Peripatetic director, producer, actor and writer Jonathan Baker will have four films out this year: he serves as EP on two action films: May’s SURVIVE THE NIGHT starring Bruce Willis; June’s FORCE OF NATURE from Lionsgate, starring Mel Gibson, Kate Bosworth, and Emile Hirsch; and a more cerebral adaptation of the life of notorious WWII propaganda figure AXIS SALLY, starring Al Pacino.
Baker said of this year’s new films, “I feel so honored that I have been able to work with Nicholas Cage, Faye Dunaway, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, and Al Pacino, among many others in my career. Whether you encounter celebrities as a director or as a producer, you’re all on the same journey and everybody needs direction. And so every talented industry veteran gives you, me, or the audience something to play off on, and for me, each one of them has taught me something about making movies. Collectively, all have taught me that being a professional, and knowing your work, and knowing what you are trying to give the audience is really important because life is a character study, just as it is in movies.”
He continues, “I’ve been working on these three movies for more almost two years. SURVIVE THE NIGHT with Bruce Willis is really just a popcorn cruncher: it’s Bruce doing what Bruce does best. On FORCE OF NATURE, I was lucky enough to work with Mel Gibson, and Michael Polish—he’s married to [female lead] Kate Bosworth—he’s a great director. He’s got a great eye, and I was really happy he was filming FORCE OF NATURE. Emile Hirsch started out in a movie called ALPHA DOGS and he really graduated last year with Tarantino on ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. He is a great actor, so put them all together and you’ve got a really good thriller that I was very pleased to see got very good notices. That’s quite an achievement for an action film filmed in the rain.”
Michael Polish’s next film AXIS SALLY “is about a woman (Daytime Emmyâ-Winner Meadow Williams) during WWII who delivers Nazi propaganda on the radio; the Allies put her on trial for treason,” Baker explains. Al Pacino plays her lawyer. It’s not an action movie. Pacino is an amazing actor, no matter what kind or size of a movie he’s in. We don’t have actors like that anymore. My movie stars were Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway—they were all 70’s and 80’s movie stars—and Al Pacino has outlasted them all; he’s still working. It was an amazing opportunity.”
Baker’s fourth film, BECOMING ICONIC is a hybrid behind-the scenes look at Baker’s directorial debut for Lionsgate, INCONCEIVABLE. Baker had his own full-time second unit on set under the direction of Neal Thibedeau, who documented his directing journey. Thibedeau interwove that footage with in-depth interviews with some of the industry’s most iconic directors, including Jodie Foster, Taylor Hackford, Adrian Lyne, Nicolas Cage, John Badham and Warren Beatty.
The resulting hybrid documentary explores the process of directing a big-budget feature, from the ground up, through the eyes of these directors as they tell their own stories. Including fascinating, candid accounts on topics ranging from the pressures of financing and working with leading talent to the ultimate challenge of making sure to stay true to the film’s vision, BECOMING ICONIC chronicles the inspirational “first time” stories of these celebrated directors, combined with the personal story of Baker’s come-from-behind dream of making a Hollywood feature. An instructive, entertaining look at top directing talent, BECOMING ICONIC premiered at Santa Barbara, Whistler, Beverly Hills and several other festivals, and is headed to educational and digital distribution this Fall. Baker says, “I hope for this film to become a tool to start conversations for those in school and anyone who wants to work in the industry, to provide advice and inspiration on both independent and studio filmmaking.” Pandemic permitting, Baker hopes to tour with his film to film schools and colleges to share the several directors’ teachings and advice. Writer, producer and director Baker “loves telling stories, loves film and I’ve been lucky to surround myself with the best in the industry.”
In 2017 Baker directed his first film for Lionsgate called INCONCEIVABLE, starring Oscar®-nominated Nic Cage, Gina Gershon, Oscar®-winner Faye Dunaway, and Nicky Whelan. INCONCEIVABLE was an entertaining thriller with a message: if you’re thinking about IVF, surrogate motherhood or even just hiring a child minder, be VERY careful.