship of two undead men who murder humans nightly (although the pair never have sex, they are clearly lovers of a sort), accompanied by an equally complex vampire woman who is eternally trapped in the body of a little girl. While Lestat (Tom Cruise) is depicted in an attractive but villainous manner, his partner Louis (Brad Pitt) and the child vampire Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) are meant to capture the audience's sympathy despite their predatory nature. In the remake of The End of the Affair , two people (Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore) engage in a love affair that will end as suddenly as it started, with both not wanting its end.

In addition to the unusual sexuality of Jordan's films, he frequently returns to the Troubles of Northern Ireland. The Crying Game and Breakfast on Pluto both concern a transgender character (played by Jaye Davidson and Cillian Murphy, respectively), both concern The Troubles, and both feature frequent Jordan leading man Stephen Rea. The two films, however, are very different, with Crying Game being a realistic thriller/romance and Breakfast on Pluto a much more episodic, stylised, darkly comic biography. Jordan also frequently tells stories about children or young people, such as The Miracle and The Butcher Boy . While his pictures are most often grounded in reality, he occasionally directs more fantastic or dreamlike films, such as The Company of Wolves, High Spirits , Interview with the Vampire and In Dreams .

Jordan with Alicja Bachleda-Curus and Colin Farrell at the Ondine premiere, 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in New York Alicja Bachleda, Colin Farrell & Neil Jordan by David Shankbone.jpg
Jordan with Alicja Bachleda-Curuś and Colin Farrell at the Ondine premiere, 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in New York

The critical success of Jordan's early pictures led him to Hollywood, where he directed High Spirits and We're No Angels; both were critical and financial disasters. He later returned home to make the more personal The Crying Game, which was nominated for six Academy Awards. Jordan won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film. [6] Its unexpected success led him back to American studio filmmaking, where he directed Interview with the Vampire. He also directed the crime drama The Brave One starring Jodie Foster.

Neil Gaiman announced during his Today show appearance on 27 January 2009, that Neil Jordan would be directing the film of his Newbery Medal-winning book The Graveyard Book . [7] Jordan also wrote and directed the 2009 Irish-made film Ondine , starring Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda-Curuś. He also directed Byzantium , an adaptation of the vampire play of the same name starring Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton and Jonny Lee Miller. [8]

In 2011, Jordan's next feature was announced as the later aborted sci-fi romance Broken Dream, which was to have featured Ben Kingsley and John Hurt. [9]

He directed the thriller Greta (2018), starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz.

After working on the scripts for Riviera Neil Jordan has disowned Riviera, due to his scripts being reworked by others. He said he has no idea who rewrote these episodes. "They were changed, to my huge surprise and considerable upset. There were various sexual scenes introduced into the story and a lot of very expository dialogue. I objected in the strongest terms possible." [10]

Personal life

Jordan has five children: Anna and Sarah from his marriage to solicitor Vivienne Shields; Dashiel and Daniel from his current marriage to Brenda Rawn, and Ben, from a relationship with architect Mary Donohoe.

Jordan lives in Dalkey, Dublin. [11]

In 1996, Neil Jordan was honoured with receiving the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. [12]

He has received many honorary doctorates, most notably from Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and Queen's University Belfast. [13] [14] [15]

In 2009, he signed a petition in support of director Roman Polanski, calling for his release after he was arrested in Switzerland in relation to his 1977 charge for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. [16] [17]

In 2018, he has donated his archives to the National Library of Ireland. Jordan's donation included TV and film scripts, production files, notebooks, storyboards and personal correspondence with artists and political figures. [18]



1982 Angel YesYesNo
1984 The Company of Wolves YesYesNo
1986 Mona Lisa YesYesNoNominated- BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
1988 High Spirits YesYesNo
1989 We're No Angels YesNoNo
1991 The Miracle YesYesNo
1992 The Crying Game YesYesNo Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
1994 Interview with the Vampire YesNoNoNominated- Saturn Award for Best Director
1996 Michael Collins YesYesNo Golden Lion
1997 The Butcher Boy YesYesexecutive Silver Bear for Best Director
1999 In Dreams YesYesNo
The End of the Affair YesYesYes BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated- BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated- Golden Globe Award for Best Director
2000 Not I YesNoNoShort film
2002 The Good Thief YesYesexecutive
2003 The Actors NostoryYes
Intermission NoNoYes
2005 Breakfast on Pluto YesYesYes
2007 The Brave One YesNoNo
2009 Ondine YesYesYes
2012 Byzantium YesNoNo
2018 Greta YesYesNo
2022 Marlowe YesNoNo

Executive producer only


2011–2013 The Borgias YesYesYesYes
2017–2020 Riviera NoYesYesYes



Awards received by Jordan movies

YearFilmAcademy AwardsBAFTA AwardsGolden Globe Awards
1984 The Company of Wolves 4
1986 Mona Lisa 16141
1992 The Crying Game 61711
1994 Interview with the Vampire 2422
1996 Michael Collins 222
1999 The End of the Affair 21014
2005 Breakfast on Pluto 1
2007 The Brave One 1

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  3. "Neil Jordan Biography (1950–)". Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  4. Sragow, Michael (9 December 1999). "Beautiful Dreamer". Salon . Archived from the original on 11 February 2007.
  5. "Fustar – Recycling Cultural Waste Since 2005 // Eugene Lambert Interview Pt. 2 – A Wanderly Beginning". 13 January 2008. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  6. "The 65th Academy Awards | 1993". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  7. Laurie Hertzel. "Gaiman's 'Graveyard' will be a movie, too." Star Tribune. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  8. Kemp, Stuart (14 May 2011). "Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton to Star in Vampire Pic 'Byzantium' (Cannes)". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  9. "Ben Kinglsey & John Hurt for Neil Jordan – John Boorman's 'Broken Dream'". IFTN. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  10. Thorpe, Vanessa (24 June 2017). "The Neil Jordan series that isn't: film-maker disowns Riviera". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  11. "Location". Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  12. Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
  13. "University College Dublin - News". Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  14. "Film Director Neil Jordan among recipients of Honorary Degrees at TCD". Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  15. "Queen's University Belfast (formerly Queen's College Belfast) Honorary Degrees 1871-2018" (PDF). Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  16. "Signez la pétition pour Roman Polanski !" (in French). La Règle du jeu. 10 November 2009.
  17. "Sinead demands Jordan remove name from Polanski petition". The Irish Independent. 13 January 2010.
  18. "Neil Jordan donates 'vast' archive to National Library of Ireland". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  19. "Carnivalesque review: Neil Jordan’s cirque du supernatural". The Irish Times.
  20. "Neil Jordan Gets Rooney Prize", The Irish Times, 7 October 1981
  21. "Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award – Literary Competitions – 39th Listowel Writers' Week 2009". Listowel Writers' Week. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  22. Cían Nihill (2 June 2011). "Neil Jordan wins major literary award for second time". The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  23. Ronan McGreevy (18 November 2011). "Heaney honoured at book awards". The Irish Times. Retrieved 25 October 2012.

Further reading