Spheeris in 2013
|Occupation||Film director, film producer, screenwriter|
|Relatives||Jimmie Spheeris (brother)|
Chris Spheeris (cousin)
Penelope Spheeris (born December 2, 1945 or 1946; sources differ) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She has directed both documentary film and scripted films. Her best known works include the trilogy titled The Decline of Western Civilization, each covering an aspect of Los Angeles underground culture, and Wayne's World, her highest-grossing film.
Spheeris was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her Greek immigrant father owned the Magic Empire Shows carnival and was a side-show strong man. Her mother, of Irish heritage, was raised in Kansas and later worked as a ticket taker for the carnival. Her father was forty-years-old and her mother was nineteen when they began a relationship. Spheeris has three full siblings, plus a number of older half-siblings from her father's first marriage. She is a sister of singer Jimmie Spheeris and a first cousin of musician Chris Spheeris, and the Greek-French director Costa Gavras, which she says has made her consider that there is a genetic component to her vocation.
Spheeris told author Paul Stenning, "I believe each of us is born with certain characteristics that we genetically inherit; some of which are good, some not so good. My mother was extremely compassionate, my father more of a barbarian. My father was passionately ambitious, where my mother was not. The most significant traits I learned from my parents were a strong sense of survival and unfaltering tenacity."
Spheeris spent her first seven years traveling around the American South and American Midwest with her father's carnival. Her father was shot and killed in Troy, Alabama after intervening in a racial dispute. In a 2015 interview, Spheeris stated that her father had come to the aid of an African American man who had been struck on the back of the head with a cane by a white man over a dispute about cutting in front of him in line. The white man soon after returned and stabbed Spheeris' father. She states that her father's killer served no jail time, the man's legal defence apparently resting entirely on the claim that he was justified in murdering Spheeris senior as "he was defending a black."
After her father's death, Spheeris and her three siblings moved with their mother to California, generally living in trailer parks with a succession of stepfathers. She spent her teenage years in Orange County, graduating from Westminster High School with a daunting 'most likely to succeed' label. After high school, Spheeris attended Long Beach State College where she majored in art. She admired the teachings of George Falcon, a behavioural scientist. From his influence, Spheeris went on to study psychobiology at the University of California, Irvine, in Orange County, California, southeast of Los Angeles.
Spheeris launched her career by producing short subjects for comedian Albert Brooks, many of them being highlights in the first season of the television series Saturday Night Live. Her first feature film was The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), a punk rock documentary that she produced as well as directed. She followed up with The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, this time about the Los Angeles heavy metal scene of 1988, with footage and interviews of legendary metal bands such as Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Megadeth and Motörhead. She later returned to the streets of Los Angeles and the punk rock scene in 1998 for the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part III. She was offered the chance to direct This is Spinal Tap, but declined.
In addition, she worked as a writer for the television series Roseanne (1988-1997). In the 1990s, she directed Wayne's World, a comedy based on Mike Myers' skits from Saturday Night Live. The movie grossed over $183 million and became a popular hit. She directed the Wayne's World music video work for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", which earned a Grammy Award nomination. She had difficulty working with Myers, while acknowledging him as "profoundly talented," and in an Entertainment Weekly article stated she believes Myers dissuaded Paramount Pictures from hiring her for the sequel.
Other films Spheeris has directed include The Beverly Hillbillies; The Little Rascals (for which she co-wrote the screenplay); the Chris Farley/David Spade comedy Black Sheep; the Marlon Wayans-David Spade team-up Senseless; and The Kid & I starring Tom Arnold. In 2006, she was set to direct the still-unfilmed Gospel According to Janis, about Janis Joplin.
The Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival named Spheeris its guest of honor for 2013.
The moving image collection of Penelope Spheeris is held at the Academy Film Archive. The Academy Film Archive has preserved several of Penelope Spheeris' films, including Bath, Hats Off To Hollywood, and Shit.
Spheeris has a daughter, director Anna Spheeris Fox, born in 1969.
