Date of Birth: December 20, 1970
Birth Name: Todd Bunzel
Growing up on Long Island, New York, Todd Phillips fell in love with feature film teen comedies made in the 1980s, and claims they were his biggest influence in becoming a filmmaker. While studying film at New York University, he made a documentary called Hated (1994), using his credit cards to finance the filmâ€™s $13,000 budget. About an excessive punk rocker, GG Allen, the student film won an award at the New Orleans Film Festival and went on to be released both theatrically and on DVD. Phillips' next project was a documentary called Frat House (1998), which followed the trials of young men trying to get accepted into a fraternity. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, but soon became banned from public viewing when the young men involved objected, and lawyers for their families stepped in.
While working on a commercial for Pepsi, Phillips met comedian Tom Green. He was writing the screenplay for his new film, Road Trip, and asked Green if he would be in it. Green agreed on the spot, and Phillips went on to make his first fictional movie, an homage to the types of films he grew up with. Road Trip was made on a budget of $15.6 million, and nearly made the money back in its opening weekend despite mixed reviews, most of which agreed it was in bad taste, with some finding that funny while others found it offensive.
Phillips continued on in the same genre with Old School (2003), about three grown men who try to return to their frat boy days. Phillips says, "Things go in cycles and right now people use the term gross out of comedy a lot and I find it very dismissive. I think it's very easy to be gross and very hard to be funny. The ones that work are actually very funny at their root. I, as a director, want to stick with comedies for a little while. It's the movies I grew up on and the stuff I like to see."
Phillips' next project was action comedy Starsky & Hutch, based on the hit television series that ran from 1975 to 1979. The film, starring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, is also set in the '70s. He's hoping to turn another '70s TV show, The Six Million Dollar Man, into a feature film starring Jim Carrey, but in the meantime, filmed the comedy School for Scoundrels (2006), starring Jon Heder and Billy Bob Thornton. His next film, The Hangover 2009, was an enormous success, spawning a 2011 sequel that he also directed. In between those two movies he directed Robert Downey Jr. and Hangover star Zach Galifianakis in the comedy Due Date 2010.
More recent films include The Hangover Part II (2011), The Hangover Part III (2013), and War Dogs (2016).
Move away from his favorite genre, he next took on the film Joker (2019), starring Joaquin Phoenix in the title role. The film debuted to much acclaim, and both Joaquin and Phillips received numerous award nominations, including Best Director nods for Phillips from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.