I believe that human beings are born first and given passports later. I’m really thankful for my journey. And it’s a journey I didn’t design. – Alfonso Cuarón
Imagine being in a Hollywood exec’s office and pitching a film, you tell the exec it will be set in deep space, but its not an action film, rather a story of a medical engineer who must work to survive after a catastrophe that has left them adrift in orbit. Oh yeah, and you’ll need about $100 million to make it. If you are any other director your getting tossed off the lot. But if your are Alfonso Cuarón, your making the film Gravity; that $100 million investment yields $274 million at the box office and in 2014 your winning an Academy Award for Best Director to boot.
Yet, it wasn’t always a Hollywood fairy tale for Cuarón, before churning out critical and commercial darlings such as Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men and the aforementioned Gravity; there was adversity to spare. Born on November 28th in Mexico City, Mexico at an early age, Cuarón wanted to be a film director. So after finishing school, Cuarón decided to study cinema by applying to C.C.C. (Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica). However, he was rejected by C.C.C., this coupled with the fact that his mother didn’t support his cinematic dreams, he instead opted to study philosophy in the morning and in the afternoon he went to the C.U.E.C. (Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos). It was during these years that he would meet many longtime friends and future collaborators. Among them was Luis Estrada who directed a short called Vengance is Mine, on which Cuarón worked. The film was in English, which did not sit well with many of the faculty at C.U.E.C. and eventually led to Cuarón being expelled from the university.
After being expelled, he thought he could never be a director and so went on to work in a museum to support his family. However, he would eventually land on his feet in the form of various assistant director assignments. Although it was steady work, it was far from fulfilling, and eventually led to him to writing his first feature film Sólo Con Tu Pareja with his brother. The film would get made and garner many awards, enough to get Cuarón noticed by Hollywood. Next stop, Los Angeles, California.
However, L.A. is a different world, and after a period with no real directing jobs, Cuarón wanted to direct anything to make ends meet. Enter Warner Brothers with an assignment to direct the film Addicted to Love. While working on that film he would stumble upon a script for a film called A Little Princess. He lobbied Warner Brothers to direct that film instead. Even thought it wasn’t a great box office success, the film received two Oscar nominations. With some industry cred established Cuarón founded both Anhelo Productions and Moonson Productions. Anhelo’s first picture was also Alfonso’s next film, the erotic road movie Y Tu Mamá También. It was a critical darling and he had now arrived. What would follow would be directing an installment of the Harry Potter film series as well as Children of Men. Yet, his biggest cinematic accomplishment to date has been Gravity. The film is not your traditional Hollywood fare and was seen by many as a risky career move. However, it’s a move that paid off. For not giving up on his dreams and for believing in his vision, when no one else would Alfonso Cuarón is one of our Men of the Year.