Inside Story: From Adland to Tinseltown

Alex Benady profiles the directors whose visions are as spectacular - and successful - on the silver screen as they are on the small screen
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The Independent Online


Eton and Harvard educated Hudson is a graduate of Collett Dickenson Pearce, often described as the best advertising agency in the world ever. His greatest moment was Chariots of Fire, which won the Oscar for best film in 1981, and he is credited with single-handedly reviving the ailing British film industry. Subsequent efforts such as American War of Independence movieRevolution and Greystoke: the Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes failed to achieve the same high standard.

Perhaps better suited to the world of advertising imagery, he is responsible for a clutch of commercial classics. Greatest hits include the surrealist masterpiece "Iguana" for Benson & Hedges cigarettes and "Christmas", a £2m epic for BA.


While brother Ridley is seen as an "intellectual", Tony is often dismissed as "visceral" (critic-speak for bombastic and reactionary). This view is largely based on his greatest hit, the beautiful but shallow Top Gun (1986) starring Tom Cruise. But he can also do funny - Beverly Hills Cop II - brutal and funny - True Romance - and paranoid and funny - Enemy of the State.

Scott has also directed 2,000 commercials including his classy but ill-fated "Big" for Barclays (made by agency Leagas Delaney). Starring Anthony Hopkins, it boasted of the bank's huge size at the very moment the bank was chopping unprofitable branches.


Another Collet Dickenson Pearce alumnus who went on to better things. Parker made his name initially as a commercials director in the 1960s and 1970s in partnership with David Puttnam. His biggest moment ad-wise was the Cinzano campaign for CDP, starring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.

Filmically, Parker is best known for his musicals. He made his feature debut in 1976 with the implausible Bugsy Malone, a gangster musical acted entirely by children. He went on to direct Fame, Pink Floyd The Wall, The Commitments and Evita. His commercial success is surprising considering how often his films end on a depressing note.


Directing can be a crazy business and they don't come any crazier than the "temperamental" Kaye who demanded a credit as "Humpty Dumpty" on his first film, American History X, after a row with the studio. Critical acclaim rather than commercial success has been the hallmark of his film career to date.

Nevertheless he is one of the most brilliant commercials directors of his generation - and it's not only he who thinks so. Responsible for a string of highly innovative ads, his most outstanding work was the disturbing "Tested for the Unexpected" for Dunlop tyres, which with its Velvet Underground soundtrack deliberately blurred the distinction between advertising and art.


Aged just 40 Glazer is still a baby in directorial terms, yet he is responsible for some of the most striking visual images on television in recent years. "Surfer", his iconic AMV commercial for Guinness, was voted best ad of all time. His ads for Barclays bank with Samuel L Jackson set new standards in intelligent (some say unintelligible) advertising. Music videos for the likes of Radiohead, Jamiroquai, Blur and Massive Attack bolstered his reputation for originality.

Glazer moved into feature films in 2000 with the release ofSexy Beast, starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone, followed by the highly acclaimed Birth in 2004.


Martha Fiennes, sister of Ralph and Joseph, has the distinction of being one of the very few women to direct both features and commercials. She says her best commercial to date is an ad for Yardley with Linda Evangelista, although she is probably better known for her Peter Greenaway-inspired film for Archers - and let us never forget her follow-up to Ferrero Rocher's infamous "Ambassador's Party".

Fiennes made her feature debut in 1999 with her version of Pushkin's Onegin and followed it up last year with the star-studded Chromophobia about the disintegration of a bourgeois London family. Her forte lies in creating tantalising atmospheres and delicate webs of relationships.


When it comes to directors of films and ads, prolific Ridley Scott is the daddy. Allegedly worth £75m, he is by far the most successful British director in Hollywood with four of the biggest grossing films of all time, Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Hannibal, not to mention his magnum opus Blade Runner and this year's Crusades film Kingdom of Heaven.

He also owns Pinewood Studios, and advertising production company RSA where he has made thousands of commercials including the 1970s nostalgia-fest for Hovis bread, also for CDP, and widely regarded as one of the all-time great British ad campaigns.

Despite being one of the greatest visual stylists working today, he is also often described as "an actor's director" and his films feature surprisingly strong female characters.