Stephen Woolley

Stephen Woolley (born 3 September 1956 in London)[1] is an English film producer and director, whose prolific career has spanned over three and a half decades, for which he was awarded the BAFTA award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema in February 2019.[2] As a producer he has been Oscar-nominated for The Crying Game (1992), and has also produced multi-Academy Award nominated films including Mona Lisa (1986), Little Voice (1998), Michael Collins (1996), The End of the Affair (1999), Interview with a Vampire (1993), and Carol (2016). He currently runs the production company Number 9 Films with his partner Elizabeth Karlsen.[3][4]

Stephen Woolley
Born (1956-09-03) 3 September 1956
Years active1980–present
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Karlsen


Woolley's first film as a producer was The Company of Wolves (1984), but his career began earlier in 1976 as an usher at London's art-house cinema The Screen on the Green in Islington, run by Romaine Hart (OBE).[5][6] He then joined the exhibition arm of film collective The Other Cinema in Charlotte Street in the West End of London, before going on to own and run his own repertory cinema, The Scala Cinema, on the same premises.[1][7][8] In 1981 it relocated to near King's Cross railway station.[5][6][9][10] At the same time he established Palace Video in partnership with Nik Powell, in the early 1980s to distribute the types of cult cinema and international art films that had been the core of his cinema programmes.[5][6][9][10] Palace Video titles included David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977), Derek Jarman’s The Tempest (1979), and Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982).[11] It later grew into a theatrical distribution company, retitled Palace Pictures, where Woolley was behind the UK releases of French cult film Diva (1981), Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), Nagisa Ōshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), Wim WendersParis, Texas (1984), the Coen brothers' Blood Simple (1984), Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally (1988) – as well as films by John Cassavetes, John Waters, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Peter Greenaway, Fassbinder, and Bertolucci.[12] Palace Pictures moved into film production in 1984 with its first feature The Company of Wolves – directed by Neil Jordan (the first of many films Woolley and Jordan would later make together).[13][14][15] Many of Palace Pictures projects were first supported by Channel 4, and Woolley also helped establish many first-time directors including Michael Caton-Jones and Richard Stanley.[16] Woolley established an association with Miramax, which distributed a number of Palace films in the United States, including Scandal (1989), A Rage in Harlem (1991), Hardware (1990) and The Crying Game (1992).[17]

Woolley had established his reputation with a series of low budget but high production value releases, but began developing more ambitious projects. After a some box-office disappointments and the recession which weakened Nik Powell's parent company in 1992 Palace Pictures was forced to close.[18][19][20] A year later, The Scala Cinema's twelve-year lease expired simultaneously as its defeat in a court case caused by an illegal screening of A Clockwork Orange, whose screening rights had been withdrawn in the UK by Stanley Kubrick in 1971, and the financial collapse of Palace precipitated its closure in 1993.[21][22][23]

Woolley and Powell went on to found Scala Pictures, where they made Backbeat (1994), Little Voice (1998), Twenty Four Seven (1997), and a series of low budget UK features. Simultaneously, he secured a three-picture deal with Warner Brothers and made three films with Jordan after the worldwide box office hit of Interview with the Vampire.[13] Woolley and Jordan formed a company, Company of Wolves funded by DreamWorks, where In Dreams (1999), The Actors (2003), Intermission (2003), and Not I (2000) were produced under this banner.

Number 9 films was set up in 2002, with longstanding producing partner Elizabeth Karlsen, whose films include Breakfast on Pluto (2005), How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008), Made in Dagenham (2010), Great Expectations (2012), Their Finest (2015) The Limehouse Golem (2016), and On Chesil Beach (2017).[10]

Woolley's directorial debut, the 2005 film Stoned, was a biopic of Brian Jones.[24][25]

Personal life

Woolley is married to fellow film producer Elizabeth Karlsen,[26][27] with whom he co-founded Number 9 Films in 2002.[10]


As producer

As executive producer


  1. Clarke, Donald. "How a cinema ticket-tearer teamed up with Neil Jordan and helped save an industry". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  2. "Elizabeth Karlsen & Stephen Woolley – Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema". 8 February 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  3. "Overview for Stephen Woolley". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  4. "Stephen Woolley Biography". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  5. "Woolley, Stephen (1956–) Biography". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  6. Clarke, Donald. "How a cinema ticket-tearer teamed up with Neil Jordan and helped save an industry". The Irish Times. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  7. Woolley, Stephen (5 August 2010). "Beyond B-movies: Recreating The Scala's movie mecca". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  8. "BFI Screenonline: Woolley, Stephen (1956–) Biography". Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  9. Woolley, Stephen. "Beyond B-movies: Recreating The Scala's movie mecca". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  10. "Stephen Woolley". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  11. "BFI Screenonline: Letter to Brezhnev (1985)". Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  12. "BFI Screenonline: Letter to Brezhnev (1985)". Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  13. Fitzherbert, Henry. "Box office success in Stephen Woolley's undead end jobs". Daily Express. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  14. "Byzantium Metropole Press Kit" (PDF). Metropole Films. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  15. Woolley, Stephen. "How to close a movie deal at Cannes: a producer's guide". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  16. "VIP GUESTS & SCHOOLS". National Association for Higher Education in the Moving Image. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  17. Woolley, Stephen. "British producer Stephen Woolley says independents have a powerful friend called Harvey". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  18. "The rise and fall of the film production company Palace Pictures". CINEPHILIA and FILMMAKING. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  19. Coleman, Caryn. "Darren Banks: The Palace Collection". Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  20. Picardie, Ruth. "Golden girl, producer, mother, babe". The Independent. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  21. "Scala Cinema". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  22. "Building History". Scala. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  23. "La Scala". Total Production International. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  24. Bradshaw, Peter. "Stoned". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  25. Sandall, Robert. "Sex and drugs and Brian Jones". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  26. Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (14 May 2015). "Passion project: meet the indie super-producer behind Cannes hot ticket Carol". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  27. Jaafar, Ali (2 March 2016). "'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen And Stephen Woolley On Turning Good Taste Into A Business". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
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