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Jonas Åkerlund: Biography

By Linnie Rawlinson for CNN
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Swedish filmmaker Jonas Åkerlund is known for his hard-hitting, frenetic and often violent takes on the darker side of humanity. The world's most controversial music video director, he has worked with the biggest names in the industry.

He started out as a drummer in seminal Swedish heavy metal band Bathory but switched to film editing in the mid '80s. He says, "I realized that cutting images together with music and sound effects was much more creative than banging the drums in a band, so I quit right away."

He moved into directing and has since worked with artists including U2 ("Beautiful Day", shot at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris), Metallica, the Smashing Pumpkins and Moby.

Perhaps best known for his work with Madonna, on "Ray of Light", "American Life" and the documentary "I'm going to tell you a secret", Åkerlund hit the headlines when the out-of-control "Smack My Bitch Up" video for the Prodigy was banned by MTV.

His work was acclaimed recently in a retrospective exhibition in his home city of Stockholm. "It was pretty intense to go back and look at all my old stuff. I didn't realize how much I'd done," he says.

Åkerlund's other work includes high-profile campaigns for Adidas, Puma and Virgin, and short films "The Hidden" and "Try" but, with over 450 music videos and commercials in his portfolio, he is now moving into movies.

His debut feature-length film, 2002's cult hit Spun, is a fast and furious shockfest of speed freaks spun out on crystal meth, starring Mickey Rourke and Mena Suvari. He's said of the film, "I hope I'm saying it's a shitty drug and you shouldn't use it."

"I've always done other films -- short films and now movies -- so I'm slowly drifting into longer formats," he says. "Movies are really where my passion is right now."

Selected music videos:
Madonna -- Jump (2006)
Blink 182 -- I Miss You (2004)
Madonna -- American Life (2003)
Christina Aguilera -- Beautiful (2002)
U2 -- Walk On (2001)
U2 -- Beautiful Day (2000)
Madonna -- Music (2000)
Moby -- Porcelain (2000)
Smashing Pumpkins -- Try, Try, Try (2000)
Madonna -- Ray of Light (1998)
The Cardigans -- My Favorite Game (1998)
Metallica -- Turn the Page (1998)
Prodigy -- Smack My Bitch Up (1997)
Moby -- James Bond Theme (1997)

I'm going to tell you a secret (Madonna documentary) (2005)
Spun (2002)
Try (short film) (2000)
The Hidden (short film) (1997)

Jonas Akerlund

Åkerlund counts Madonna, U2 and Moby among his clients


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