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After false starts on The Ring 2 and a remake of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train,
the 46-year-old lion of commercial directing completed his first feature last year,
in time to make it to Sundance. Titled Smart People, Murro's debut is a dramedy
starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Quaid, and white-hot indie newcomer Ellen
Page. "I was offered many things to do," he says. "I think eventually the idea was to
take something that is smaller and do it the hard way." Still, Murro has barely
missed a beat in the ad world. He was nominated for a DGA award again this
year—his fifth nomination in six years; he won the prize in 2004—based on his
usual mix of cinematic filmaking and offbeat laughs. Representing the former, his
DGA reel included a spot for the NBA in which Bostonians remember where they
were when the Celtics signed Kevin Garnett and a VW spot from the U.K. set to a
poem by Dylan Thomas. As for the latter, see "Affair" for Orbit Gum, in which a
cheater is found out but the gum keeps everyone from cursing—even the
aggrieved "Hoboken." Murro also created a world of living toys for PS3 in the
U.K., a series of stunt-filled worst case scenarios for Farmer's Insurance, and a ton
of Hyundai work for Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. He eschews speculation
about the future, technologically speaking, insisting that as long as things appear
on screens, the rules will remain the same. "It doesn't matter where it plays and it
doesn't matter how it plays, it's still about the story," he says.
Murro on completing his first feature: "Part of the struggle was to try to not be
seduced and wait. You only have one first movie and you want to make sure that
you do something that is a bit closer to your heart."