Derrickson grew up in Denver, Colorado. He graduated from Biola University, with a B.A. in Humanities, with an emphasis on literature and philosophy, and a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis on film and a minor in theological studies. He earned his M.A. in film production from USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Derrickson co-wrote and directed the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose which was loosely based on a true story about Anneliese Michel. The film won the 2005 Saturn Award for Best Horror or Thriller Film and in 2006 was named in the Chicago Film Critics Association's list of the "Top 100 Scariest Films Ever Made." Theatrical box office gross for The Exorcism of Emily Rose was over $140 million worldwide. That same year, Derrickson wrote Land of Plenty for director Wim Wenders, an independent drama starring Michelle Williams.
Derrickson next directed The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly, written by David Scarpa. The film was released in late 2008 and earned over $230 million worldwide.
In 2010, Derrickson wrote and is attached to direct both an adaptation the Danish thriller The Substitute produced by Sam Raimi, and the Lakeshore Entertainment supernatural suspense thriller The Living.
In January 2011, it was announced that Derrickson will direct Goliath, a biblical period action movie to be made with contemporary sensibilities. In October 2011, it was announced that Derrickson will write and direct the horror-thriller Two Eyes Staring for Summit Entertainment, starring Charlize Theron. Also in 2011, Derrickson wrote and is attached to direct the television pilot Thunderstruck for AMC and Battlestar Galactica producer David Eick.
In August 2011, Derrickson teamed up with producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious) to write and direct Sinister, a mystery-horror film starring Ethan Hawke. The $3 million picture was released in theaters by Summit Entertainment on October 12, 2012 and received generally positive critical reviews. Sinisterearned over $48 million at the U.S. box office and over $87 million worldwide.
In 2012, three new Derrickson projects were announced: an adaptation of Stephen King's The Breathing Method with Jason Blum producing; an adaptation of the popular video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution for CBS Films; and Sinister 2 which Derrickson will write but not direct.
Derrickson's script Devil's Knot was directed by Atom Egoyan. The film stars Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, and is scheduled to be released in 2013.
Derrickson is currently directing his own script Beware the Night for producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Sony Screen Gems, with Eric Bana playing the lead role. The film is set to be released in January of 2015.
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