John McNaughton grew up on the far south side of Chicago. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana as a fine arts major and graduated from Columbia College, Chicago with a degree in television production and a minor in photography.
Before becoming a filmmaker, John worked numerous occupations, including intern in the art department at Encyclopedia Britannica, timekeeper at Chicago Bridge and Iron, railroad switchman at Republic Steel, printer at Pullman Bank, assembly line worker at International Harvester Company, audio/visual specialist at Campbell Mithun Advertising, and on to carnival barker, jewelry maker, sailboat builder, bartender, union carpenter, and operator of a laser light show.
In time, Mr. McNaughton worked his way into commercial and corporate film & video production. Eventually, he met Waleed and Malick Ali, owners of a fledgling video distribution company (MPI), who funded his first feature film. That film was Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which McNaughton directed, co-wrote, and co-produced. Completed in 1986, numerous complications plagued the controversial film and it was not released theatrically until 1991. When finally released, Elliot Stein of the Village Voice named it the best film of the year and it made the Ten Best lists of both Time Magazine and Roger Ebert. The film also won Best Picture honors at film festivals in Spain and Belgium.
At this time Mr. McNaughton was signed by The Gersh Agency who brought Henry to the attention of Martin Scorsese. Mr. Scorsese then hired McNaughton to direct Mad Dog And Glory for Universal Pictures. Based on a Richard Price script, the film stars Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray, and Uma Thurman. Since then Mr. McNaughton has worked continuously directing feature films, TV pilots, episodic television and one documentary.
Among his many credits are feature films, including Wild Things, which John directed for Sony Pictures and Mandalay Entertainment starring Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Bill Murray, Neve Campbell, and Denise Richards, and Lansky for HBO Films, written by David Mamet and starring Richard Dreyfus and Anthony LaPaglia. Additionally, John directed five episodes of the NBC television show Homicide: Life On The Streets; the pilot for the ABC series Push Nevada, written by Ben Affleck and Sean Bailey; and the documentary Condo Painting for October Films, featuring the final appearances of both Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.