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Lucas, Cameron, Action! The Top 5 Richest Movie Directors

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Lucas, Cameron, Action! The Top 5 Richest Movie Directors

Life imitates art, or so the saying goes: If that’s true, then the world’s top directors are some of the most influential people responsible for creating life. Directors are the ones with the artistic, original vision behind our favourite movies. When we’re watching our favourite actors and actresses portray relatable characters, when we’re falling in love with the people and the storyline or simply basking in the beauty of the filmography, we’re watching the directorial genius at work.

Films, since their inception, have played a seminal role in our culture – reflecting society, at times defining it and even foreshadowing it. Films today make up a multi-billionaire industry that take months, even years of work to bring to life. For the biggest blockbusters, there are powerful teams of scriptwriters, producers, actors, designers and tech geniuses coming together to construct a story that will be translated into a magical two hours on the big screen.

But one of the most important people in the creation equation is, without doubt, the director. Sitting on his directorial thrown – or fabric fold-out chair – the director presides over the movie scene by scene, leading the actors in the right direction and making his or her vision of the story a reality. If a film grosses millions, it’s the director who garners a hefty portion of the praise – and the profit. So who are the most succesful of these creative geniuses? We bring you, a list of the directors who got rich by successfully bringing some of our favorite movies and franchises to life – the 10 richest directors in the world today.

5. Michael Bay- $82 million

michael-bay-transformers4622(1)

In 1965, Los Angeles saw the birth of future multi-million-dollar director Michael Bay. He was first exposed to the film industry as a teenager, interning on George Lucas’ film Raiders of the Lost Ark. His university experience was spent majoring in English and Film at Wesleyan University and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He had a modest start in directing, beginning in commercials and music videos like the famous “Got Milk” commercial and various Coca Cola and red Cross commercials that won him a Clio Award.

He has directed music videos for such artists as Tina Turner, Aerosmith and Donnie Osmond. Finally, his talents caught the attention of producers Jerry Buckheimer and Don Simpson, and this exposure landed him the directorial role for the film Bad Boys. However, Bay’s biggest commercial directorial success was the Transformers trilogy. He was able to negotiate partial rights to the movies, allowing him to receive a large portion of the profits. Hasbro, the owners of the Transformers franchise, even granted Bay a considerable percentage of the merchandising profits on top of ticket sales – this accounts for approximately half of his net worth.

Bay has also co-founded the Platinum Dunes production company with partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form: The company has garnered vast success with its remakes of such movies as Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He also formed the Institute for the Development of Enhanced Perceptual Awareness (IDEPA), a company that has produced commercials for such companies as Victoria’s Secret, Nike, Lexus and Reebok.

Bay’s other successful movies include The RockArmageddonThe Island and Pearl Harbor. He has also produced the TV series No Way Out and Cocaine Cowboys. Bay is credited with acting roles in some of his TV shows and films, too, such as Miami ViceMystery Men and Armageddon.

4. The Wachowski Siblings – $250 million

Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski

Siblings Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski  (born Laurence, but has since undergone a sex change) were born in Chicago in the early 60s to a nurse and a businessman; they’re also the nephew and niece of actor, Laurence Luckinbill. The two attended Whitney Young high school, a school known for its performing arts and science courses. While there, they worked in the school’s theater and TV program, laying the foundations for their future careers. Though both attended separate colleges in Boston and New York, the brothers dropped out before graduation and went on to make comic books for Marvel Comics and by the mid-90s the brothers had decided to branch out into filmmaking. Their first creation was the script for future film Assassins. Unfortunately, after being bought by Warner Brothers, the script was rewritten by Brian Helgeland. The pair tried and failed to remove their names from the movie and the film was a flop. The siblings then went on to make their directorial debut with the film, Bound, and in 1999 they had their big break when they directed the Matrix. The Matrix and its sequels went on to garner huge profits and generally positive critical acclaim. The Wachowski siblings went on to write and produce V for Vendetta, which was received well, as well as Speed Racer – which was a critical and commercial failure. A couple of failures, though, doesn’t eclipse the huge success of this talented twosome – as their impressive net worth demonstrates.

Along with gaining wealth and status, the brother and sister duo have won various film awards, including a Saturn Award for best director for the Matrix, and an honorable mention at the Stockholm Film Festival for Bound.

