Karyn Kusama

Few filmmakers can have been inspired to make a movie while sparring in a boxing ring with a member of the opposite sex. But that was how Karyn Kusama came to make her 2000 debut feature, "Girlfight." The Japanese-American NYU Film School graduate was at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn in 1992 when her male training partner whispered in her ear during a clinch and encouraged her to hit him. Fascinated by the sport's power dynamic, as well as its lurches between grace and violence, Kusama named Santiago Douglas's character Adrian after her erstwhile opponent and admits there is a lot of herself in heroine Diane Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez). However, it would take eight years to raise funding for the film, during which time she worked in the office on John Sayles's 1996 crime drama "Lone Star." Yet, even though it won awards at Sundance and Cannes, "Girlfight" opened few doors for Kusama and five years passed before she completed her sophomore outing, a feature version of the animated MTV series "Æon Flux," which starred Charlize Theron as an assassin ordered by handler Frances McDormand to eliminate the ruler of a futuristic utopia. Another lengthy hiatus followed, during which time Kusama married and had a child with screenwriter Phil Hay, and directed the 2007 "Little Boy Blue" episode of "The L Word." She returned to cinema, two years later, with the darkly disconcerting comedy "Jennifer's Body," in which studious Amanda Seyfried has to end possessed cheerleader friend Megan Fox's bloodlusting killing spree.