Born in Connecticut in 1964 as the nephew of character actress Holland Taylor, the inspiringly successful writer/director Brad Anderson graduated from Boston's Bowdoin College, taught courses at the Boston Film and Video Foundation, and attended the London Film School before he directed his first fictional work at age 31. Anderson entitled that 1995 short Frankenstein's Planet of Monsters!. 1996's The Darien Gap followed -- a feature-length effort about a young man (Lyn Voss, portraying himself) whose persistent dreams of filming the great Patagonian sloth prevent him from sustaining a relationship with the woman he loves (Sandi Carroll). Critics responded favorably (if limitedly), but -- as is so often the case with a first feature -- the most interesting story unfolded behind the camera. Anderson (like the legendary Robert Townsend) funded Darien on credit cards. As in Townsend's case, the gamble paid off -- Hollywood came calling, and Anderson's subsequent effort, the 1998 feature Next Stop Wonderland, hardly needs an introduction for those attuned to the U.S. indie film scene. Starring Hope Davis and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the pic -- set, of course, in Boston -- covers that ever familiar singles landscape (the territory of Crowe and Linklater), but does so with such grace and finesse that it transcended clichés and became not just a hit (grossing several times its budget) but, love it or hate it, a seminal work of American independent cinema.
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Anderson's follow-up, the whimsical Happy Accidents, opened in 2001 to mixed reviews; it stars vets Marisa Tomei and Vincent D'Onofrio and covers thematic territory similar to Wonderland but injects the fantasy element of time travel. Anderson's horror feature Session 9 hit cinemas that same year; a supernatural thriller, it weaves the tale of a cleaning crew commissioned to clear the asbestos from an abandoned mental hospital, who find their sanity crumbling when faced with the gothic atmosphere. Anderson's fourth effort, the grimy and bleak chiller The Machinist (2004), stars Christian Bale as blue-collar worker Trevor Reznik, a zero of a man who hangs onto to sanity with the tips of his fingernails as he wastes away to nothing. Responses were generally positive; the majority of critics and viewers acknowledged the intelligence of Anderson's (and Bale's) artistry, even as they felt driven away by the sheer unpleasantness of the enterprise. More or less concurrently with the production of this film, Anderson tried his hand at television, directing episodes of such acclaimed series as The Wire and The Shield. In 2006, Anderson announced production on a new feature, Trans-Siberian, a thriller about a couple who assist a Russian police officer with his hunt for a murderer who rubbed out a drug dealer. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi