open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
Films — Animation
- Walt Disney ran his own animation studio and served as producer on every project, so he may have received his Auteur License earlier than this, but he got it for certain (along with seven dwarf-sized Academy Awards) after presenting Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the first feature-length traditionally animated film. His work in animation was bold and innovative, proving the medium could do more than make silly cartoons. Though his later work was, at the time, not immediately as well-received as Snow White, he managed to use the money and prestige won off that one film to begin work on several more. Eventually his company became so profitable that he was beholden to no one in terms of what he could do. Ironically, around the same time (possibly because of this) he started to step away from animation and began working in untapped and more challenging ventures, like television and theme parks. And live-action movies — which met with various degrees of success.
- Pixar's movies were always successful, but the success of Finding Nemo grew their reputation from "the pioneers of CG animation" to "the best in the business right now". A few years later, the release of WALL•E turned them into "the biggest name in animation", which was cemented by follow-up films Up and Toy Story 3. Their reputation took a bit of a hit after that, but their Auteur License remains, and any questions about its viability have been answered with Inside Out, which also scored the highest opening for an original movie in history.
- Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and WALL•E, was granted one by Disney after they gave him a ton of money to make his passion project. Unfortunately that project was John Carter, a film which lost Disney $200 million. Stanton has since gone back to Pixar full-time.
Films — Live-Action
- Akira Kurosawa was granted a Auteur License for the Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora! based on his strong body of work in Japanese cinema. In charge of the Japanese unit of the bi-national production costs and delays quickly got out of control due to Kurosawa's perfectionism. At one point he ordered a set completely repainted because it was a slightly wrong shade of white. Kurosawa was fired as director while the film was still in production being replaced by Kinji Fukasaku and very little, if any, of his footage made the final cut. The fact of his Auteur License being revoked was evidenced by never working in Hollywood again.
- Director Terrence Malick received his Auteur License after Days of Heaven, went into J. D. Salinger-esque seclusion for the next 20 years, and re-emerged to make The Thin Red Line, whereupon 20 major Hollywood stars lined up to get a part in the film, seven of whom were left on the cutting room floor. The studio pulled the plug on the film, whereupon 20th Century Fox insisted Malick employ more Hollywood stars, many of whom were offering to work for free... Malick retained his big-budget Auteur License for his next film, The New World (2005) with Colin Farrell. As of his Palme d'Or-winning 2011 epic The Tree of Life, he seems to have kept it.
- Director M. Night Shyamalan had a breakout hit with The Sixth Sense and was granted an Auteur License that allowed him to produce more of his signature Twist Ending films. While the next film Unbreakable achieved some success, and Signs was another hit, The Village made money but lost some critical respect. His next two films were outright flops, and Shyamalan became a target of mockery. His Auteur License was revoked right after he tried to show it off in Lady in the Water, and now he is having to make films from established franchises instead of his own stories. That hasn't worked out so well either. However, between the critical success of The Visit and the sleeper hit Split, he seems to be on his way back up.
- Stanley Kubrick: Spartacus made him famous, but he didn't earn his Auteur License until after Dr. Strangelove. (In between, he suffered major Executive Meddling on Lolita.) For the rest of his life, he had enough respect to get away with strange, arty films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. (That last was his very last completed film.)
- Orson Welles got issued his Auteur License right off the bat by RKO Pictures for his first film, Citizen Kane, based on his work in radio and theatre. Welles directed, wrote, produced, and starred in it. While this movie is now considered one of the greatest films ever made, the content picked a fight with media mogul William Randolph Hearst whose papers refused to carry advertisements for the film causing it to fail financially. While his contract gave him exclusive control over his next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, the result was deemed unreleasable by the executives and was hacked to pieces by the studio. Welles' Auteur License was revoked at that point and he eventually had to spend long periods of time in Europe to exercise his creative vision.
- Woody Allen. He's practically had an auteur license since he started making movies forty-five years ago (his second film was a Japanese spy movie he bought and put a Gag Dub on top of. And it was approved!). His big success with Annie Hall in 1977 is what made him untouchable, even after he made a string of movies generally considered mediocre in the late 1980s through early 2000s, and after the "marrying his stepdaughter" incident that would've ended a lesser celebrity's career. The string of movies since 2005's Match Point are generally considered to be a comeback for him, but if he didn't have a strong case of this trope, he wouldn't have lasted long enough to have a comeback. It helps that he makes movies on relatively low budgets, and hence doesn't have to meet as many box-office needs as other movies. The budget itself is helped by his license; actors undoubtedly accept less money than they otherwise would because it's a Woody Allen film.
