How a painful chapter from his own youth revived James Gray’s passion for filmmaking
“So I’m in the back room of the house, and I see these five guys with guns. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Where the hell is this movie going to be shot? And then, the next thing I know, I’m standing in the middle of the desert outside of Las Vegas, with $6 million worth of weaponry and all five stars on my chest.” — James Gray
James Gray’s films are best consumed sequentially — because the story lines are so compelling that we have a hard time imagining the movies as a whole. But a story’s best parts are usually revealed when they are taken in smaller and smaller doses until, at long last, they are revealed all at once.
With the release of his film, The Proposition, in the middle of the 2016-17 season, James Gray has done just that.
With the release of The Proposition, James Gray has done just that.
The story of Gray’s movie — born of the harrowing experience of a father’s addiction to methamphetamines — is one of hope, of redemption, and of the journey toward maturity. The movie is a story about the challenges of addiction, one that James tells while wearing an expression of stoic resignation.
While The Proposition is Gray’s first work-in-progress feature film, it is also a first step in a lifelong journey toward cinematic storytelling. Gray first began writing the script for The Proposition while a student at the University of Southern California, where he was a member of the film and television program, where he taught classes on American history and journalism. “At the time I wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to be a filmmaker,” he says. “And I also wanted to become a citizen of Los Angeles — which is a city that I really love. It’s everything you can imagine.”
Gray was drawn to journalism because he was captivated by the role that it played in shaping his identity as an artist and also through the stories that he was able to tell.
His early love of film stemmed from watching movies as a child. His father, the director of the high school program, would get him and his brothers, Eric and Mark, to the nearest movie theater to see movies that, according to Gray, were