You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Director to Watch: J Blakeson

Helmer is an ambitious student of film

J Blakeson (J stands for Jonathan, but only his mother calls him that) knows his movies. His debut, “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” a tight and twisty kidnap thriller, is an exercise in shooting on a shoestring.

It bears all the hallmarks of years spent studying films, and devouring the books written on filmmakers, with one goal in mind — becoming a director.

Blakeson started making shorts in high school and continued at the U. of Warwick, where he earned a degree in film studies.

I’ve been trying to direct my debut for 10 years,” he says. “I started writing scripts because people didn’t want to hire me as a director.” He sold a pitch, co-written with James McCarthy, to Working Title, and together they were hired to write the sequel to “The Descent,” which gave Blakeson his first produced credit.

He conceived “Alice Creed” as a project he could direct himself for next to nothing. “I set myself rules. Only three characters. One or two locations. A flat and the back of a van.”

The two kidnappers (Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston) wear balaclavas for much of the action. Their victim, Gemma Arterton, spends much time with a hood on her head. “I designed it so you could make 50% of the film with stand-ins if you needed to,” he explains.

Such extremes were unnecessary when CinemaNX came aboard to finance the project, although the budget still didn’t afford much room for maneuvering.

I want to make ambitious movies. My ideas are more akin to films American producers make than British ones,” he says. “I’d love to have (Steven) Soderbergh’s career. He does massive Hollywood movies and tiny movies.”

Marc Samuelson of Cinema-NX says Blakeson’s the real deal. “He has all the inspired ideas one might hope for from a director,” he says, “but he has also done the hard work, in that he has watched, well, nearly everything, and remembers, thinks about and uses what he has seen.”


AGE: 32


INSPIRED BY: Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher

REPS: Agents: Nicky Lund (David Higham Associates, London); Jay Baker (CAA)

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Chrissy TeigenBaby2Baby Gala, Arrivals, 3Labs, Los

    Chrissy Teigen Receives Giving Tree Award at 2019 Baby2Baby Gala

    Chrissy Teigen accepted the “Giving Tree” Award at the 2019 Baby2Baby Gala on Saturday with a speech chockful of her trademark humor and humility. Upon receiving a standing ovation, Teigen laughingly told the star-studded crowd to sit down, joking that she is more accustomed to receiving an accolade for “Best Titties” at the Spike TV [...]

  • Co-host Rita Moreno performs on stage

    Rita Moreno's Role in New 'West Side Story' Is More Than a Cameo: 'It’s a Real Part'

    During her live show, “An Evening with Rita Moreno,” Saturday night, Rita Moreno told the audience she will have a “real” role in next December’s “West Side Story” remake, which recently wrapped shooting, and that she initially had concerns about the film’s production. “At first, it was interesting when I heard there were rumors that [...]

  • Charlize Theron American Cinematheque

    Seth Rogen, Seth MacFarlane Roast Charlize Theron During Bawdy American Cinematheque Ceremony

    As Charlize Theron accepted the 33rd American Cinematheque honor at the Beverly Hilton on Friday night, the atmosphere more resembled a roast than a reverential evening celebrating the cinematic achievements of an Oscar winner. Presenters like Seth Rogen, Kristen Stewart and Seth MacFarlane shared bawdy jokes and reveals about what it’s really like working with [...]

  • Katie Couric

    Katie Couric Says Matt Lauer 'Ultimately Turned Out to Be Two Very Different People'

    Katie Couric discussed Matt Lauer, the Me Too movement and female leadership in business at the Dress for Success annual Women Who Inspire breakfast in New York City on Wednesday. Couric, who spoke during a fireside chat at the nonprofit’s female empowerment event, was asked about Lauer’s ouster from the “Today” show, and the many [...]

  • Tina Turner Musical

    Oprah Winfrey Joins Tina Turner for the Opening Night of 'Tina' Musical on Broadway

    On Thursday night in New York City, Tina Turner joined the ranks of Cher, Donna Summer, the Temptations and the Jersey Boys — Carole King, too — baptized, as it were, in the disco inferno of a high-powered Broadway jukebox. “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” joins a steady stream of bio-musicals bent on squeezing, often [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content