Since September 9, 1998, Spheeris has been in a relationship with a man known as Sin, whom she met while filming the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization III. In a 2015 interview, she revealed that he was in an institution in Florida after he stopped taking his medication (he is schizophrenic and bipolar) and ended up in jail. She has described him as the love of her life.
She appeared on Ken Reid's TV Guidance Counselor podcast on October 18, 2016.
Spheeris work has received recognition from the Directors Guild of America, The Recording Academy, Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the Chicago International Film Festival, the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the Deep Ellum Film Festival, the LA Femme International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, the Los Angeles Silver Lake Film Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Temecula Valley International Film Festival.
|1969||Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales||Yes||Yes||No||student film|
|1972||I Don't Know||Yes||No||No||short Film|
|1985||The Boys Next Door||Yes||No||No|
|1986||Hollywood Vice Squad||Yes||No||No|
|Summer Camp Nightmare||No||No||Yes|
|1993||The Beverly Hillbillies||Yes||Yes||No|
|1994||The Little Rascals||Yes||No||Yes|
|2005||The Kid & I||Yes||Yes||No|
|2011||Balls to the Wall||Yes||No||No|
|1981||The Decline of Western Civilization||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1988||The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years||Yes||No||No|
|1990||Thunder and Mud||Yes||No||No|
|1990||Banned in the U.S.A.||Yes||No||No|
|1998||The Decline of Western Civilization Part III||Yes||No||No|
|2001||We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n Roll||Yes||No||No|
|1971||The Ski Bum||Star the Witch|
|1974||The Second Coming of Suzanne||Margo, Logan's Film Group|
|1989||Wedding Band||Nicky's Mom|
|1975-1976||Saturday Night LIVE!||No||Yes||No||9 episodes|
|1989-1990||Roseanne||No||No||Yes||24 episodes (story editor)|
Episode: "Fender Bender" (writer)
|1991||Prison Stories: Women on the Inside||Yes||No||No||TV movie; segment "3"|
|1991||Visitors from the Unknown||Yes||No||No||TV movie|
|1991||UFO Abductions||Yes||No||No||TV movie|
|1993||Danger Theatre||Yes||Yes||Yes||3 episodes (director)|
7 episodes (executive producer)
5 episodes (writer)
|1998||Applewood 911||Yes||No||No||TV movie|
|2000||Dear Doughboy||Yes||No||No||TV movie|
|2003||The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron||Yes||No||No||TV movie|
|2003||75th Academy Awards||Yes||Yes||No||segment "Tribute to Documentaries"|
|2004||Cracking Up||Yes||No||No||Episode: "Prom Night"|
|2011||Five||Yes||No||No||TV movie; segment "Cheyanne"|
|2012||The Real St. Nick||Yes||No||No||TV movie|
|1987||"Wake Up Dead"||Megadeth||director|
|1988||"I Did It for Love"||Night Ranger||director|
|1992||"Bohemian Rhapsody" (Wayne's World Version)||Queen||director|
Critical, public, and commercial reception to films Spheeris has directed.
|Film||Rotten Tomatoes||Metacritic||CinemaScore||Budget||Box office|
|The Decline of Western Civilization||N/A||93||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years||86%||58||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Wayne's World||86%||57||A-||$20 million||$183 million|
|The Beverly Hillbillies||23%||37||B+||$25 million||$57.4 million|
|The Little Rascals||23%||45||A-||N/A||$67.3 million|
|Black Sheep||28%||N/A||B+||N/A||$32.4 million|
|The Decline of Western Civilization - Part III||100%||77||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|The Kid & I||N/A||37||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Born: 1946, New Orleans, Louisiana
I hated that bastard for years," says Spheeris, who believes Myers dissuaded Paramount from hiring her for Wayne's World 2. "But when I saw Austin Powers, I went, 'I forgive you, Mike.'" She pauses, voice choked with emotion. "'You can be moody, you can be a jerk, you can be things that others of us can't be--because you are profoundly talented. And I forgive you.'