Brian Russell De Palma was born on September 11, 1940. He is an American film director and screenwriter, and is considered a part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking. De Palma, who is of Italian ancestry, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Vivienne (née Muti) and Anthony Federico De Palma. He grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and attended various Protestant and Quaker schools.
During his enrolment at the Columbia University as a physics student, De Palma became captivated with the filmmaking techniques after viewing Citizen Kane and Vertigo. In the early 1960s, De Palma enrolled at the Sarah Lawrence College as a graduate student in the theatre department. He was influenced by various personalities like the drama teacher Wilford Leach, the Maysles brothers, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Luc Godard, Andy Warhol and Alfred Hitchcock. An early friendship with a young Robert De Niro resulted in The Wedding Party. The film was co-directed with Leach and producer Cynthia Munroe, had been shot in 1963 but remained unreleased until 1969, when De Palma's fame had escalated within the Greenwich Village filmmaking scene. De Niro was unknown at the time. The film is noteworthy for its invocation of silent film techniques and an insistence on the jump-cut for effect.
In 1970, De Palma left New York for Hollywood at age thirty to make Get to Know Your Rabbit, starring Orson Welles and Tommy Smothers. After several small, studio and independent released films that included Sisters, Phantom of the Paradise, and Obsession, a small film based on a novel called Carrie was released directed by Brian De Palma. The psychic thriller Carrie is seen by some as De Palma's bid for a blockbuster. For many film-goers, De Palma's gangster films, most notably Scarface and Carlito's Way, pushed the level of viciousness and decadence, and yet greatly vary from one another in both style and content and also illustrate De Palma's evolution as a film-maker. Both films feature Al Pacino in what has become a productive working bond.
De Palma's films can fall into two classifications, his psychological thrillers and his commercial films. Due to the subject matter and explicit violence of some of De Palma's films, they are often at the centre of controversy. Film critics have noted De Palma's fondness for unusual camera angles and configurations throughout his career. Split-screen methods have been used to express two distinct occasions happening concurrently.
De Palma is often named as a prominent member of the New Hollywood generation of film directors. His artistry in directing and use of cinematography and suspense in several of his films has often been compared to the work of Alfred Hitchcock.
De Palma dated actress Margot Kidder in the early 1970s. He has been married and divorced three times, to actress Nancy Allen (1979–1983), producer Gale Anne Hurd (1991–1993), and Darnell Gregorio (1995–1997). He has fathered two daughters, Lolita de Palma and Piper De Palma and resides in Manhattan, New York.