Duncan Jones


Once called Zowie Bowie, Duncan Jones – David Bowie’s only son – has become a successful film director, whose most recent movie grossed $147 million and was critically acclaimed.

David Bowie and his son are close and Duncan confirms that Bowie has been a “major influence on me”. Of course, Duncan has never adopted the Bowie surname, so he could not be accused of exploiting his father’s fame.

David Bowie and Zowie

Duncan Jones was born Duncan Zowie Hayward Jones on 30 May 1971. Hayward Jones was the name of David Bowie’s father.

David gave him the name Duncan while his mother, Angie Bowie, named him Zowie as a masculine form of Zoe.

He inspired Bowie’s Hunky Dory song ‘Kooks’, performed on a radio session just four days after Duncan was born.

He was known as Zowie, but was teased by other kids at school and at the age of 12, he adopted Joey as his name. Later in life, he switched to Duncan.

David and Zowie Bowie with nanny Marion Skene

Jones had, in his own words, “a somewhat unique upbringing”. Having a rock star as a dad is not the most stable family environment and he was mostly raised by a Scottish nanny, Marion Skene. Following his divorce, David Bowie had uncontested sole custody of Duncan.

Duncan attended Gordonstoun, the Scottish school where Prince Charles was educated. Charles described the school as a “prison” and, pointedly, did not send his own kids there.

In ‘Kooks’, Bowie sang:

“And if the homework brings you down
Then we’ll throw it on the fire”

Don’t know about homework on fire, but after a few years, Duncan was asked to leave for sleeping during an exam! Subsequently, his studies improved and he graduated with a degree in philosophy from a private liberal arts college in Ohio.

When Duncan was younger, Bowie had tried to interest him in playing music and attempted to teach him to play guitar and other instruments. While Duncan never developed a taste for playing music, David did interest him in books by encouraging him to read for at least two hours a day while he was growing up.

David also created animated film snippets involving Star Wars figures and Duncan accompanied him to film sets while David was acting. Some interest in movies clearly developed.

Jones didn’t use his father’s fame, but we can assume that David did use some influence to secure Duncan opportunities.

Duncan did some work with director Tony Scott on certain episodes of The Hunger TV series that featured introductions by David Bowie. Scott had directed the original movie, The Hunger, which starred Bowie.

Scott persuaded Duncan to pursue film studies. Duncan subsequently quit a doctorate program in philosophy to study instead at the London Film School.

Duncan’s first full-length film Moon had a budget of just $5 million and turned a profit for its producers, who included Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler. We see David Bowie’s influence again in that Bill Zysblatt, Bowie’s business manager, is listed as one of the executive producers. This may even indicate that David discreetly contributed to the financing of the movie.

Moon was highly acclaimed and won several awards, including ‘best debut’ from the British equivalent of the Oscars.

Moon also competed against major movies like Avatar and District 9 to win a Hugo Award, science fiction’s most prestigious award, for best science fiction movie of 2010.

His second film was the hit movie Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which grossed $147 million. It, too, has been nominated for a Hugo Award this year.

His next movie will be of a very different nature to his two previous projects. The film will be a biography of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, who had real-life experience in British naval intelligence.

Jones has said that the movie will ask, “Where did Ian Fleming end and Bond begin?”