What You Didn't Know About David Bowie's Son

Duncan Jones stepped out of the shadow of his famous father and into his own spotlight when his debut film, Moon, opened to critical acclaim and started pulling in the awards. Jones told Wired that the project was conceived as a throwback to the science fiction movies of the '70s and '80s, a time when he was living one of the most unconventional childhoods imaginable. 

Known as "Zowie" until his early teen years, Jones had a front-row seat to the rock star lifestyle, including all of the positives and negatives that came along with it. As a result, Jones took a while to find his creative path. He even pursued a career in academia before embracing his artistic nature and making his way in the entertainment industry. But that's just scratching the surface of the surprisingly private and down-to-earth life of Jones. Here's a look at what you didn't know about David Bowie's son.

He's a huge gamer

Hollywood's track record with movies based on video games has been less than stellar, but when Duncan Jones stepped up to helm Blizzard's World of Warcraft movie, he was determined he was going to break the curse that settled over game-inspired films. Millions count themselves among the hoards of Warcraft players, so it might not be surprising that Jones is one of them. However, his love of video games goes back much farther than WoW, and Jones said that's why he thought his attempt at marrying video games with the big screen was going to be a success.

Speaking to PC Gamer, Jones did a little gamer name-dropping: The Bard's Tale, Wing Commander, the original non-MMORPG Warcraft, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis are titles that old-school gamers will recognize. He then addressed Hollywood's game-to-cinema failures "Source material is not what stops a movie being good — it's what you do with it. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do Warcraft. I've been a gamer all my life and I was determined a good movie could be made out of the game. I actually love that there are no pre-eminent examples of good ones, because I want to be the guy to do it!"

Unfortunately, most critics didn't seem to think Jones leveled up on that one.

What's his name again?

Duncan Jones wasn't always known as Duncan Jones, and he's gone through some major changes over what he wants to be called. In his earliest years, he was known as Zowie, but as he approached his teenage years, he decided he preferred either Joe or Joey.

The New York Times reported (via Heavy) that it wasn't until he was 18 that he decided to go back to his birth name, the one that we all know him by today. With the birth of his own son, Jones seems to know just how important names can be. He named his son Stenton David Jones. David is, of course, for his father, and according to The Telegraph, Stenton is the middle name of his famous father's own father, Haywood Stenton Jones.

Jones and his wife, photographer Rodene Ronquillo, welcomed their second child, a baby girl, in April 2018.

Rough day for a white wedding

Weddings are supposed to be days of celebration and joy, but for Jones and his then-fiancée Rodene Ronquillo, that was only partially true. According to Entertainment Tonight, the pair announced their engagement in June of 2012 but sped up their plans when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32. They married the same day as the diagnosis. Jones tweeted, "We were a little overwhelmed by the news: cancer & Election Day, so we decided to make it a set, ran down to the courthouse & got married."

The Twitterverse responded with an outpouring of support, and Jones shared a photo on Twitter of his newly-shaved head in support of his bride. He later tweeted, "A big thank you to everyone who has been in touch. Ro & I humbled & very grateful... learn the lesson though! Feel up your loved ones! ;) "

In 2013, Ronquillo announced that she'd undergone a double mastectomy and beat the cancer. 

He's proud to be a kook

Three days after Duncan Jones was born, David Bowie performed "Kooks" for the first time at the BBC's In Concert radio program. That was on June 3, 1971, and the song found its place on Hunky Dory. According to the BBC, "Kooks" isn't just an anthem to everyone who finds themselves on the outside of mainstream culture, it's also an anthem to his young son. At its heart, it embraces the idea that even the most unconventional people can make good parents, and that even though that child is going to face challenges unique to his unconventional circumstances, upbringing, and parents. "Will you stay in our lovers' story?" Bowie sings to his baby. "If you stay you won't be sorry, 'cause we believe in you."

The song wasn't among Bowie's most popular, but it certainly seems to have resonated with Jones. When he took the stage at the 2017 BRIT Awards to accept an award on behalf of his late father for the album Blackstar, Jones said (via Entertainment Tonight), "I lost my dad last year, but I also became a dad. I was spending a lot of time, after getting over the shock, trying to work out what I would want my son to know about his granddad. He's always been there, supporting people who think they're a little bit weird, or a little bit strange, a little bit different. And he's always been there for them. This award is for all the kooks and all the people who make the kooks."

Mommie Dearest

David Bowie split with wife, model Angela Barnett, in 1980. According to The Baltimore Sun, she agreed to give up custody of their son, Duncan Jones, and was awarded $750,000 in the settlement. The agreement included a 10-year gag order that prevented her from saying anything about her ex-husband. Once that ten years was up, however, Barnett unleashed a lot of hate over the alleged circumstances surrounding their split. 

She talked about why she gave up custody of her son with Evening Standard in 2005. "I just didn't want to get into a pissing match with David about custody. I really thought the best thing to keep David alive was to leave my son with him. It was the hardest thing I've ever done," she said. "...I kept saying to myself, I've got to do this. I can't escape if I take my child with me, he'll fight me and it will be awful for my son. And I can have another child, it's not a big deal."

In 2016, Barnett appeared on the reality show Celebrity Big Brother and dredged up more family drama, claiming she and Duncan hadn't spoken in 30 years because he hated her, thanks to Bowie. 

