Tom DiCillo


Thomas A. DiCillo (born August 14, 1954) is an American independent filmmaker, screenwriter, and cinematographer. He was born in Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. His father was Italian and his mother was from New England. He studied creative writing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and went on to study filmmaking at New York University’s Film School alongside Jim Jarmusch, Howard Brookner, Sara Driver and Spike Lee. Subsequently, he worked as an actor, then cinematographer, before making his own films.

For his first film, Johnny Suede (1991), about a struggling young musician who sports a large pompadour, DiCillo cast the then-unknown Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener (who would appear in three more of his films). in what would be their first starring roles. It received a nomination for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

For his second film, Living in Oblivion (1995), DiCillo received acclaim for his satire of independent film-making. This 1995 black comedy, itself a low-budget independent film, features Steve Buscemi as a director driven to near-madness by his cast and crew, including a vain Hollywood actor. Describing the inspiration for and origin of Living in Oblivion in an interview with Salon, DiCillo described making a movie as “one of the most tedious, boring, painful experiences, and that’s just when something goes right.” The film is also notable for being the first film role of Peter Dinklage.

His third film, Box of Moonlight (1996), starred John Turturro as an uptight engineer going through a midlife crisis during a business trip and befriending an eccentric young man (Sam Rockwell) during Fourth of July weekend. His fourth film, The Real Blonde (1997), starred Matthew Modine and Keener as a frustrated New York couple (Modine a struggling actor and Keener a makeup artist), it also featured Darryl Hannah, Maxwell Caulfield, Christopher Lloyd, and Kathleen Turner.

His fifth film Double Whammy (2001), starred Denis Leary as a down on his luck detective, it co-starred Elizabeth Hurley, Buscemi, and Luis Guzmán, was released straight to video. His sixth film, Delirious (2006), a comedy about the paparazzi industry, starring Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Alison Lohman and Elvis Costello, was screened at the San Sebastian Film Festival where it won three awards (Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and the Signis Award for originality). The film also screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and won Best Director at the HBO Comedy Film Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

DiCillo wrote and directed When You’re Strange (2009), a documentary about the rock band The Doors, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize. It was subsequently nominated for both an Emmy Award, after airing on PBS’ American Masters series, and a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Video. He has also published books of his screenplays for Living in Oblivion and Box of Moonlight. Both books contain the full scripts along with commentary, stories and anecdotes

Each review will be linked to the title below.

  • God Save the King (1977) – director, writer, editor, cinematographer
  • Underground USA (1980) – directed by Eric Mitchell
  • Permanent Vacation (1980) – directed by Jim Jarmusch – cinematographer
  • Burroughs: the Movie (1983) – directed by Howard Brookner – cinematographer – documentary
  • Variety (1983) – directed by Bette Gordon – co-cinematographer
  • Stranger Than Paradise (1984) – directed by Jim Jarmusch – cinematographer, actor
  • Coffee and Cigarettes (1986) – directed by Jim Jarmusch – cinematographer – short
  • Robinson’s Garden (1987) – directed by Masashi Yamamoto – cinematographer – aka ロビンソンの庭 or Robinson no iwa – Japan
  • The Beat (1987) – directed by Paul Mones – cinematographer
  • Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (1987) – directed by Howard Brookner – cinematographer- documentary
  • Laura Ley (1989) – directed by Jenne Sipman – cinematographer
  • End of the Night (1990) – directed by Kieth McNally
  • Johnny Suede (1991) – director, writer
  • Living in Oblivion (1995) – director, writer
  • Box of Moonlight (1996) – director, writer
  • The Real Blonde (1997) – director, writer
  • Double Whammy (2001) – director, writer
  • Delirious (2006) – director, writer
  • When You’re Strange (2009) – director, writer – documentary
  • Down in Shadowland (2014) – director, writer, editor, cinematographer – documentary