A tribute to Alexander Payne
Greek-American writer-director Alexander Payne is a two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sideways (with Jim Taylor in 2004), and for Descendants (with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash in 2011), and was nominated for Election (with Jim Taylor in 1999). He is a two-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director for Sideways (2004), and Nebraska (2013), and for best picture for Descendants (2011). He received Golden Globe nominations for About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), Descendants (2011), Nebraska (2013) for best director. Alexander Payne is a native of Omaha, Nebraska, which he features in Citizen Ruth (1996), Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Nebraska (2013), and in his forthcoming science-fiction comedy Downsizing. He received the inaugural Eva Monley Award for his masterful use of location as another character by The Location Managers Guild of America (2014). Payne is passionate about film preservation, is on the Board of Directors of an Omaha non-profit film theater, Film Streams, and has helped preserve a historic film theater in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Alexander Payne draws on his Midwest upbringing, showcasing with wry humor through a humane lens the individuals that shape the collective experience, portraying ordinary untold stories about life in small town America, and in the process, he creates showcase roles for actors, reminiscent of Theophrastus’ characters and the political invective of Aristophanic comedy, the silent burlesques of Buster Keaton, and the films of Kurosawa and Buñuel which he studied closely during his MFA years at UCLA. He identifies himself as “trying to carve out a sort of European director’s career in America” (2013). His films bear the distinctive mark of an auteur, while also financed by major studios starring A-list actors.
Alexander Payne, whose grandfather Nicholas anglicized his surname in around 1915 to avoid anti-Greek sentiment in the Midwest, proudly shared his Greek heritage in his Descendants acceptance speech at the 2012 Academy Awards, when he dedicated the award to his mother Peggy: “Mom, this one’s for you. S’ agapó̱ poly.”