- After being forced to chop down the theatrical cuts of Aliens and The Abyss, James Cameron got his after Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It was renewed after Titanic (1997) became the highest-grossing film of all time. Now that he's topped that feat with Avatar, it's safe to say that Cameron has a lifetime pass because his films practically grant licenses to print money. His license will last as long as his movies are profitable. The Studio actively debated interfering with Avatar as its costs spiraled only to be proven wrong when it made a ton of money. Had Avatar lost money it would have been revoked.
- After a decade of often much-acclaimed films, both small- and large-scale (ranging from M*A*S*H to Nashville to 3 Women) Robert Altman got this for 1980's Popeye—a live-action, big-budget family musical based on the comic strip and cartoon hero—via super-producer Robert Evans. Unfortunately, the resultant film had a long, difficult shoot and got very mixed notices from critics, and couldn't gross enough money to prove profitable; Altman spent the remainder of the decade making much smaller-scale films that attracted little attention from anyone besides film critics — and it was just getting started! He didn't make his comeback until The Player in 1992.
- Tim Burton got his after Batman in 1989. Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice had both been bigger-than-expected hits for Warner Bros., but he still faced a good deal of Executive Meddling on Batman. Once it was a megahit, he became a big enough name that not only he given a good deal of creative freedom on Edward Scissorhands, but it was his previous track record and now-signature style that was used to sell it to audiences. Although some of his subsequent films have been critical and/or commercial disappointments, he's had enough successes to hang on to the license.
- Quentin Tarantino at this point has permission to bend what he wants, where he wants, who he wants. By 2015, Quentin's license had earned endorsements that allowed him to not only shoot The Hateful 8 in 70mm Ultra Panavision, a film format that had not been used in nearly 50 years, but also get the film's distributor to pay to upgrade ~140 cinemas around the world for 70mm film projection. Keep in mind this took place several years after even basic 35mm film projection was phased out in favor of digital.
- Steven Spielberg after Jaws.
- Christopher Nolan after The Dark Knight. He purposefully took up the director's chair for the The Dark Knight Saga in order to gain the Auteur License (as well as large-scale filmmaking experience) to shoot his pet project that would need big-budget resources to realize fully: Inception. When that proved a monster critically acclaimed Oscar nominated hit, Nolan's license was likely set for the rest of his career.
- Francis Ford Coppola earned his license by adapting, producing, and directing the awesome one-two punch of The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. He used his newfound clout and money to build his own studio, American Zoetrope, where he planned to house an artistic community, turning out medium-budget passion projects. Unfortunately, his first such film, One From The Heart, went cataclysmically over budget. Unlike the similarly out-of-control Apocalypse Now, Heart flopped mightily upon release, and Coppola pulled it from theatres after a few weeks. Zoetrope was sold, Coppola's license was revoked, and he spent a good chunk of the 80s and 90s as a director for hire, trying to forge his way back to financial solvency. He has recently taken to financing his films with the proceeds from his vineyard and winery.
- Michael Bay has became heavily associated and famous for his over the top action movies with huge explosions. He gained his Auteur License after Armageddon and his visual style has been heavily copied in modern action films. He even made fun of his filmmaking style in this Verizon commercial.
- George Lucas had the run-of-the-mill star power with American Graffiti. He wrote, issued, and certified his license with some movie about a farm boy looking for his destiny. Due to its success, Lucas has made anything he wanted, anyway he wanted, since. Lucas even sets the terms for when his movies are released, at what theaters, and how the gross profits are divvied up.
- Since, you know, he owns his own studio. The last three films he directed were financed by Lucas himself, with Fox only distributing. Lucas created his own licensing board and gave himself a license.
- And, he actually said "screw you" to the Director's Guild in 1981 (after they demanded he put credits at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back) and yet still manages to make movies, albeit with other talent willing to defy the union. This, sadly, scotched plans for Steven Spielberg directing Return of the Jedi.
- The Coen Brothers after Blood Simple.
- In the beginning of his career, Martin Scorsese cranked out a number of bonafide classics, (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, etc). However, these were buffered by a number of financial flops, disallowing him the kind of carte blanche enjoyed by others on this page. However, since the release of Goodfellas in 1990, he's mostly been allowed to make his movies his way. Mostly.
- Truly talented director Michael Cimino got his license with The Deer Hunter and promptly lost it with Heaven's Gate.
- Peter Jackson earned his license with The Lord of the Rings, which then allowed him to make a 3-hour King Kong (2005) with a $200 million budget.
- Judd Apatow got his with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which has also given him Protection from Editors.
- Jean-Luc Godard received his auteur license after the success of his first film, Breathless, leading him to make more complex and politically-driven films which consequently diminished much of the commercial and critical acclaim that first film earned. To this day, he still grips on to that license.
