John McNaughton grew up on the 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 he worked numerous occupations including: an internship in the art department, Encyclopedia Britannica, Timekeeper, Chicago Bridge and Iron, Railroad Switchman, Republic Steel, Printer, Pullman Bank, Assembly Line Worker, International Harvester Company, Audio/Visual Specialist, 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 distributed his first documentary, DEALERS IN DEATH. Two years later MPI 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, starring Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray and Uma Thurman.
Since then Mr. McNaughton has worked continuously directing feature films, TV pilots, episodic television and documentaries.
Among his many credits are feature films including WILD THINGS, 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, McNaughton 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. Most recently he worked with David Milch, directing JOHN FROM CINCINNATI for HBO.