Atom Egoyan

Professor of Film at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Atom Egoyan

Biography

Atom Egoyan (b. 1960) is a critically acclaimed Armenian-Canadian filmmaker who has directed fifteen feature films that have won five prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, two Academy Award nominations, and four awards at the Toronto International Film Festival. His work often explores the way human relationships are corrupted by the omnipresence of technology. In addition to teaching at The European Graduate School / EGS, he has taught at the University of Toronto and is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ryerson University. In 1999, he received Canada’s highest civilian recognition when he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2008, he received the Dan David Prize for Creative Rendering of the Past.

Egoyan’s life story had a clear influence on his artistic development. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, to Joseph and Shushan Yeghoyan, who were of Armenian descent and ran a furniture store in Cairo. They chose his first name to mark the construction of Egypt’s first nuclear reactor. Both parents were artistically inclined, and his father studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. After their daughter was born, the family moved to Victoria, British Columbia, in 1963. There they changed their last name to Egoyan and opened a new furniture store. Atom Egoyan’s interest in reading and writing began during his early teenage years. As a young reader, he was influenced greatly by Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. In his later years he worked as a housekeeper at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, an experience that later influenced his filmmaking and creative vision, as demonstrated in Speaking Parts (1989).

At the age of eighteen, Atom Egoyan enrolled at Trinity College at the University of Toronto where he studied International Relations. There he began to rediscover his Armenian roots, joining an Armenian society on campus and learning the language. During this time he also shot his first short film, Howard in Particular (1979), which was funded by the Hart House Program and was screened at the Canadian National Exhibition film festival. This early film already showed certain characteristics that were to become a common thread in Egoyan’s work, specifically the theme of technology and the distortion of human communication. The story centers on an older man attending his own retirement party where he plays an audiotape of his former employer listing different events in his career. Shot in black and white, the film focuses on three visual images: the old man’s face, a speaker, and a tape machine.

While Atom Egoyan’s early work was based on his own screenplays, and he received acclaim for the film Exotica (1994), it was his first adaptation that resulted in his best-known work, The Sweet Hereafter (1997), which won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Russell Banks, and stars Ian Holm and Sarah Polley. The Sweet Hereafter documents the effects of a tragic bus accident on the inhabitants of a small town and deals with the complex struggles of grief and the inability to accept the chaos of the world. An existential anxiety weaves through this beautiful film, with its delicate narrative structure and aesthetic clarity, that defined Egoyan as one of the greatest filmmakers of our day.

Next, Egoyan directed Sarabande (1997), starring Lori Singer and Khanjian, a drama based around cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s performance of Bach’s Fourth Suite for Unaccompanied Cello. The film Ararat (2002) generated considerable publicity for Atom Egoyan. After Henri Verneuil’s French-language film Mayrig (1991), it was the first major motion picture to deal directly with the Armenian Genocide. As a result, he is widely considered to be the most famous Armenian filmmaker since Sergei Parajanov. Ararat later won the Best Picture prize at the Genie Awards.

His film Chloe (2009), a psychological drama about jealousy and sexuality starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried, was a remake of Anne Fontaine’s French film Nathalie…. (2003). The story deals with a complicated love triangle and grapples with questions surrounding feminine sexuality, a theme from earlier works such as Exotica and Where the Truth Lies (2005). In other ways, Chloerepresented a noticeable departure in Egoyan’s career as it was far more mainstream, featured Hollywood actors, and was the first feature for which he did not write the screenplay. Since then, he has made Devil’s Knot (2013), a crime film about the West Memphis Three starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, and The Captive (2014), a crime thriller starring Ryan Reynolds and Rosario Dawson.

In a 2014 interview with Movie Maker magazine, Atom Egoyan revealed his golden rules for happiness: “Don’t get depressed about not being where you want to be. This nagging feeling of anxiety is actually called ambition. Ambition is your friend. Nothing will ever turn out the way you want it to. It may be better. It may be worse. It will never be exactly what you imagined.” 