- A trend that's becoming popular in recent years is to bring the directors of blockbusters back in exchange for agreeing to bankroll vanity projects that the directors might otherwise not get the chance to make. The vanity projects will typically be lower-budgeted, and the studios know they can eat the loss from the gross of the blockbuster sequel, so they give the director complete control. Michael Bay got this deal for Pain and Gain when he agreed to direct Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but the REAL king of this is Christopher Nolan, who received $160 million to make Inception, and it grossed over $800 million at the box office alone, which has secured his auteur ticket for the foreseeable future.
- Charlie Chaplin was among the first to demonstrate this trope in American film. With his films being fairly consistently hailed big hits, he could take chances like a straight drama for his first United Artists film, A Woman of Paris, keep City Lights and Modern Times largely silent in The Golden Age of Hollywood, make fun of Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator and do a Black Comedy in Monsieur Verdoux.
- According to reports, Ben Affleck accepted the post-The Dark Knight Saga Batman role in exchange for Warner Bros. bankrolling some of his more tough-to-sell pet projects. Sure enough, shortly after the deal was announced, an Affleck-directed political thriller set in Africa was green-lit.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- When Marvel Studios started out, their first film was about a B-List superhero starring a washed-up actor and with a director whose last movie bombed. The result was a hit, which Marvel not only used to bring more of their heroes to the screen but also bring them together in a Shared Universe unheard of in the movies, to massive success. They've since used this clout they've earned from this to make a movie about an obscure comic book team that features a talking space raccoon; and it was a hit as well, ensuring they won't lose their license any time soon.
- In a more specific example, regular disputes over budgets and directions between the MCU's producer Kevin Feige and Marvel president Ike Perlmutter came to a head during production of Captain America: Civil War. The final result was that Disney removing Perlmutter as head of the movie division of the MCU and dismantling the Creative Committee that previously oversaw everything. Kevin Feige now has total control over the films of the MCU (though not the TV shows) and answers only to Alan Fine of Disney directly. The success of the MCU under Feige's watch should ensure he keeps this license for the foreseeable future.
- Kevin Feige maintains strict control of the MCU, making sure that all films maintain a common thematic thread. Some directors chafed at this and left the franchise during the Creative Committee's control of the franchise (like Jon Favreaunote , Joss Whedonnote , and Edgar Wrightnote ), but those who play ball are eventually given more responsibility and a lot more creative freedom to do what they want (like the Russo Brothersnote , James Gunnnote , and Peyton Reednote ) with the projects they are tasked with helming.
- Rob Reiner had hit it big critically and commercially with films like This Is Spinal Tap, and was told that he could basically do anything he wanted next. When he told a film executive that he wanted to adapt his favorite book, The Princess Bride, he was told "anything but that!" The rest, however, is history, although he got a severe setback when he abused the Auteur License with North.
- While it's an era often seen as "the studio system", a number of directors in the studio actually had Auteur License:
- Ernst Lubitsch benefited from being his own producer (and briefly in charge of production of other films at Paramount), and his films were openly marketed as having "the Lubitsch touch"note . All of his films were produced per his wishes and he was a film-maker who was quite famous and well known in the time. Sullivan's Travels for instance has Veronica Lake noting that she wants to audition for a Lubitsch film.
- Frank Capra was another film-maker who was quite famous and well known to the public. It Happened One Night was a Sleeper Hit that basically turned Columbia Pictures into a major studio overnight, and became to first film to sweep the "Big 5" Oscars (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay). After that Columbia gave him carte blanche to do what he wanted, and he was one of the first directors to become a household name (he later called his autobiography The Name Above the Title). After a while he clashed with Columbia chief Harry Cohn and moved on. In The '40s, he co-operated with William Wyler and George Stevens to form an independent production company which fell apart with the flop of It's a Wonderful Life. He fell out of favor with the public after World War II, making six films after that albeit living long enough for his films to be rediscovered. Ironically, Andrew Sarris slammed him viciously in The American Cinema since, in his view Capra was a little too well-known compared to the Lesser Star he wanted to elevate (and the fact that Capra's career visibly declined which was against auteurist beliefsnote but he was respected both by his peers and by younger film-makers, and he lived to see It's a Wonderful Life become Vindicated by History.
- Writer-Directors in the Golden Age generally had Auteur License, and indeed many of them claimed they became directors to protect their scripts from Prima Donna Director who didn't understand the stuff they put on page. Examples include, Preston Sturges, a very active and respected screenwriter throughout The Thirties, who made a series of extremely successful and influential comedies in The '40s, Joseph L. Mankiewicz (who began as a producer, then a screenwriter and then writer-director), famous for All About Eve (he lost his during the production of Cleopatra, aka the movie that killed the Golden Age), and Lubitsch's apprentice, Billy Wilder (who had it for most of his career but lost it during The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes).
