Joe Dante is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art. After a stint as a film reviewer, he began his filmmaking apprenticeship in 1974 as trailer editor for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. He made his directorial debut in 1976 with Hollywood Boulevard (co-directed with Allan Arkush), a thinly disguised spoof of New World exploitation pictures, shot in ten days for $60,000.
In 1977 Dante made his solo debut as a film director with Piranha (1978), which went on to become one of the company’s biggest hits and was distributed throughout the rest of the world by United Artists. During his tenure at New World, Dante edited Ron Howard’s directorial debut Grand Theft Auto (1977) and co-wrote the original story for Rock n Roll High School (1979).
For Avco-Embassy Dante next directed the highly praised werewolf thriller The Howling (1981), followed by the “It’s a Good Life” segment of the episodic Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
Having worked with Steven Spielberg on Twilight Zone, Dante was chosen to helm one of the first Amblin Productions for Warner Bros. Gremlins (1984), which became a runaway hit and grossed more than $200 million worldwide.
Dante followed up with Explorers (1985) for Paramount, a sci-fi fantasy about three kids who build their own spaceship, and then Innerspace (1987) for Guber/Peters, Amblin and Warner Bros., an action comedy in which miniaturized test pilot Dennis Quaid is injected into the body of supermarket clerk Martin Short.
Tom Hanks starred in Dante’s next film for Imagine/Universal, The ‘Burbs (1989), which was followed by Gremlins 2: The New Batch for Warner Bros. in 1990. Matinee featuring John Goodman as a huckster showman premiering his new horror film during the Cuban missile crisis, was a production of Dante and partner Mike Finnell’s Renfield Productions for Universal in 1993.
Dreamworks/Universal’s Small Soldiers was released in 1998, followed in 2003 by Warner Bros. Looney Tunes: Back in Action featuring one of Dante’s favorite actors, Bugs Bunny.
Along the way Dante contributed several comedy segments to the multi-part Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) spoof produced by John Landis, and directed various episodes of the TV series Amazing Stories, Twilight Zone, Police Squad!, Night Visions and Picture Windows. He also directed the network pilots for Caleb Carr’s The Osiris Chronicles and the NBC series Eerie, Indiana, on which he was creative consultant throughout its run.
Dante’s Homecoming, an episode of Showtime’s Masters of Horror series, debuted in December 2005 to rave reviews from critics and audiences alike and was named to numerous “Top 10” critics’ lists. The Sitges and Brussels International Film Festivals both honored Homecoming with Special Jury Recognition Awards, and the New Yorker called it the best political film of 2005. Additional television work includes The Screwfly Solution, also an episode of Masters of Horror, as well as episodes of CSI: New York and Hawaii 5-0.
Dante received Cable Ace nominations for his direction of Showtime’s Runaway Daughters (1994) and HBO’s The Second Civil War (1997).
In 2007, Dante began producing the innovative, critically acclaimed new media series, Trailers from Hell, which features contemporary filmmakers providing commentaries about films that influenced them – sort of a mini-DVD commentary. In 2009, he directed the interactive new media series Splatter, starring Corey Feldman and Tony Todd, produced by Roger and Julie Corman’s New Horizons for Netflix’s nascent streaming service.
Dante’s 3D thriller, The Hole, for Bold Films premiered at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival where it garnered the first-ever award for Best 3D Feature and had its North American premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2011, his legendary mash-up film, The Movie Orgy, opened the Museum of Modern Art’s Festival of Preservation in New York and has been screening all over the world.
He has been honored with many retrospectives and career achievement awards by film festivals, cinematheques and museums in the US and internationally. Amongst them are the Deauville, Locarno, Cine-Excess, Melbourne, Mar del Plata , Sitges, Amiens, Midnight Sun (Finland) and Nocturna (Madrid) film festivals. In 2013, the Vienna Film Museum, Slash Film Festival and the Slovenska Kinoteka collaborated on a major retrospective of his work.
He is currently in post-production on his newest film, Burying the Ex, a horror comedy starring Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario and Oliver Cooper for Scooty Woop Productions and Voltage Pictures.