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Blog:  In the News

Oscar Winner Iñárritu Draws on ADHD as He Makes Films

In the News blog post by Andrew M I Lee
Feb 22, 2016

Portrait of Best Director Nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro González Iñárritu is known as a bold and innovative director. His movies have won many awards. He’d already won previous Oscars—Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture—for the 2015 film Birdman. And he won another at the 2016 Academy Awards on February 28.

Iñárritu’s latest film is The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Director for Iñárritu. DiCaprio won for Best Actor. The movie also took home a statue for Best Cinematography.

His movies get plenty of attention. Less talked about, though, are Iñárritu’s experiences with ADHD. But he doesn’t shy away from the topic. In a 2009 interview with El Universal, he had this to say:

“I was a bad student. I had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The problem was that back then, it wasn’t called that. It was called being an ‘annoying kid.’”

Iñárritu grew up in Mexico. As a kid, he loved music and literature. But in school, he lacked focus and couldn’t concentrate.

Eventually, his behavior got him into trouble. He was kicked out of high school and got mixed up in drugs and minor theft.

Iñárritu eventually tried his hand as a commercial sailor and traveled the world. The experience changed him. It made him realize the value of learning and “exploring different things,” he said. He returned to Mexico determined to go to college.

Iñárritu studied filmmaking. He also worked as a DJ in the 1980s and got involved in the TV industry. Then he started making movies.

ADHD has played a role in many events in Iñárritu’s life. It has also influenced his films. Iñárritu can’t stay with a single subject for a long time because of his ADHD. “This disadvantage turned into a great asset for creating parallel stories,” he has said.

Those complex, parallel stories are a hallmark of his movies. The first to get attention was Amores Perros (2000). It tells three related tales about people from different social classes in Mexico. In 21 Grams (2003), three characters are affected by a car accident. The characters’ stories are told out of order. Scenes from the past, present and future mix together.

Babel (2006) uses the same gun to connect events in four countries. Iñárritu’s early movies received a few Oscar nominations. But Babel was his first film to grab the Oscar spotlight. It starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. And it had seven Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture.

Iñárritu has moved away from parallel stories in his latest movies. Still, he’s as daring as ever. Birdman (2014) is a dark comedy about a washed-up action star. The Revenant (2015) is set in 1823. DiCaprio plays a man who’s been betrayed and seeks revenge.

Iñárritu’s unique storytelling skills and creative risks with his films have paid off. They did again when he won the Best Director award at the 2016 Oscars.


The 2016 Academy Awards featured several celebrities with learning and attention issues. Steven Spielberg, who has dyslexia, produced Bridge of Spies, which was nominated for Best Picture.

Competing for Best Supporting Actor was Sylvester Stallone, who’s spoken about his ADHD, and Mark Ruffalo, who’s talked about having ADD and dyslexia. Stallone was nominated for Creed and Ruffalo for Spotlight. Find out what celebrities are saying about learning and attention issues.

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About the Blogger

Portrait of Andrew Lee

Andrew M.I. Lee is an editor and former attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education and parenting issues.

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