This image is the cover for the book Being Hal Ashby, Screen Classics

Being Hal Ashby, Screen Classics

The story of the director behind Harold and Maude, Being There, and other quirky classics: “A superb biography of this troubled, talented man.” —Tucson Citizen

Hal Ashby set the standard for subsequent independent filmmakers by crafting unique, thoughtful, and challenging films that continue to influence new generations of directors. Initially finding success as an editor, Ashby won an Academy Award for editing 1967’s In the Heat of the Night, and translated his skills into a career as one of the quintessential directors of 1970s.

Perhaps best remembered for the enduring cult classic Harold and Maude, Ashby quickly became known for melding quirky comedy and intense drama with performances from A-list actors such as Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail, Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn in Shampoo, Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home, and Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine in Being There. But Ashby’s personal life was difficult. After enduring his parents’ divorce, his father’s suicide, and his own failed marriage all before the age of nineteen, he became notorious for his drug abuse, which contributed to the decline of his career near the end of his life.

Ashby always operated outside Hollywood’s conventions, and though his output was tragically limited, the quality of his films continues to inspire modern directors as varied and talented as Judd Apatow and Wes Anderson, both of whom acknowledge Ashby as a primary influence. In Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel, the first full-length biography of the maverick filmmaker, Nick Dawson masterfully tells the turbulent story of Ashby’s life and career.

Nick Dawson

Nick Dawson is editor at and writes a weekly interview column, The Director Interviews, for Filmmaker magazine. Originally from the UK, he has written on film for Empire, Uncut, the London Times, and the Scotsman.

The University Press of Kentucky