Julien Temple Biography

Director (1953–)
Julien Temple is an English filmmaker and music video director who began his career directing the Sex Pistols documentary The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1979).


Born in London, England, in 1953, Julien Temple was in his teens when he discovered his love for films and filmmaking. He cut his teeth shooting footage of the Sex Pistols early in the band's run, and later directed the landmark Pistols documentary The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. In the 1980s he became a noted music video director. He's also directed several other full-length feature films.

Early Years

Born in London, England, on November 26, 1953, Julien Temple showed little interest in film throughout much of his childhood. A troubled student who didn't always fit in at school, Temple was enrolled at King's College, Cambridge, when he discovered French filmmaker Jean Vigo.

Vigo's work illuminated for Temple the power of film, which pushed him to attend the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire. Upon his graduation, Temple returned to London, where his world was opened up again after encountering the Sex Pistols and England's burgeoning punk rock scene.

Temple became the band's de facto documentarian, filming several of the group's early gigs in London in 1976. After the Pistols broke up in 1978, much of Temple's work helped form the backbone of what would serve as his debut film: the Pistols documentary, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle (1979).

Told largely from the perspective of the band's manager, Malcolm McLaren, the film recounted the story of the Pistols' rise and fall. But while some accused McLaren of having an agenda against the band's two departed members, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) and Sid Vicious, Temple was praised for his work.

Weaving together interviews, live music, animation and other footage, Swindle proved to be a critical success. Variety went so far as to say it "represents the most imaginative use of a rock group since The Beatles debuted in A Hard Day's Night."

Later Work

Following the success of Swindle, Temple became a wanted man among rock's elite. In the 1980s he helped pioneer the use of the music video, directing projects for the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Neil Young and Janet Jackson, among others.

He also didn't abandon longer-form filmmaking. In 1986 he oversaw the film production of Colin MacInnes novel, Absolute Beginners, starring Bowie and Patsy Kensit. While a commercial flop, the film, which cast Bowie as a celebrity photographer who falls in love with a young fashion designer, went on to become a cult classic.

That same year Absolute Beginners debuted, Temple directed the comedy Earth Girls Are Easy.

In 1995, Temple made the thriller Bullet, and then returned to Britain for three later projects. The first of those was Vigo (1999), which told the tale of Temple's idol's life and had been a passion of Temple's for many years. Later he directed Pandaemonium (2000), which was built around the relationship between two poets during the French Revolution. That same year he returned to his roots with a fresh new documentary about the Sex Pistols, The Filth and the Fury, which was told from the band's perspective.

In 2006 he returned to the punk rock scene with Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, a documentary about his longtime friend.

One of his more recent projects came at the request of BBC Arts, which commissioned Temple to produce a documentary about the city of London. The film, This Is London, reflects Temple's reverence for his home city and shows how the city has changed and adapted since the early 20th century. It concludes with the metropolis preparing to welcome the Olympic Games.

The film is a part of a series of city-based music documentaries Temple is directing. The others include Children of the Revolution, which looks at the annual Rock in Rio concert in Rio de Janeiro. Temple also plans films for Havana, Berlin and other cities.

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