Nicolas Roeg, Director of Mick Jagger and David Bowie Movies, Dies
Nicolas Roeg, a British film director who gave Mick Jagger and David Bowie their first starring roles in major motion pictures, has passed away. He was 90.
"He was a genuine dad," his son, Nicolas Roeg Jr., told the BBC. "He just had his 90th birthday in August."
Roeg was born in London and, after serving in the military, began his career in England's film industry at Marylebone Studios, starting with making tea and working the clapper. He got promoted to cameraman and was in the second unit on Lawrence of Arabia. But his next effort with David Lean, serving as director of photography on Doctor Zhivago, ended during production when the two regularly fought.
His directorial debut, 1968's Performance, on which he shared credit with Donald Cammell, starred Jagger as a rock star who hides a gangster (James Fox) in his home. Due to its depictions of violence, drugs and sex, it was not released until 1970.
After a couple more controversial movies, Walkabout and Don't Look Now, Roeg cast Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976. The film starred Bowie as an alien who lands on Earth looking for water to bring back to his drought-stricken planet. The studio was looking for a more traditional movie star and lobbied for Peter O'Toole and Robert Redford, but Roeg insisted on Bowie, who'd only had a few small roles in movies and television before becoming famous.
“I didn’t want an ‘actor’,” he said, “but someone who had the possibility of being unique.”
His next movie, 1980's Bad Timing, starred Art Garfunkel as a psychiatrist involved in a relationship with a young woman (Teresa Russell), who overdoses in an apparent suicide attempt. During filming, Roeg, who by this time had earned a reputation for overworking his actors, was threatened with a walkout by the cast and crew after keeping them on the set for 24 hours without a break.
Roeg continued to direct regularly through the mid-'90s, with his last movie, Puffball, coming in 2007.
Bowie's son, director Duncan Jones, tweeted a photo of the three of them. "Just heard another great storyteller, the inimitable Nicolas Roeg left us today," he wrote. "What an incredible body of work he’s left us with! All my love to his family. Thank you for making so many brave choices, & giving this strange little lad in pajamas an ongoing love of filmmaking."