Mary Harron

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Mary Harron
Born (1953-01-12) January 12, 1953 (age 65)
Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Film director
Years active 1987–present
Spouse(s) John C. Walsh
Children 2
Parent(s) Gloria Fisher (mother)
Don Harron (father, deceased)

Mary Harron (born January 12, 1953) is a Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter best known for her socially-conscious independent films like I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page.[1]


Born in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada,[2] Harron grew up with a family that was entrenched in the world of film and theater. She is the daughter of Gloria Fisher and Don Harron, a Canadian actor, comedian, author, and director. Harron's first stepmother, Virginia Leith, was discovered by Stanley Kubrick and acted in his first film, Fear and Desire. Leith's brief acting career partly inspired Harron's interest in making The Notorious Bettie Page. Harron's stepfather is the novelist Stephen Vizinczey best known for his internationally successful book In Praise of Older Women. Harron's second stepmother is the Canadian singer Catherine McKinnon. Harron's sister, Kelley Harron, is an actor and producer.

Harron moved to England when she was thirteen and later attended St Anne's College, Oxford University.[3] While in England she dated Tony Blair, later the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She then moved to New York City and was part of its 1970s punk scene. She helped start and write for Punk magazine as a music journalist – she was the first journalist to interview the Sex Pistols for an American publication. During the 1980s she was a drama critic for The Observer in London for a time, as well as working as a music critic for The Guardian and the New Statesman.

During the 1990s Harron moved back to New York where she worked as a producer for PBS's "Edge," a program dedicated to exploring American pop culture. It was at this time that Harron became interested in the life of Valerie Solanas, the woman who attempted to kill Andy Warhol. Harron suggested making a documentary about Solanas to her producers, who in turn encouraged her to develop the project into what would be her first feature film.[4]

In addition to her films, Harron was also the executive producer of The Weather Underground, a documentary looking at the radical activists of the 1970s. She has also worked in television, directing episodes of Oz, Six Feet Under, Homicide: Life on the Street, The L Word and Big Love. She is currently developing a film based on the book Please Kill Me which details the 1970s New York punk scene of which she was so much a part.

She lives in New York with her husband, filmmaker John C. Walsh, and their two daughters.

Film detail

I Shot Andy Warhol

Harron's first film, I Shot Andy Warhol, released in 1996, is the partially imagined story of Valerie Solanas' failed assassination attempt on Andy Warhol.[5] She explains her interest in Solanas' life:

While Solanas was never able to produce her play, Harron was able to make her movie and was able to tell Solanas' story. I Shot Andy Warhol does not glorify Valerie Solanas; it pleads her case by showing that she was the product of a larger system of cruelty, and was not a lunatic, but a frustrated member of society.

American Psycho

Harron's second film, American Psycho, released in 2000, is based on the book of the same title by Bret Easton Ellis, notorious for its graphic descriptions of torture and murder.[7] The protagonist, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), is an investment banker working at the fictional mergers and acquisitions firm Pierce & Pierce, a nod to the name of Sherman McCoy's employer in Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. The New York Times' Stephen Holden wrote of the film:

Though the film had several high-profile male filmmakers interested in directing, the producers opted for a female director, hoping to avoid public outcry regarding the depictions of violence against women.[9] Despite signing Harron to the project, the film was mired in controversy before production began, due in large part to the legacy of the book's release.[10] As Harron began production, the crew had to contend with threats of protest, as the issue of violence in the media became crystallized by the Columbine shootings. Campaigns against the film continued throughout production, the Feminist Majority Foundation condemning the film as misogynist, and the Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment (C-CAVE) convincing restaurant owners to deny Harron permission to film in their establishments.[11]

In the years following its release, the film has achieved some cult status, the controversy surrounding it, to some, giving way to an appreciation of the film's satirical qualities, while many others remain critical of its violence and the phoney suggestion of 1980's decadence.[9]

The Notorious Bettie Page

The Notorious Bettie Page, released in 2005, is about the 1950s pinup model who became a cult icon of sexuality and who helped popularize pornography. Harron shows Page as the daughter of religious and conservative parents, as well as the fetish symbol who became a target of a Senate investigation of pornography. For this film, Harron did historical character research, and interviewed several of Page's friends as well as her first husband. Page was legally bound to another project and was thus unable to do an interview, but not being attached to Page meant that Harron was free to create a subjective representation of her. Harron saw Page as an unwitting feminist figure who represented a movement for women's sexual liberation, ironically similar, yet dissimilar to Solanas. About the film, Harron says in an interview:

