Since its inception in 1992, the MTV Movie Awards have largely been seen as an anti-Oscars – popular movies seem to gain more victories, and the films Oscar usually pick aren’t awarded much love these days. This year’s ceremony had a major showdown with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I (which won Best Movie) pitted against the other major blockbuster The Hunger Games (which won the most awards with four). Yet for more than a decade, one group of people who liked the MTV Movie Awards had to be directors needing a boost.
From the first ceremony to the 2002 event, the MTV Movie Awards presented an award for the Best New Filmmaker. Of the 11 directors who won this award, they have all gone on to varying degrees of success – and it has had led to success at that other big Hollywood ceremony. Eight winners of this award would become Academy Award nominees, with two grabbing the statuette.
1992: John Singleton, Boyz N the Hood
The USC graduate wrote and directed this debut feature about three friends (Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Cuba Gooding, Jr.) struggling to grow up and survive in South Central L.A. as they near the end of their high school days. Boyz N the Hood was a critical and commercial success, but the real surprise came at the Academy Awards in March 1992 – Singleton was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. With his directing nod, he became the first African-American to achieve that feat. At the inaugural MTV Movie Awards later that summer, Singleton would achieve another first – being the first Best New Filmmaker winner. He would later direct Janet Jackson in 1993’s Poetic Justice and achieve a box office blockbuster with the 2003 adventure 2 Fast 2 Furious.
1993: Carl Franklin, One False Move
Before the theatrical release of Franklin’s dramatic thriller, it was destined to have a video-only future. Yet the performances of Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton (who co-wrote the screenplay) may have helped boost the film’s need to break out with critics and indie audiences. An Arkansas sheriff (Paxton) catches word on a trio of killers (led by Thornton) headed his way, after causing murder and drug robbery on the West Coast. While Franklin directed other projects such as the 1989 David Carradine thriller Nowhere to Run, this film opened up more opportunities in the Hollywood landscape for him. He would work with Denzel Washington on two films – 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress and 2003’s Out of Time, and even directed Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination for the 1998 drama One True Thing.
1994: Steven Zaillian, Searching for Bobby Fischer
The California-born writer-director had penned scripts for John Schlesinger (1985’s The Falcon and the Snowman) and Penny Marshall (1990’s Awakenings, which earned him an Oscar nod) before taking on his first directing gig. Zaillian took on the story of chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin, and his struggle to adapt to two different minds of the game (played by Ben Kingsley and Laurence Fishburne). While the film earned critical praise, Zaillian’s MTV Award was the only one he received – yet he wasn’t deprived of the Oscar during that time. He also wrote the screenplay to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, and landed the coveted statuette. Zaillian would go on to receive Oscar nods for Gangs of New York and Moneyball, and recently adapted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for David Fincher.
1995: Steve James, Hoop Dreams
For this powerful documentary about two young Chicago kids looking to use basketball as their way out of the inner city, James and his partners Frederick Marx & Peter Gilbert spent more than five years of their life filming it. Hoop Dreams was a critical and financial success, and would land the film an Oscar nomination for Best Editing. Yet it was involved in one of the ceremony’s biggest controversies, when it was somehow snubbed for Best Documentary Feature – leaving many critics scratching their heads. James would ultimately carry on with his work, directing the 1997 track film Prefontaine, the 2002 Oscar-nominated documentary Stevie, and the highly-acclaimed 2011 work The Interrupters.
Coming up in Part Two: the Best New Filmmaker Award honors directors who would rocketed, swung and went fully on their way to success…