Richard Stanley was born in Fish Hoek, South Africa on 22 November 1966. He is descended from famous journalist and explorer of Africa Sir Henry Morton Stanley. His mother, Penny Miller, is an artist and anthropologist best known for her book Myths and Legends of Southern Africa.
While still a student at the University of Cape Town, where he studied anthropology, Stanley worked for the archival department of the South African College of Music, filming tribal dance and initiation rituals.
Stanley's first foray into film making began in high school where he joined the Young Filmmaker's Workshop. Here he created his first film, Rites of Passage. Shot on super-8 stock, the 10-minute short film draws comparisons between modern man and primitive man. The short eventually won Stanley the IAC International Student Film Trophy film award in 1984.
Stanley followed his first success with the ambitious 45-minute 8 mm short Incidents in an Expanding Universe. Set in a future dystopia, the film laid the groundwork for Stanley's cyberpunk feature debut Hardware. It won the IAC Gold Seal Award and was eventually made available on the Severin DVD release of Hardware.
In the mid-1980s, Stanley began work on two more shorts. In A Season of Soft Rains was another futuristic journey, but a majority of the footage has been lost. Dust Devil was his first work on 16 mm. Inspired by a series of unsolved murders in Namibia, this short was unfinished but footage can be viewed on the Subversive Cinema DVD release of the feature Dust Devil.
Following the move to London, England, Stanley began working in music videos in 1987. He directed videos for bands including Fields of the Nephilim, Public Image Limited, and Renegade Soundwave.
Also, in the late 1980s, Stanley traveled to Afghanistan to document the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Stanley and his crew witnessed the Soviet withdrawal and the country's slide into the civil war that would bring the Taliban to power. The resulting documentary, Voice of the Moon, is a 30-minute look at the daily lives of the Afghani people trying to survive. Stanley saw action in the siege of Jalalabad, and the events surrounding his escape from the country, along with his wounded camera man, Immo Horn, later formed the basis of the screenplay Addicted to Danger, by Sebastian Junger. The documentary is available on the Subversive Cinema DVD release of the feature Dust Devil.
Stanley made his feature film directing debut with the post-apocalyptic science fiction film Hardware in 1990. The film included cameos by musicians Iggy Pop, Carl McCoy and Lemmy. Shot for approximately £960,000, it was eventually picked up by the Weinstein brothers and released theatrically in the United States through their early Millimeter Films division.
Stanley returned to his South African roots with the supernatural horror film Dust Devil in 1992. The full director's cut was officially released on DVD by Subversive Cinema in September 2006.
In 1994, Stanley directed a 50-minute length video for Marillion's concept album, Brave, which has since been released on DVD. He would later disown the end result, claiming the material was re-edited to cover the overall running time without his consent.
Stanley's next project was the third major movie version of the H.G. Wells novel The Island of Doctor Moreau for New Line Cinema in 1996.
Stanley completed The Secret Glory - an examination of SS officer Otto Rahn's search for the Holy Grail - in 2001 and The White Darkness - a look at the voodoo practices in Haiti - in 2002. Following several festival screenings, both documentaries appeared in the Dust Devil DVD box-set, released by Subversive Cinema in 2006.
Stanley's recent cinematic efforts include a number of short films. Children of the Kingdom appeared in the short-film collection Europe - 99euro-films 2 in 2003. The science fiction story The Sea of Perdition premiered in October 2006 at the Festival de Cine de Sitges, and has since been made available online and on the 2009 Severin DVD release of Hardware. The werewolf short Black Tulips premiered online in September 2008.
Stanley was a contributing writer-director to the 2011 omnibus The Theatre Bizarre, with an adaptation of the short story Mother of Toads by Clark Ashton Smith.
In addition to directing, Stanley has continued working as a screenwriter. He co-wrote the script for Nacho Cerdà's feature debut The Abandoned (2006) and delivered the screenplay for Cerdà's upcoming comic book adaptation I Am Legion (2012). In addition, Stanley was a script collaborator on the Italian horror-thriller Imago mortis (2009). Stanley also co-wrote an unmade film adaptation of J.G. Ballard's High Rise with director Vincenzo Natali.
Stanley launched the interactive website Terra Umbra - Empire of Shadows in October 2009, an ongoing inquiry into the invisible world and the hidden history of southern and central Europe. He also released the e-book Shadow of the Grail - Magic and Mystery at Montsegur in December 2010.
In early 2012, it was announced that Stanley would collaborate on the anthology film The Profane Exhibit. Stanley's contribution will be the short Coltan, which is described as "an unflinching look into darkest Africa."Rites of Passage (1983) - short
Incidents in an Expanding Universe (1985) - short; writer-director
In a Season of Soft Rains (1986) - short; writer-director
Voice of the Moon (1990) - documentary short; writer-director
Hardware (1990) - writer-director
Dust Devil (1992) - writer-director
Fields of the Nephilim: Revelations (1993) (segments "Preacher Man" and "Blue Water")
Brave (1994) - long-form music video; director
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) - co-writer
The Secret Glory (2001) - writer-director
The White Darkness (2002) - writer-director
Children of the Kingdom (2003) - short; writer-director
The Sea of Perdition (2006) - short; writer-director
The Abandoned (2006) - co-writer
Black Tulips (2008) - short; writer-director
Imago Mortis (2009) - co-writer
The Theatre Bizarre (2011) - anthology; writer-director
L'autre Monde (2012) - Documentary - Director
Jodorowsky's Dune (2013) - as Himself, contributor
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) - as Himself
Replace (2017) - co-writer