Often referred to as a
Rock n Roll anthropologist, Spheeris currently lives in
As a child Penelope Spheeris lived with her family in different
trailer parks throughout southern California. She spent her teenage
years in Orange County, graduating from Westminster High School
with a daunting most likely to succeed label. Working
as a waitress at Dennys and IHOP, she put herself through
A holder of a UCLA Master of Fine
Arts degree in Theater Arts, she worked as a film editor and
a cinematographer before forming her own company in 1974. ROCK
N REEL was the first Los Angeles production company specializing
in music videos. She produced, directed, and edited videos for
major bands through the Seventies and Eighties, concluding her
music video work with the Grammy nominated, Bohemian Rhapsody
video for WAYNES WORLD.
Spheeris feature film debut was the
1979 documentary on the Los Angeles punk scene, THE DECLINE
OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION which received stunning and unanimous
The LAPD shut down Hollywood Boulevard
and Chief of Police, Daryl Gates wrote a letter demanding the
film not be shown again in L.A. Still fascinated with the subject
of punk rock, she wrote and directed SURBURBIA, her first
narrative film in 1983. It is a disturbing and somewhat prophetic
story of rebellious, homeless kids squatting in abandoned houses,
trying to make new families, and protecting one another. SUBURBIA
won first place at the Chicago Film Festival. Almost 25 years
later her documentary, THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION,
PART III would eerily mirror the events she scripted in SUBURBIA.
In 1984, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR starred Charlie Sheen and
Maxwell Caulfield. It is an anti-violence film that showed how
perfectly normal looking boys whose anger has long been repressed,
can be walking time bombs.
In 1987 DUDES, starring Flea, Lee Ving, John Cryer and
Daniel Roebuck, is about alienated punk kids who discover a sense
of values while setting straight the death of a friend.
In all of these films Spheeris reveals the desolation of youth
and the American dream gone bad. They depict stories of young
people experiencing traumatic pain and alienation.
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, PART II: THE METAL YEARS
was released in 1988, again to spectacular critical acclaim.
It is a caustically hilarious look at the LA heavy metal scene.
Commentaries from Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry,
Alice Cooper, Lemmy of Motorhead, Poison, etc. accentuate the
mostly unknown metal bands who perform the music. It features
a spectacular performance from Megadeth and the scene with W.A.S.P.
rocker Chris Holmes and his mother will probably remain one of
the most memorable pieces of rock film history.
In 1991, Spheeris directed her seventh feature and her first
studio film, WAYNES WORLD at Paramount Pictures.
Subsequently she directed and produced THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES
(Fox). She scripted and directed THE LITTLE RASCALS (Universal).
BLACK SHEEP (Paramount), SENSELESS (Dimension).
THE KID & I and BALLS TO THE WALL were to follow.
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION: PART
III was filmed in 1997. Documenting
the contemporary punk rock scene, most of the kids in it were
not yet born when the first installment was filmed. DECLINE
III focuses on social issues rather than music. Most of the
subjects are crusty gutterpunks, proud products of a society
truly in decline.
Soon after Spheeris traveled with many prominent metal bands
to document in Hi-Def the OZZFEST and the reunion performances
of the original Black Sabbath. The crew traveled through twenty-eight
cities, each with crowds of thirty to forty thousand. Both as
director and one of the cinematographers, Spheeris achieved a
remarkable and historic film which offers the audience a unique
view of life on the road: WE SOLD OUR SOULS FOR ROCK N
Recent projects include: FIVE - Alongside directors Jennifer
Aniston, Demi Moore, Alicia Keys, and Patty Jenkins. THE REAL
SAINT NIC Starring Torrey Devito and Callard Harris.
At the request of fans from around the world, Spheeris is now
devoting her time to compiling the elements for the release of
THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION trilogy on DVD.