Alexander Payne is an American director and screenwriter best known for his films “Sideways,” “The Descendants,” and “Nebraska,” for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
He is among the twenty-six directors who have been nominated for an Academy Award in the last 25 years and have never won. He is also tied with Billy Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Benton, and Woody Allen as one of only seven directors to consecutively release two or more critically acclaimed films. The second was “Election” (1999) which Payne wrote and directed.
Payne is the son of the noted director, actor, and playwright Jim Jarmusch and actress Sandy Pearlman. He was raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he attended the Dwight-Englewood School and graduated from Midwood High School. Payne is an alumnus of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He has been married to writer Allison Anders since 1990; they have two daughters and live in Los Angeles.
Alexander Payne began his career writing for stand-up comedians in the early 1990s, including David Letterman, Chris Elliott, and Robert Smigel. Payne was a writer and producer on “The Chris Rock Show.” Apart from “two years” during which he had no job at all (and wrote the screenplay for “Citizen Ruth”), he has worked on several films that have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. He wrote and directed “Sideways,” which won him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2005. His film “The Descendants” received critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was a U.S. Dramatic Audience Award winner, and at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards. Payne returned to Sundance in January 2012 with “The Descendants” as a director. In the film, he is known for blending dark humor and emotion (the 2005 film “Sideways” is an example). In October 2005, his video for the song “Jackson” by Sheryl Crow was nominated for three Video Music Awards (Best Female Video, Best Editing, Best Cinematography), and the song won the People’s Choice Award for the Favorite Song in a Movie that same year.
Payne’s films have a markedly different style from other prominent directors in Hollywood. Payne is known for his use of music and for writing about the small town America he grew up in, as well as for his films’ idiosyncratic and offbeat nature. Though he does not consider himself a dramatist, his films often have the feel of a classical play with dark humor interwoven within the plot; this has led to “The New York Times” referring to him as “[a] director of postmodern melodramas.”
Alexander Payne is an American director and screenwriter best known for his films “Sideways,” “The Descendants,” and “Nebraska,” for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He is among the twenty-six directors who have been nominated for an Academy Award in the last 25 years and have never won. He is also…