Alexander Payne in a Nebraska tavern
|🏡 Residence||Omaha, Nebraska|
|🏫 Education||UCLA Film School|
|🎓 Alma mater||Stanford University|
Alexander Payne is a director, producer, and screenwriter best known for Election, Sideways, The Descendants, and Downsizing. He’s a two-time Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay and a three-time nominee for Best Director.
Payne grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, as the youngest of three. His last name is the anglicized version of Papadopoulos, with his family hailing from the Greek islands of Syros, Livadia, and Aegio. His parents, Peggy and George, owned The Virginia Cafe. In the 1960s, when Alexander Payne was 14 years old, his father gave him a Super 8mm projector. In high school, he wrote satirical articles for the school’s newspaper.
After Alexander Payne graduated from high school, he attended Stanford University and majored in Spanish and history. While earning his degree, he lived in Spain and Colombia and studied the origins of social change. After graduation, he attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television for his Master of Fine Arts. His thesis screenplay, The Passion of Martin, would eventually become the film About Schmidt after being purchased by Universal Studios.
Run time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
Starring: Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz
Citizen Ruth is about a drug addict caught up in the abortion debate after becoming pregnant for the fifth time. Laura Dern plays Ruth, who finds herself at the center of a war between two sides, each fanatical about its cause.
Run time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon
Election spotlights a fictional high school election in middle America. Witherspoon is the overzealous and hard-working Tracy Flick and Broderick plays a teacher who eventually becomes convinced that Flick is the root of his problems.
Run time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates
About Schmidt is the tale of a widower who visits his estranged daughter for her wedding. The movie examines the main character’s life, failings, and relationships as he travels to the event and back again.
Run time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Starring: Thomas Haden Church, Paul Giamatti
Sideways is the adventure of two friends in California Wine Country celebrating an upcoming wedding. Church is the jovial but flawed groom who is caught up in a series of dalliances along the way, and Giamatti plays a wine snob who pines after his ex-wife. Payne was nominated for Best Director and won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Sideways.
Run time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley
The Descendants is about a man trying to cope with the loss of his wife, who is in a coma at the beginning of the film. Throughout, he attempts to reconcile the past for his two children so they’re able to move on. The Descendants was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards, and took home the Best Adapted Screenplay statuette.
Run time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte
Nebraska is the story of an older man who believes he’s won $1 million and needs to drive to Nebraska from Montana to collect it. The film explores his relationship with his family, his alcoholism, and the latter stage of his life.
Run time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz
Downsizing is a fantasy about a couple who decide to shrink themselves to a smaller size. When the wife decides not to go through with it at the last minute, the pair divorce. Damon’s character has to learn how to live his life in a new community, which he ultimately can do after befriending a Vietnamese political activist who has also downsized.
Alexander Payne has two Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay (Sideways, The Descendants) and two Golden Globes for Best Screenplay (Sideways, About Schmidt). He also has a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama (The Descendants). He received a BAFTA award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Sideways) and a Gotham Award for Best Feature (Sideways). He was ranked No. 2 on Metacritic’s best film directors of the 21st century.
Alexander Payne has dual citizenship in Greece and the U.S.
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