- Careful research has actually shown that a number of directors people saw as journeyman were actually quite shrewd and domineering. Howard Hawks for instance who's often seen as a nuts-and-bolts film-maker who didn't have a style, was careful to avoid making films at any one studio and work as a free agent, thereby allowing him freedom to not be tied to making one kind of film in one kind of style for too long. Alfred Hitchcock, from Notorious onwards made films his way, and Otto Preminger was especially bold and fearless in not only making his films as per his vision, but repeatedly, and successfully, challenging censorship and doing more than any other film-maker of his time, to improve freedom of expression in Hollywood. Both Hitchcock and Preminger were the two most well-known film-makers of their era, and public celebrities, hence the reason for Hitchcock promoting a successful TV show based on his own brand, and Preminger being enough of a household name that he appeared as Mr. Freeze in Batman.
- Kurt Vonnegut used and abused his novelistic auteur license to write a novel illustrated with his own quirky line drawings in which he features as a character (the wonderful Breakfast of Champions) and a semi-novel about his abortive attempt to write a novel called Timequake. It contains many parts of the Timequake story itself, interspersed with Vonnegut just talking about life, himself, and how things are going in general, and is generally touching.
Live Action TV
- Fred Rogers was recognized early on as a pioneer in children's TV programming, so he was given carte blanche by PBS to create his own series in which he starred as on-screen host, producer, director, screenwriter, composer, and puppeteer. It ran for over 30 years.
- After Happy Days became a runaway hit, ABC let Garry Marshall tinker with the show as he saw fit (which is how Chuck Cunningham Syndrome and Jumping the Shark came to be), and basically picked up any new shows he produced. Some of them also became hits (Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy), others flopped badly (Blansky's Beauties, Out of the Blue, Who's Watching the Kids?).
- CBS gave Chuck Lorre the Garry Marshall/ABC treatment after Two and a Half Men hit it big.
- After The Addams Family went on to become the best-selling pinball machine of all time, designer Pat Lawlor was given free rein on his next game. The result was the highly-rated The Twilight Zone, arguably the most complex pinball table ever, with more patent-pending features than any other game ever made. Although not a failure in sales, The Twilight Zone did not do so well with players, who considered it too difficult to understand.note Lawlor's license was destroyed for the rest of the 90's and through the 00's, though he got it back when he was hired by Jersey Jack Pinball and, once again, given carte blanche privileges.
- After the success of Richard Wagner's early operas, he turned to what he termed "Gesamtkunstwerk" or "total work of art." The most famous example is The Ring of the Nibelung, which featured words, music, orchestration, production design, choreography, direction, and conducting all handled by Wagner himself— premiered in a concert hall that he designed and built for the purpose. Up to Eleven!
- After the sleeper hit that was Demon's Souls, director Hidetaka Miyazaki of FromSoftware has basically been given complete freedom to keep making his obtuse, unusual and challenging Action RPG's. Given the enormous success of both Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and the fact that he has since been promoted to president of From Software, his license is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
- John Romero and his infamous Daikatana came about as a result of him earning one of these after his success with Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, the first two Doom games, and Quake. After Daikatana flopped it was promptly revoked.
- Due to the success of the BioShock franchise, it would be safe to say that Ken Levine will be able to keep a hold of this for a while. Funnily enough, he dislikes being called an auteur.
- For Taro Yoko this came into effect after NieR. During the development of the first Drakengard, Yoko had to continuously fight Square to keep his and the team's distinct artistic vision intact, because Square was afraid the game was too dark and nihilistic. After the game managed to win over a small but dedicated fanbase, Square was willing to fund a second game but wanted something more marketable, and to that end he was only lightly involved with Drakengard 2. However, this lead to one of the more divisive games in the series exactly because of its Lighter and Softer nature, and as a result he was allowed back in the director's seat for the franchise with NieR, a Gaiden Game. Though it wasn't very profitable it eventually became a Cult Classic and widely considered an amazing game. Due to its critical success Yoko has essentially been given free rein to do as he pleases, though it stands that his games still don't sell all that well, leading him to wonder if Square is insane for continuing to fund them.
- Hideo Kojima had this for a good while, leading to the firestorm when Konami attempted to revoke it. Amusingly, it first came about when his superiors demanded he create a war game and proceeded to design one that discourages killing. Time will tell if Konami has any chance of recovering from the massive backlash surrounding this.
- Trey Parker and Matt Stone after South Park.
- Matt Groening after The Simpsons.
- Seth MacFarlane after Family Guy.
- Don Bluth more or less gave himself one after leaving Disney to become an independent filmmaker. Ironically, it was slowly stripped away with each success until it was altogether revoked following a string of flops in the 90s.