Errol Morris (born February 5, 1948) is an American Academy Award-winning documentary film director. In 2003 The Guardian put him seventh in its list of the world's 40 best directors.
Morris was born in Hewlett, New York on February 5, 1948. When he was two years old, his father died of a heart attack. His mother, a Juilliard graduate, supported Morris and his brothers as a music teacher. In the 10th grade, Morris enrolled at the Putney School, a boarding school in Vermont. He began playing the cello, spending a summer in France studying music under the acclaimed Nadia Boulanger, who was the principal teacher of Philip Glass. Glass would eventually score The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War. Describing Morris as a teenager, Mark Singer wrote that he "read with a passion the forty-odd Oz books, watched a lot of television, and on a regular basis went with a doting but not quite right maiden aunt ("I guess you'd have to say that Aunt Roz was somewhat demented") to Saturday matinées, where he saw such films as This Island Earth and Creature from the Black Lagoon — horror movies that, viewed again thirty years later, still seem scary to him."
Morris attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, graduating in 1969 with a B.A. in history. For a brief time Morris held small jobs, first as a cable television salesman and then as a term-paper writer. His unorthodox approach to applying for grad school included "trying to get accepted at different graduate schools just by showing up on their doorstep." Having unsuccessfully approached both the University of Oxford and Harvard University, Morris was able to talk his way into Princeton University, where he began studying the history of science, a topic in which he had "absolutely no background." His concentration was in the history of physics, and he was bored and unsuccessful in the prerequisite physics classes he had to take. This, together with his antagonistic relationship with his advisor ("'You won't even look through my telescope.' And his response was 'Errol, it's not a telescope, it's a kaleidoscope.'") ensured that his stay at Princeton would be short. He left Princeton in 1972, enrolling at Berkeley as a Ph.D. student in philosophy. At Berkeley Morris once again found that he was not well-suited to his subject. "Berkeley was just a world of pedants. It was truly shocking. I spent two or three years in the philosophy program. I have very bad feelings about it," he later said. He became a regular at the Pacific Film Archive, as Tom Luddy, the director of the archive at the time, later remembered: "He was a film noir nut. He claimed we weren't showing the real film noir. So I challenged him to write the program notes. Then, there was his habit of sneaking into the films and denying that he was sneaking in. I told him if he was sneaking in he should at least admit he was doing it."