Acclaimed director Alex Cox — best known for his ’80s cult classics “Repo Man” and “Sid and Nancy,” a gritty biopic of the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious — will join the University of Colorado’s film studies faculty this fall to teach screenwriting and film production.
Having received his MFA from UCLA in film production, Cox is a well-established film scholar who is featured in such documentaries as “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” and his own production of “Emmanuelle: A Hard Look,” dealing with the erotic film series and its social impact.
Cox’s writing credits include graphic novels as “Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday” (“Repo Man” sequel) and “10,000 Ways to Die: A Director’s Take on the Spaghetti Western” — an investigation of a passion of Cox’s, which he hopes to integrate into his curriculum: the Western film genre.
“We’re all a little star struck,” admits CU’s program director of film studies Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz. “The hiring process is extensive because though we do invite visiting lecturers, this will be a full position. Hiring a new colleague is the most important decision a faculty member makes.”
“We each have our strengths,” said Acevedo-Muñoz, who teaches, in addition to being the film program’s director. “Alex will complement what we do really well here already. He has that edge. He’s a narrative filmmaker, but makes unconventional films.”
The film program is also hiring Reece Auguiste, an award-winning documentary filmmaker who previously taught at the University of Memphis and has lectured at numerous European schools. Auguiste is also one of the founding members of BAFC (Black Audio Film Collective), which produced independent films in the 1980s and ’90s.
CU’s film studies program is widely recognized for its unique promotion of unconventional filmmaking. The program is the only one in the country to have four faculty members named in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 2010 publication of Film Comment’s “Top 50 Avante-Garde Filmmakers of the Last Decade.”
“We’re well known as having an experimental emphasis,” said Pablo Kjolseth, director of CU’s International Film Series. “(Cox) is the perfect bridge between his vision of ‘film as art’ and his having a great deal of experience in production value, distribution and working with big screen crews and actors.”
Jim Palmer, senior member of the film faculty and director of CU’s Conference on World Affairs said Cox “complements the film studies faculty in a very important way.”
“(Cox) brings in a lot of expertise that we don’t have a lot of experience in already,” said Palmer.
Cox said he will move to Boulder with his wife, publisher and writer Tod Davies, before fall semester begins on Aug. 22.
“The school is very strong on experimental films and documentaries,” said Cox, 56. “What I will be bringing is narrative filmmaking.”
Cox is working on a documentary about “The Last Movie,” an obscure Western film, tentatively titled “Scene Missing” or “Dennis Hopper’s Last Movie.”
He said now is the time in his life to “find a home” and be part of a community.
Having been an itinerant independent filmmaker who has lived throughout the globe for the majority of his adult life, Cox said he feels ready to be “part of a unit, an entity, a university. Independent filmmakers are like buffalo. And it’s much better to be part of a herd.”
A previous Colorado connection comes in the form of Cox’s having been tapped as the original director of the big-screen adaptation of local legend Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.” Creative differences ultimately led Cox and co-writer Davies to separate from the project, although both received writing credit on the Terry Gilliam production.
“You have to feel drawn to a place and an environment,” said Cox. “Of all the places I could have ‘fetched up in,’ Boulder offers a number of directions in which I can move around.”
Cox said he is excited to explore the landscapes surrounding Boulder.
Cox will be keeping his current residence in Southern Oregon’s WUI (Wildland Urban Interface), where he and Davies are volunteer firefighters. His four-year contract with CU is nevertheless leading the couple to “see what happens here. Little by little, we’ll be figuring it out. In the meantime, I can’t wait to walk in the footsteps of Dalton Trumbo and (the creators of) ‘South Park.'”
“I’ve always been a big fan of (Cox),” said Susan Arosteguy, senior producer for the Criterion Collection (a video-distribution company). Arosteguy produced the company’s release of Cox’s “Walker,” a film starring Ed Harris.
“I’ve always loved his outlaw style, his ‘F-you’ attitude,” said Arosteguy, who is a graduate of CU and worked for five years at the Video Station before moving to New York in 1994. “You can also tell he’s drawing from a lot of other movies in his work.”
“Students should be totally thrilled,” said Arosteguy. “Having him teach at CU is an amazing opportunity. He’s so knowledgeable. I’m a little jealous, actually, and wish I could fly out and sit in on one of his classes.”
“A lot of my job,” Cox said, “will be to teach film students how to multitask… and to have a good time while working hard.”