‘Source Code’ Director’s Surprising Parentage

Director Duncan Jones is, in the parlance of Hollywood, hot. His movie “Moon,” which earned raves at Sundance and won a BAFTA Award, put him on the radar of just about every agent and executive in town. This weekend, Jones’ star will likely rise even higher with the release of the big budget sci-fi thriller “Source Code,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Of course, Jones is no stranger to the limelight. His father is David Bowie. Yes, Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself. Born Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones, he was the only child from Bowie’s first marriage with the American model Angela Barnett. His father famously dubbed him Zowie Bowie, a moniker that Jones quietly shed in his teens.

As a youth, Bowie, who made it a point of reading to his son two hours a night, turned him on science fiction novels. Soon Jones was devouring the works of such mind-bending authors as J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick. “My upbringing was pretty weird, anyway,” Jones told the New York Times, “so it was maybe less of a jump for me.”

The influence of these books clearly left their mark on Jones. Both of his feature films are the sort of smart philosophical sci-fi movies that Hollywood used to produce regularly but now sadly seem to get crowded out in favor of big dumb movies about alien robot cars.

“Source Code” centers on Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal), a soldier who suddenly finds himself inhabiting the consciousness of a train passenger eight minutes before a terrorist attack. Stevens soon learns that he’s a part of a secret government program and his mission is to relive those same eight minutes over and over again until he finds and stops the bomber. Think of it as “Groundhog Day” meets “24.”

His previous movie, “Moon,” is similarly high-concept. Sam Rockwell plays a sole worker on a remote base on the moon. That is until he meets his replacement — himself.

It’s not surprising perhaps that Jones, prior to getting into film, was pursuing a PhD in philosophy from Vanderbilt University. But then, by his own admission, Jones hit a wall. “Vanderbilt was a fantastic school, but I realized, to take academia that seriously, that you actually want to end up being a teacher, you really have to know that that’s your calling in life,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “And I was not teacher material.”

He decided to make a leap when his visited his father on the set of the “Hunger” television series. After having a long talk with Tony Scott, who directed a couple episodes for the show, he knew that directing was what he wanted to do. Soon afterward, he enrolled in London Film School.

For his next project, Jones is reportedly working on a “Blade Runner“-esque companion piece to “Moon,” but there’s no word on when that will actually come out. In the meantime, “Source Code” opens on Friday.

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March 2011

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