The long-awaited debut of Lady Gaga’s sprawling epic of a music video for “Telephone” has no shortage of stars, including Gaga herself, Beyoncé and Tyrese Gibson. But there’s another key ingredient to “Telephone” that stayed firmly behind the camera lens: the video’s director, Jonas Åkerlund.
From the late 1980s through much of the ’90s, the 44-year-old Swedish filmmaker and video director spent his career working with Swedish acts such as Candlemass, Roxette, Sinclair and Whale. In 1997, Åkerlund made his first foray into the mainstream music video scene outside of his country in the form of “James Bond Theme” for Moby and “Smack My Bitch Up” for the Prodigy.
Just one year later, Åkerlund experienced his single greatest achievement to date: Madonna’s “Ray of Light.” The celebrated music video won a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video as well as seven awards at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, including the top prize, Video of the Year. Although “Ray of Light” was their first and most celebrated collaboration, Åkerlund and Madonna continued their working relationship with videos for “Music” in 2000, “American Life” in 2003, “Jump” in 2006 and “Celebration” in 2009. He also directed Madonna in the 2006 documentary “I’m Going to Tell You a Secret,” which chronicled Madonna’s experiences during her successful Re-Invention World Tour.
Åkerlund brought his trademark cinematic style into the world of feature filmmaking with 2002’s “Spun.” Focusing on drug culture and the effects of methamphetamines, “Spun” featured an all-star cast including Jason Schwartzman, John Leguizamo, Mickey Rourke and the late Brittany Murphy. Despite the high level of talent, “Spun” was widely panned by critics upon its release. Åkerlund resumed his focus on music videos but eventually gave feature filmmaking another shot with the 2009 thriller “Horsemen” starring Dennis Quaid and Zhang Ziyi.
While the release of “Telephone” marks Åkerlund’s first video of 2010, it’s not his first collaboration with Lady Gaga. The two worked together on the video for
“Paparazzi,” which, like “Telephone,” featured high-profile talent including Alexander SkarsgÅrd of “True Blood” fame.
Some of the director’s other acclaimed videos include Metallica’s “Turn the Page,” U2’s “Walk On,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and Pink’s “Sober.”