Antoine Fuqua Biography

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Birth Name: Antoine Fuqua
Born: 01/19/1966
Birth Place: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Fuqua was born on May 30, 1965 in the rough-and-tumble Homewood neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. Raised in a good home - his father was a foreman for Heinz, his mother a medical technician - Fuqua, nonetheless, confronted the nightmares of living in a violent neighborhood, finding dead bodies in the alley, dodging a bullet at age 14, and suffering a stroke a year later from all the stress. But Fuqua was a good student and a talented basketball player - two gifts that helped elevate him out of the ghetto and into the University of West Virginia on an athletic scholarship, where he also studied electrical engineering. After two years of electromagnetism and signal processing, Fuqua called it quits and, while taking a baroque art class, became fascinated with painting. A brief return to Pittsburgh was followed by a move to New York, where he began working as a production assistant on local productions, learning the ins-and-outs of putting together a shoot.

While gaining an on-set education in filmmaking, Fuqua began writing treatments for music videos and ended up spending his rent money to make the short film, "Exit" - a production that he used to get his first crack at directing videos with Propaganda Films. Fuqua began directing both music videos and commercials for Propaganda, including the award-winning "Gangsta's Paradise" for Coolio, as well as spots for Toyota, Sprite and Reebok. As the case had been with other top music video directors, Fuqua made the jump to features. But unlike most of his comrades, he traded visual flair and eye-popping effects for story nuance and character development. His first feature, "The Replacement Killers" (1998) - an action thriller about a hit man (Chow Yun-Fat) having second thoughts about killing a 7-year-old boy - displayed the visual pomp and circumstance Fuqua developed when directing music videos, but also showcased his desire to be more character-centric. Despite the acting talent of Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino, "Replacement Killers" bombed at the box office and fell flat with critics.

Fuqua shifted focus - at least tonally - with his next feature, "Bait" (2000), an action comedy about a top investigator (David Morse) using a clueless petty thief (Jaime Foxx) as a lure to trap two master criminals (Robert Pastorelli and Doug Hutchison) who stole $40 million in gold from the Federal Gold Reserve in New York. "Bait" suffered the same consequences as "The Replacement Killers," earning less than $20 million at the box office while reaping the scorn of film critics. But Fuqua's next film, "Training Day," proved to doubters that the director had what it took to make a sharp, gut-wrenching and ultimately satisfying film. Set on the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles, "Training Day" centered its attention on a pragmatic, but criminally insane narcotics detective (Denzel Washington) who shows a rookie cop (Ethan Hawke) the ropes, while at the same time struggling to see the ever-blurring line between legality and corruption. "Training Day" proved to be a bona fide hit, garnering lavish critical praise and a substantial $76 million bounty at the box office - to say nothing of a Best Actor Oscar for Washington.

Though "Training Day" propelled him into the upper-echelon of directing talent, Fuqua had difficulty following up with something equally - or even closely - as compelling. His next film, "Tears of the Sun" (2003), started off as an earnest attempt by the director to turn a shinning light on the unchecked slaughter of innocent people in an African civil war. The story followed a veteran Navy SEAL (Bruce Willis) to the jungles of Nigeria, where he and his team rescue an American doctor (Monica Bellucci) who runs a medical clinic before civil war breaks out. After the good doctor refuses to leave without the 70 some-odd refugees left in her care, the SEAL is forced to disobey orders in order to save people from slaughter. Fuqua and Willis had different ideas on tone and approach - the director wanted to focus on the horrors of war-torn Africa, while the star wanted a heroic action film. Despite a contentious on-set relationship, Fuqua and Willis reached an unsteady consensus, resulting in an uneven and often muddled film that received a poor showing at the box office and a less-than-kind reception from critics.

Returning to his musical roots, Fuqua directed "Lightning in a Bottle" (2004), a documentary that showcased a one-night only blues concert at Radio City Music Hall featuring B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Macy Gray. Fuqua went back to narrative features with "King Arthur," a revisionist adventure about the mythological King of England (Clive Owen) that tried to insert a healthy dose of realism into the legendary Knights of the Round Table with middling success. Complicating matters for Fuqua, Disney moved the release date from Christmas 2004 to summer of that year, giving him a scant eight months to complete post-production with a PG-13 label, rather than the originally intended R-rating. Fuqua pulled it off as best he could, though in many ways he neutered what could have been a tough and gritty epic. After some time off, Fuqua directed "Shooter" (2007), a sharp 70s-style political thriller about a former military sniper (Mark Wahlberg) pulled back into service to protect the president from assassination, only to get set up by corrupt leaders as the triggerman, turning him into the target of a nationwide manhunt.