Penelope Spheeris

1945 –
Airing The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 2:30 AM on TCM

Spheeris attended UCLA, earning a master’s degree in film from UCLA while working as a waitress. She went on to work as a film editor before forming her own company, Rock ‘n’Reel, which was the first pre-MTV music video production company in Los Angeles, focused primarily on performance videos.

During the 1970s, Spheeris worked on several projects including Saturday Night Live and a Lily Tomlin special for ABC and would go on to establish her reputation as a producer, director, and screenwriter. After directing the cult favorite documentary The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) and its sequel The Decline of Western Civilization Part II, The Metal Years (1988), she directed the surprise hit comedy Wayne’s World (1992). Seeking to cement her commercial status, she directed feature remakes of The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and The Little Rascals (1994), as well as the Chris Farley comedy Black Sheep (1996).  Spheeris would go back to her documentary roots in 1998 for The Decline of Western Civilization Part III, which was shown at Cannes and Sundance and showcased LA’s gutter punk scene. In 1999 Spheeris filmed the Ozzfest tour and directed the feature-length documentary We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n Roll, which screened at Sundance. 

Select Filmography

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Suburbia (1984)
Wayne’s World (1992)
Senseless (1998)
The Kid & I (2005)