January 22, 1962
Los Angeles, California, United States
Prolific video director Tamra Davis showed promise with her initial leap to feature filmmaking "Guncrazy" (aired on Showtime in 1992 in lieu of theatrical release), though her subsequent directorial efforts didn't entirely live up to those high expectations. Married to Mike D of the Beastie Boys, Davis earned a reputation as a hipster auteur with credits on several videos by Sonic Youth and The Lemonheads as well as films like "Guncrazy" and "Best Men" (1997), but remained commercially viable thanks to work with Hanson ("Mmmbop"), Cher ("I've Got You Babe") and Adam Sandler ("Billy Madison").The California native served an apprenticeship under Francis Ford Coppola at his Zoetrope studios early on in her career and racked up experience there and with her own independent projects, including the documentary look at Latino gangs "Vida Loca" and shorts starring Ione Skye and Bette Midler. Though the artist-oriented market of 1980s videos meant she didn't get much fame or even credit as the director of such hit music videos as Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" and The Bangles' "In Your Room," the projects were a good start for the budding director.In 1992, Davis made her feature film debut with "Guncrazy," an ambitious and offbeat crime thriller starring Drew Barrymore and James Le Gros. Screened at festivals, the film won the director accolades before it found an audience on Showtime. The following year, Davis helmed "CB4," a comedy chronicling the rise and fall of a fictional gangsta rap group hailing from the suburbs. Starring Chris Rock and featuring some well-observed bits of truly inspired comedy, many critics opined that the film fell short of its mark due to a lack of cohesion. 1994 saw Davis return to music with "No Alternative Girls," a behind-the-scenes look at female rock bands including Luscious Jackson, Bikini Kill and the Courtney Love-fronted Hole.After being replaced by director Jonathan Kaplan during the making of the fashionable western "Bad Girls," Davis reached the mainstream and had great box-office success with 1995's "Billy Madison," a broad comedy that marked Adam Sandler's starring debut. She followed up with the quirkier "Best Men," a character-driven bank robbery film that reunited Davis with "Guncrazy" and "Bad Girls" star Drew Barrymore. Having consistently moonlighted as a video director, Davis gained a higher profile when outlets like MTV began crediting helmers onscreen, and her sunny 70s take on the oddly accomplished bubble gum pop of Hanson with the 1997 videos "Mmmbop" and "Where's the Love?" introduced the director to a new, younger audience. In 1998, she directed the decidedly more R-rated "Half-Baked," an at times very funny but ultimately less-than-satisfying update of the stoner comedy.The reviews of Davis' period romance "Skipped Parts" (released direct-to-video in 2001) were mixed, with most critics conceding that the 60s-set coming-of-age tale had its heart in the right place, but missed something in the execution. Davis followed up with "Crossroads" (2002), a road movie about three young women and one young man on a cross-country car ride. The premise sounded innocuous enough, but cast in the lead role was pop superstar Britney Spears, a fact that would bring many running into the theater but would also send many others fleeing in the opposite direction. The negative initial response from critics and the cringe-inducing trailer didn't help to put non-fans in seats, but Davis' determination to taking on a project reviled from its outset showed what might have been described as a fiercely independent spirit despite the film's obvious commercial focus.