Mark Illsley Biography


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Birth Name: Mark Illsley
Born: 06/04/1958
Birth Place: Santa Rosa, California, USA


With a faltering career, Illsley grew more determined to helm a feature of his own, and teamed up with screenwriter Ed Stone who drafted the script that would become "Happy, Texas". Illsley and Stone privately funded the film, with major donations coming from Illsley's siblings and his Silicon Valley entrepreneur parents. The fledgling director excitedly undertook the tall task of making a film with little money, inspired by Robert Rodriguez's book "Rebel Without a Crew". In the end, "Happy, Texas" managed to land a $1.7 million budget (much more than the $50,000 he originally planned on) and an especially impressive cast of dedicated actors (Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn, William H Macy, Illeana Douglas and Ally Walker). The decidedly good-natured romantic comedy (a purposeful turn from the often cynical or debased indie fare) was relentlessly championed by the director, and was screened to acclaim (and a bidding war) at Sundance in 1999. It follows the adventures of two escaped convicts who posing as child beauty pageant coordinators descend upon a small town to hide out and rob the local bank, only to bewitch and be bewitched by the titular community's quirky residents. A particularly engaging subplot involving a closeted gay sheriff (Macy) was handled well, steering clear of tired stereotypes. The charming and funny feature's theatrical release came in the fall of that year, and enjoyed glowing reviews and a relatively strong box office. In the midst of the success of "Happy, Texas", Illsley, determined to make the most of his debut acclaim, was busy developing his next feature, "Guam Goes to the Moon/To the Moon", a comedy about an upstart space program peopled with NASA rejects.