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OZ CINEMA
Your guide to Australian film.
By Joshua Smith

Director Profile: Stephen Hopkins

Author: Joshua Smith
Published on: May 5, 1998

One of the most prolific Australian-produced directors of the 1990s is Stephen Hopkins, who has directed a total of six films in America, and one in Australia. This fact aside, Stephen Hopkins is a relatively unsung hero back home - his name virtually unknown until his latest big-budget sci-fi epic, Lost In Space (1998), began to rocket up the box-office charts this year.

Stephen Hopkins' history suggests, however, that his aspirations did lie in the international market more so than in Australia. His only Australian feature to date has been the commercially unsuccessful, but critically acclaimed Dangerous Game (1991), a clever visceral thriller starring Marcus Graham and Miles Buchanan. Stunning chiaroscuro visuals, a chilling score and Hopkins' dynamic direction combine to make the film one of Australia's finest thrillers.

Apparently, Hopkins and his close collaborator, cinematographer Peter Levy, used the film as a calling card with which to approach Hollywood studio executives. Obviously, their tactics must have worked since the pair were quickly offered Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) and Predator 2 (1990). While nothing out of the ordinary, these films allowed Hopkins to accustom himself to the American style of filmmaking. In 1993, Hopkins' third American film, Judgement Night (1993), an underrated urban thriller starring Emilio Estevez, was released. This film established Hopkins as a promising Hollywood player and a skilled director of thrillers. It paved the way for Hopkins to direct Blown Away in 1994, which he followed with the increasingly successful thriller The Ghost and the Darkness (1996).

While Hopkins had adapted successfully to the Hollywood studio system, content to direct a series of moderate-budget thrillers starring marquee name actors, he failed to achieve any large scale recognition until this year upon the release of Lost in Space.

Lost in Space is a dark, gothic rendering of the camp cult series of the 1970s. Combining multi-million dollar special effects, an all-star cast and thrilling direction, Hopkins has created an unforgiving universe in this surprisingly powerful vision. With his latest film raking in million of dollars at the box-office, Stephen Hopkins' career in Hollywood is secured and although he will perhaps never return to Australia to make films, he deserves to be recognised as on of Australia's most successful entertainment exports of this decade.

 
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