Jones has kept his thoughts on the matter private in recent years. He told the Daily Mail in 2011, "We stopped communicating when I was 13 and it was the right choice then and I'm convinced it's still the right choice now."

He was never going to be Ziggy Stardust Jr.

Duncan Jones said his famous father tried to get him interested in pursuing a life in music, but Jones was having none of it. Jones, though, was having no part of it.

"He tried to get me to learn the drums, but I didn't want to. The saxophone? No. Piano? No. Guitar — no thanks! Bless him. He kept on trying and nothing was happening. Nothing would take," he told the Daily Mail in 2011. "I don't know if subconsciously there was some reaction going on; if there was something in me that didn't want to learn an instrument — because I couldn't have been that incompetent! He'd say, 'You have to practice...' and I was like, 'But I don't want to practice....' It didn't interest me, so it wasn't going to happen."

In spite of his father's attempts, Jones says he continued to resist. He credits his father for accepting that. Instead of forcing it, Bowie introduced his son to other creative outlets that eventually led to Jones' career as a director. By the time he was 8, his father had not only introduced him to the wonders of an 8mm camera and photography, but also to movies such as Baron Munchausen's Dream and A Clockwork Orange. As an adult, though, Jones said he did come to regret that he never learned how to play one of those instruments.

Putting Hollywood on hold

Duncan Jones didn't want anything to do with the entertainment biz for a long time. In an interview with The Sun, he said witnessing the downside of fame via his father prompted him to pursue academia instead. Jones pursued a doctorate with the goal of becoming a philosophy teacher. "I was two-and-a-half years into my PhD when I realised I couldn't hack it anymore," he said. "I didn't finish it." Jones changed course and headed to the London Film School, where he got his feet wet "making low-budget music videos." 

Duncan probably could have talked his dad into letting him make a high-profile music video, but David Bowie's son wanted to chart his own course. "I was trying to find a way to build a career based on the work I was doing," Duncan said. He directed "a 26-minute short called Whistle" and two commercials for the McCain and French Connection brands, reported the Independent, and by 2009, he had his first feature film under his belt — the critically-acclaimed sci-fi indie flick Moon.

How did a guy who wanted nothing to do with showbiz become a Hollywood director? Glad you asked...

He'll take the set over the studio any day

David Bowie appeared in numerous films, and that meant Duncan got to tag along to film sets. Duncan told the Daily Mail that being on set "was like going to Disneyland." Films sparked something in Duncan that music did not, and his father recognized that and supported his son. Duncan said some of his fondest memories are of his dad helping him make movies with Star Wars and Smurfs toys. He said Bowie even taught him skills such as storyboarding, script-writing, and lighting, and how to cut and splice film. Jones told The Verge that one of the most treasured memories he had of life with his father was building a zoetrope together.

As an adult, three years into his PhD program, Jones said it was Bowie who renewed his film-making passion. "My dad was working up in Montreal with Tony Scott on this TV version of The Hunger, and asked me if I wanted to take a little break and come up and join them," Jones told The Verge. When Jones arrived on set, Scott put a camera in his hands and put him to work. "I had the best time," Jones said. "And I was like, 'This is it. I need to go to film school.'"

His nanny was like a mother to him

Given his non-existent relationship with his birth mother, it's no surprise that someone else filled that role in Duncan Jones' life. According to the Daily Mail, nanny Marion Skene filled those shoes when Jones was 4 years old — a time when Bowie was constantly touring and allegedly heavily abusing cocaine.

"I've always considered [Skene] as my mum, so I never felt I was missing out in any way," Jones said. That appreciation and respect for Skene was apparently shared by Bowie, as well. He left her $1 million in his will when he passed in January 2016, according to the New York Daily News.

When Skene died of cancer in March 2017, Jones honored her memory on Twitter, calling her an "incredible woman." He said, "She raised me. Without her, who knows what kind of a mess I'd be."

He's a bit of a foodie

Duncan Jones' creative pursuits don't end on the film set. He's also something of an artist in the kitchen. He often tweets photos of his culinary pursuits, like these cornish pasties he showed off in January 2017. In that same thread, he wrote, "I make a bloody lovely rhubarb crumble." His affection for UK baked goods was truly on display in March 2018, when he documented his attempt at making a Scottish delicacy known as rowies via social media. 

Jones even once used food to invite a discussion about cultural appropriation, tweeting a photo of a Japanese dish he made for his family, and writing, "I think food is a good arbiter for the discussion, because it's the one where we are most comfortable with the results of blending, borrowing & 'appropriation.' Curious... Are there examples of foods you would not eat out of respect for another culture?"

Guess it's true what they say: You can take the philosopher out of the kitchen, but you can't take the kitchen out of the — Okay, fine, that's not actually a thing anyone says.

He gave his father a sneak peak at Warcraft

By the time Warcraft finally hit theaters, it had been ten years in the making, and near the end of the film's journey, Jones was able to give his dad a sneak peek at what his dream fantasy film was going to look like.

"I showed him an early cut of this and showed him some of the effects shots," he told the Daily Beast. "You know, for everyone else he was one person. For me, he was my dad. And he was always interested in things I was working on. So I showed him what I was working on, and he was all excited for me and happy that I was doing the thing that I enjoyed doing in my life."

Bowie passed away before the movie opened in theaters, but Jones said those family ties made Warcraft something extra-special to him, and something that he wanted to make sure made it to the screen. For Jones, it's clear that family comes first.