Atom was born in Egypt and so named to mark the completion of Egypt’s first nuclear research reactor. At the age of two his family moved to Victoria. He attended Glenlyon Norfolk School (Glenlyon Preparatory School) from 1968 to 1976. An early interest in reading and writing plays was influenced not only by author Samuel Becket and playwright Harold Pinter, but also by the encouragement and support of his teachers at Glenlyon—Colin Skinner, Dougal Fraser and David Bennett with who’s collaboration he wrote, entered and won an award for his first play at the Victoria Arts Festival with No Hope For Canaries.
Soon after leaving school and already starting to produce short films—his first was Lust of a Eunuch—Atom was drawn to the strong theatre scene in Toronto to not only pursue a degree in International Relations at the University of Toronto, but also to absorb and learn from that stimulating cultural scene.
In 1984, his debut international film Next of Kin world premiered at the Mannheim-Heidelberg Festival and won a major prize. From this point on, his filmography is extensive with feature, short and television films that include eight Genie Award winning Speaking Parts, Cannes winning titles Exotica, Felicia’s Journey and Where the Truth Lies, Best Canadian Feature Film Family Viewing and double Oscar nominated The Sweet Hereafter. The film Ararat generated much publicity for Egoyan as the first major motion picture to deal directly with the Armenian genocide. He won the Best Picture prize at the Genie Awards. Other notables have been Adoration, Chloe, Devil’s Knot, The Captive and most recently Guest of Honour, as well as numerous stage plays and several operas.
Atom Egoyan continues to earn an extensive list of awards that include: Officer of the Order of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, and honorary doctorates from 10 Canadian universities.
Of the many other artistic things he has shown talent for as an artist his work was displayed at the Victoria Art Gallery, as a keen culinary creator, a spicy burger recipe appeared in a woman’s magazine—his retrospective disappointment has been not to become a classical guitarist. After studying classical guitar as a youngster, he thought about doing that at one time but chose a different path—and given what his career path has been, aren’t we the lucky ones for that choice?
The Atom Egoyan Amphitheatre on the waterfront of the Beach Campus was created in recognition of Glenlyon’s early role in his lifelong artistic journey.