Noam Murro

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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."

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