Despite a popular misconception, John is not related to the late novelist and screenwriter Roald Dahl.
Life and Career
John Dahl was born in Billings, Montana, the second of four children. John spent his young life in and around Montana all the way up through his college years. His interest in film began at the age of seventeen, when he first saw A Clockwork Orange, as told to Robert K. Elder in an interview for The Film That Changed My Life.
"This film captured my imagination so much. It was the first film that I saw that made me realize that somebody has to make this stuff. Somebody has to build those sets. Somebody has to paint those paintings. All of a sudden it became accessible. The movie was so compelling and interesting to me on so many levels. The one thing that struck me was that somebody made a movie, and that it was something that maybe, possibly, I could do."
He first attended the University of Montana, and then transferred to Montana State University's School of Film and Photography where he received a degree in film. While at MSU, John was a student of Bill Pullman. His first feature film at MSU was titled The Death Mutants made for $12,000. While at Montana State he played guitar in the punk rock band The Pugs. He also met his wife, Beth Friedberg at MSU, and after graduation they both left Montana to attend the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles. He entered the directors program and she entered the cinematography program.
John started his career as a storyboard artist and assistant director. He continued through the eighties making short films and directing music videos for Kool and the Gang and Joe Satriani. He finally gained notoriety directing his first two films, Kill Me Again and Red Rock West. Both films were well received. His third feature film was crime thriller, The Last Seduction. Linda Fiorentino's performance in that movie, although critically acclaimed, was not eligible to receive an Oscar nomination because it aired on cable television before its theatrical release. It also starred his former college professor, Bill Pullman.