Atom Egoyan’s films include: Next of Kin (1984), Family Viewing (1987), Speaking Parts (1989), The Adjuster (1991), Calendar (1993), Exotica (1994), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Felicia’s Journey (1999), Ararat (2002), Where the Truth Lies (2005), Adoration (2008), Seven Wonders (2008), Chloe (2009), Devil’s Knot (2013), The Captive (2014), and Remember (2015). He has also published many books, including: Atom Egoyan: Interviews (2010), Stephen Andrews (2004), In Other Words: Poetic Licence and the Incarnation of History (2004), Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film (2004), Ararat: The Shooting Script (2002), The Event Horizon(1998), Exotica (1995), Atom Egoyan (1994), and Speaking Parts (1993). He has published articles in Movie MakerTravel + LeisureUniversity of Toronto QuarterlyGrantaBOMB, and Cinema Canada.

Works

Books

Atom Egoyan: Interviews, Egoyan, Atom. Atom Egoyan: Interviews. Edited by T. J. Morris. University Press of Mississippi, 2010. ISBN: 1604734868

Stephen Andrews, Egoyan, Atom. Stephen Andrews. Cue Art Foundation, 2004.

In Other Words: Poetic Licence and the Incarnation of History, Egoyan, Atom. In Other Words: Poetic Licence and the Incarnation of History. University of Toronto, 2004.

Ararat: The Shooting Script, Egoyan, Atom. Ararat: The Shooting Script. Newmarket Press, 2002. ISBN: 1557045526

The Event Horizon, Egoyan, Atom. The Event Horizon. Irish Museum of Modern Art, 1998. ISBN: 1873654499

Exotica, Egoyan, Atom, and Geoff Pevere. Exotica. Coach House Press, 1995. ISBN: 0889104751

Atom Egoyan, Egoyan, Atom, Paul Virilio, and Patrick de Haas. Atom Egoyan. Dis Voir, 1994. ISBN: 2906571342

Speaking Parts, Egoyan, Atom. Speaking Parts. Coach House Press, 1993. ISBN: 0889104514

Articles

My Golden Rules

Egoyan, Atom. “My Golden Rules.” Movie Maker, March 24, 2010.

My Favorite Place: Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, Atom, and Dani Shapiro. “My Favorite Place: Atom Egoyan.” Travel + Leisure,April 2010.

Atom Egoyan Speaks Out Against the BC Arts Cuts

Egoyan, Atom. “Atom Egoyan Speaks Out Against the BC Arts Cuts.” Stop BC Arts Cuts, November 26, 2009.

In Other Words: Poetic Licence and the Incarnation of History

Egoyan, Atom. “In Other Words: Poetic Licence and the Incarnation of History.” University of Toronto Quarterly Vol. 73, No. 3 (2004).

Dr. Gonad

Egoyan, Atom. “Dr. Gonad.” Granta 86: Film Sumer (2004).

Janet Cardiff

Egoyan, Atom. “Janet Cardiff.” BOMB Vol. 79, Spring (2002).

Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury

Egoyan, Atom. “Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury.” Cinema Canada 156, October (1988).

Interviews

Chloe in the Morning: Julianne Moore and her director, Atom Egoyan, reflect on the premiere of their new film

Egoyan, Atom, Julianne Moore, and Ben Kenigsberg. “Chloe in the Morning: Julianne Moore and her director, Atom Egoyan, reflect on the premiere of their new film.” Time Out Chicago, March 25-31, 2010.

Exclusive: Atom Egoyan Directs Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore in ‘Chloe’

Egoyan, Atom, and Karl Rozemeyer. “Exclusive: Atom Egoyan Directs Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore in ‘Chloe’.” Cinemaspy.com, March 28, 2010.

Sublimated Rage, Sex and the History of Cinema: An Interview with Chloe Director Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, Atom, and Matt Mazur. “Sublimated Rage, Sex and the History of Cinema: An Interview with Chloe Director Atom Egoyan.” Pop Matters, March 24, 2010.

Interview

Egoyan, Atom and Keith Phipps. “Interview.” A.V. Club, March 26, 2010.

Interview

Egoyan, Atom, and John Tusa. “Interview.” BBC Radio, 2010.

Interview: Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, Atom, and Adam Keleman. “Interview: Atom Egoyan.” Slant Magazine, 2010.

Film director Atom Egoyan examines infidelity

Egoyan, Atom, and Euan Kerr. “Film director Atom Egoyan examines infidelity.” Minnesotapublicradio.org, March 24, 2010.

Interview

Egoyan, Atom, and Michael Gregoris. “Interview.” Lucid Foge, March 26, 2010.

Interview: Director Atom Egoyan on Chloe, His Brilliant Career

Egoyan, Atom, and Patrick McDonald. “Interview: Director Atom Egoyan on Chloe, His Brilliant Career.” Hollywood Chicago, March 26, 2010.