3. James Cameron- $700 million

James Cameron

Canadian James Cameron -born in Kapuskasing, Ontario – is a descendant of the Scottish Clan Cameron. When he was 17, Cameron’s family moved to Brea, California. He studied physics at community college and switched to English, but dropped out before the start of the fall semester in 1974. Cameron’s road to the director’s chair wasn’t a straight one; he worked several jobs, including truck driving, while beginning to teach himself about special effects. In 1977, Cameron quit his job and decided to enter the film industry. His first film went by the name of Xenogenesis, inspired by the Syd Field book, Screenplay. He directed, wrote, produced and designed the whole creation.

His major success came in 1984 with the first film in the Terminator franchise. He met rejection from many production companies due to his inexperience, but was finally taken on by Herndale Pictures. He then went on to write and direct Aliens and Terminator 2; with these movies, Cameron received much critical acclaim for his use of special effects. Then, in 1997, he took on is biggest film to date, Titanic, followed by Avatar. During this time, he also tried his hand at documentaries, directing some underwater and sea-life documentaries.

Cameron has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards, with Titanic winning him three of the prestigious awards. Titanic and Avatar, with $2.19 billion and $2.78 billion respectively, were the two highest grossing films of all time and Cameron was named 2011’s top earner by Vanity Fair. The director’s prestigious career has netted him well over half a billion dollars in his lifetime so far.

2. Steven Spielberg- $3.3 Billion

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And now, with a four-decade and continuing career, our equivalent to film himself, Steven Spielberg. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a concert pianist mother and an electrical engineer father, Spielberg was passionate about film from a young age. It was in his teenage years in Scottsdale, Arizona, that he started making short films, even going as far as charging a quarter for the local kids to come and watch his movies. At the tender age of 13, he created a war film called Escape from Nowhere, for which he won an award. He then went on to release a feature length film, Firelight, in the local theater, at age 16. After being rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film, and Television 3 times, he studied at California State University in Long Beach.

Spielberg entered the world of Hollywood as an unpaid intern at Universal Studios, working as an editor. After directing a short film, Amblin, he caught the attention of Universal’s television sector VP, Sidney Shainberg and Spielberg dropped out of college to sign a long-term contract with Universal – making him the youngest director ever to do so. As a television director, he directed episodes of Rod Sterling’s Night Gallery, Columbo, and Marcus Welby M.D. His career skyrocketed in 1975 with the massive success of Jaws, which was viewed by a record over 67% of Americans. He then teamed up with George Lucas and created Indiana Jones. He has gone on to direct such Hollywood blockbusters as Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, Poltergeist and E.T.

1. George Lucas- $4.2 Billion

George Lucas

It will likely come as no surprise that George Lucas, the man behind the Star Wars franchise, is the richest director – and one of the richest people – in Hollywood. A California native, Lucas originally wanted to pursue a career in car racing. Fatefully, though, a nearly fatal car crash shifted his views focus from cars and on to film. Lucas’ career in filmmaking and photography began materializing in Junior College. At the University of Southern California, he met fellow film student and future partner, Steven Spielberg.

Lucas went on to win many accolades during his post-graduate studies, as well as a Warner Bros. scholarship. In the 60s, after failing to find success with a student film turned feature, THX 1138, Lucas struck out on his own and founded Lucasfilm Ltd. which led to George Lucas’ first commercially successful film, American Graffiti; this earned five Academy Award nominations and drew in $115 million.

Lucas went on to develop the concept of Star Wars, which was picked up due to his previous success with American Graffiti, and the rest is sci-fi and Hollywood history. \6 Star Wars films later, the franchise has grossed over $5 billion worldwide.

Lucas has also acted as producer, executive producer and writer for such films as Body Heat, Labyrinth, The Land Before Time, and The Indiana Jones films. The American Film Institute awarded Lucas the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Lucas’ most recent high-profile business deal in Hollywood saw him sell Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney for an astounding $4 billion.  Lucas remains as Chair and Chief Executive but is set to step aside, having announced his retirement from blockbuster movies in 2012. The multi-billion dollar sale made Lucas one of Disney’s biggest shareholders and secured his place as one of the richest men in the world. As of September 2013, Lucas was reportedly worth an estimated $4.2 billion.

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