Like Page, Harron also does not follow a strict feminist ideology, but has instead openly explored issues, instead of tying herself to a single perspective on gender. She is not aiming to create political films, but may end up doing so anyway, in her attempt to express a woman's point of view. In an interview she says:

The Moth Diaries

The Moth Diaries, Harron's fourth feature film, is an adaptation of Rachel Klein's 2002 novel of the same name. The film follows the story of a group of girls living together at a boarding school. A new student arrives, and the girls begin to suspect that she is a vampire. Harron has described the film as a "gothic coming-of-age story"[14] that explores the nuanced friendships of teenage girls as they are repeatedly confronted with the prospect of adulthood.


In 2005, Mary Harron was honored with the Filmmaker on the Edge Award at the Provincetown International Film Festival.


Director and screenwriter
Executive producer

TV work


  1. ^ Twisted Twins Invites You to Bleed for Women in Horror
  2. ^ Punter, Jennie (September 5, 2011). "The Monday Q&A: Mary Harron", The Globe and Mail, p. R3.
  3. ^ Michaelmas Term 1974. Complete Alphabetical List of the Resident Members of the University of Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1974. p. 137. 
  4. ^ Hurd, Mary. Women Directors and Their Films. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007. Print.
  5. ^ a b Heller 2008, p. 151.
  6. ^ Kaufman, Anthony (December 3, 2009). "Decade: Mary Harron on 'American Psycho'". indieWire. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  7. ^ The Perfect Billboard Erected for 'American Psycho'
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen (April 14, 2000). "Film Review; Murderer! Fiend! (But Well Dressed)". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Bussmann, Kate. "Cutting Edge." The Guardian. March 5, 2009. p. 16. Print.
  10. ^ Marcus, Lydia. "The Pent Up and the Pinup." Lesbian News. April 2006: p. 43. Print.
  11. ^ Harron, Mary. "The Risky Territory of 'American Psycho.'" The New York Times 9 April 2000 late ed.: section 2. Print.
  12. ^ "Bad Girls Go Everywhere: A Q&A with Mary Harron, director of The Notorious Bettie Page". Nerve (April 14, 2006). Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  13. ^ Hornaday, Ann (April 16, 2006). "Women of Independent Miens: Nicole Holofcener and Mary Harron Prove a Woman's Place Is in the Director's Chair". Washington Post, N01.
  14. ^ King, Randall. "The Notorious Mary Harron." Winnipeg Free Press. March 1, 2012. Print.
  15. ^ The Late Show Batman Special BFI Listing


  • Bussmann, Kate. "Cutting Edge."The Guardian. [1] March 5, 2009. p. 16. Print.
  • Heller, Dana (2008). "Shooting Solanas: Radical Feminist History and the Technology of Failure". In Hesford, Victoria; Diedrich, Lisa. Feminist Time Against Nation Time: Gender, Politics, and the Nation-State in an Age of Permanent War. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-1123-9. 
  • Harron, Mary. "The Risky Territory of 'American Psycho.'" The New York Times 9 April 2000 late ed.: section 2. Print.
  • Harron, Mary; "The Notorious Bettie Page" MovieNet. [2]
  • Hernandez, Eugene (January 18, 2000) "PARK CITY 2000 BUZZ: "American Psycho" NC-17; Next Wave Nabs Sundance Doc". indieWire. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  • Hurd, Mary. Women Directors and Their Films. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007. Print.
  • King, Randall. "The Notorious Mary Harron." Winnipeg Free Press. [3] March 1, 2012. Print.
  • Marcus, Lydia. "The Pent Up and the Pinup." Lesbian News. April 2006: p. 43. Print.
  • Murray, Rebecca. "Interview with Mary Harron, the Writer/Director of The Notorious Bettie Page: Harron Continues to Tackle Edgy Subject Matter in Her Latest Film". Retrieved November 29, 2011.

External links

  • Mary Harron on IMDb
  • Mary Harron at AllMovie
  • Marry Harron interview at NPR
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