The Double Life of Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, Atom, and Cath Clarke. “The Double Life of Atom Egoyan.” The Guardian,January 21, 2010.

Atom Egoyan talks Chloe

Egoyan, Atom, and Amber Wilkinson. “Atom Egoyan talks Chloe.” Eye For Film, 2010.

In Adoration

Egoyan, Atom, and John Esther. “In Adoration.” Green Cine, May 11, 2009.

The Rumpus Interview

Egoyan, Atom, and Jeremy Hatch. “The Rumpus Interview.” The Rumpus, May 20, 2009.

Atom Egoyan interview, conclusion

Egoyan, Atom, and Peter Keough. “Atom Egoyan interview, conclusion.” The Pheonix,Outside The Frame, May 20, 2009.

“Interview with Canadian-Armenian Filmmaker Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, Atom, and Miguel Mera. “Interview with Canadian-Armenian Filmmaker Atom Egoyan.” Ethnomusicology Forum Vol. 18, No. 1, June (2009).

Kutlug Ataman – Atom Egoyan

Egoyan, Atom, Kutlug Ataman, and Gea Politi. “Kutlug Ataman – Atom Egoyan.” Flash Art 248 (2006).

Finding The Truth in Directing

Egoyan, Atom, and Brad Balfour. “Finding The Truth in Directing.” PopEntertainment.com, October 22, 2005.

The Currency of Our Time

Egoyan, Atom, and Nina Renfeld. “The Currency of Our Time.” Green Cine, April 9, 2003.

Atom Egoyan: An Interview

Egoyan, Atom, and Ron Burnett. “Atom Egoyan: An Interview.” Film Views, Spring (1988).

Films

​Remember

Remember. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Serendipity, 2015.

​The Captive

The Captive. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Arts, 2014.

​Devil’s Knot

Devil’s Knot. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Worldview Entertainment, 2014.

​Venice 70: Future Reloaded

Venice 70: Future Reloaded. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Dream File, 2013.

​Chloe

Chloe. Directed by Atom Egoyan. StudioCanal, 2009.

​Adoration

Adoration. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Serendipity Point Films, 2008.

Citadel

Citadel. Directed by Atom Egoyan. 2006.

​Where the Truth Lies

Where the Truth Lies. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Serendipity Point Films, 2005.

​Ararat

Ararat. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Alliance Atlantis Communications, 2002.

​Close

Close. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Rosa Filmes, 2001.

​Diaspora

Diaspora. Directed by Atom Egoyan. 2001.

​The Line

The Line. Directed by Atom Egoyan. 2000.

Felicia’s Journey

Felicia’s Journey. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Alliance Atlantis Communications, 1999.

​Bach Cello Suite #4: Sarabande

Bach Cello Suite #4: Sarabande. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Rhombus, 1997.

​The Sweet Hereafter

The Sweet Hereafter. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Alliance Atlantic Communications, 1997.

​A Portrait of Arschile

A Portrait of Arschile. Directed by Atom Egoyan. BBC, 1995.

​Exotica

Exotica. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Alliance Entertainment, 1994.

​Calendar

Calendar. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Armenian National Cinematheque, 1993.

The Adjuster

The Adjuster. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Alliance Entertainment, 1991.

​Speaking Parts

Speaking Parts. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Academy Pictures, 1989.

​Family Viewing

Family Viewing. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Canada Council for the Arts, 1987.

​Men: A Passion Playground.

Men: A Passion Playground. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Art, 1985.

Next of Kin

Next of Kin. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Arts, 1984.

​Open House

Open House. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Arts, 1982.

​Peep Show

Peep Show. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Arts, 1981.

After Grad with Dad

After Grad with Dad. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Arts, 1980.

​Howard in Particular

Howard in Particular. Directed by Atom Egoyan. Ego Film Arts, 1979.

​Lust of a Eunuch

Lust of a Eunuch. Directed by Atom Egoyan. 1977.

Lectures

Atom Egoyan

Love, Recording and Filmmaking. Where the Truth Lies

22.02.2005
Atom Egoyan

Citatel. Memories of Beirut 4/4

07.07.2002
Atom Egoyan

Citatel. Memories of Beirut 3/4

07.07.2002
Atom Egoyan

Citatel. Memories of Beirut 2/4

07.07.2002
Atom Egoyan

Citatel. Memories of Beirut 1/4

07.07.2002