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John Sayles

John Sayles, March 2008
Born John Thomas Sayles
September 28, 1950 (1950-09-28) (age 59)
Schenectady, New York
United States
Occupation Film director, screenwriter

John Thomas Sayles (born 28 September 1950) is an American independent film director and screenwriter.

Contents

Early life

Sayles was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Mary (née Rausch), a teacher, and Donald John Sayles, a school administrator.[1] He was raised Catholic and took to labeling himself "a Catholic atheist". Both of Sayles's parents were of half-Irish descent.[2]

He attended Williams College, where a small incident provided an inkling as to his future career. In 1972, while participating in the school's semiannual trivia contest, Sayles's team was tied with another after eight hours, forcing the game's first sudden death overtime. Sayles was able to cite a particular line of dialogue from the 1960 film The Time Machine to clinch the championship.

Career

Like Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, among others, Sayles began his film career working with Roger Corman. Sayles went on to fund his first film, Return of the Secaucus 7, with $30,000 he had in the bank from writing scripts for Corman. He set the film in a large house so that he did not have to travel to or get permits for different locations, set it over a three-day weekend to limit costume changes, and wrote about people his age so that he could have his friends act in it.

In 1983, after the films Baby It's You (starring Rosanna Arquette) and Lianna (a sympathetic story in which a married woman becomes discontented with her marriage and falls in love with another woman), Sayles received a MacArthur Fellowship for $40,000 a year for a five-year term. Sayles used the money to fund the fantasy The Brother from Another Planet, a film about a black, three-toed slave who escapes from another planet and finds himself at home among the people of Harlem in New York City, largely because he is incapable of speaking.

In 1989 he created and wrote the pilot episode for the short-lived television show Shannon's Deal about a down-and-out Philadelphia lawyer played by Jamey Sheridan. Sayles received a 1990 Edgar Award for his teleplay for the pilot. The show ran for only 16 episodes before being cancelled in 1991.

Sayles has funded most of his films by writing genre scripts such as Piranha, Alligator, The Howling and The Challenge. Having collaborated with Joe Dante on Piranha and The Howling, Sayles acted in Dante's movie Matinee. In deciding whether to take a job, Sayles reports that he mostly is interested in whether there is the germ of an idea for a movie which he would want to watch. Sayles gets the rest of his funding by working as a script doctor; he did rewrites for Apollo 13, The Fugitive, and Mimic, among others, and finds these jobs rewarding as he gets to help other writers tell their stories and also meet other directors and watch how they work.

One such genre script, for an unproduced film called Night Skies, inspired the project that would eventually become the highly successful and moneymaking film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That film's director, Steven Spielberg, later commissioned Sayles to write the script for Jurassic Park IV.

He has written and directed his own films, including Lone Star, Passion Fish, Eight Men Out, The Secret of Roan Inish, and Matewan. His films tend to be politically aware; social concerns are a theme running through most of his work. He serves on the advisory board for the Austin Film Society.

In November 1997 the National Film Preservation Board of the United States announced that Return of the Secaucus 7 would be one of the 25 films selected that year for preservation in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

Sayles works with a regular repertory of actors, most notably Chris Cooper, David Strathairn, and Gordon Clapp, each of whom has appeared in at least four of his films.

In early 2003, Sayles signed the Not In Our Name "Statement of Conscience" (along with individuals such as Noam Chomsky, Steve Earle, Brian Eno, Jesse Jackson, Viggo Mortensen, Bonnie Raitt, Oliver Stone, Marisa Tomei and Susan Sarandon) which opposed the invasion of Iraq.

In February 2009, Sayles was reported to be writing an upcoming HBO series based on the early life of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The drama, tentatively titled Scar Tissue, centers on the rocker's early years living in West Hollywood with his father. At that time, Kiedis's father, known as Spider, sold drugs (according to legend, his clients included The Who and Led Zeppelin) and mingled with rock stars on the Sunset Strip, all while aspiring to get into showbiz.[3]

Filmography

Bibliography

  • Union Dues (1977) (novel)
  • Pride of the Bimbos (1975)
  • The Anarchists Convention (1979) (short story anthology)
  • Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie \"Matewan\" (1987) (non-fiction)
  • Los Gusanos (1991) (novel)
  • Dillinger in Hollywood (2004) (short story anthology)
  • Los Gusanos (2005) (novel)

Music videos

Awards/Nominations

Awards for Honeydripper:

  • Outstanding Independent or Foreign Film (Win) – 2008 NAACP Image Awards
  • Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television) (Nominated) – John Sayles – 2008 NAACP Image Awards
  • Top 10 Independent Films of 2007 - National Board of Review
  • Best Screenplay (Win) – John Sayles - 2007 San Sebastián International Film Festival (Tied with Gracia Querejeta and David Planell for Siete mesas de billar francés (2007)

Award for SILVER CITY:

  • Golden Seashell Award for Best Film (Nominated) - John Sayles - 2004 San Sebastián International Film Festival

Awards for SUNSHINE STATE:

  • Golden Orange Award (Win) - John Sayles - 2003 Florida Film Critics Circle Awards
  • Special Mention For Excellence In Filmmaking (Win) - 2002 National Board of Review

Awards for LIMBO:

  • Best Director Golden Space Needle Award (Win) - John Sayles -1999 Seattle International Film Festival
  • Outstanding Indies (Win) - 1999 National Board of Review

Awards for MEN WITH GUNS/HOMBRES ARMADOS:

  • Best Foreign Independent Film (Nominated) - 1998 British Independent Film Awards
  • Best Foreign Film (Nominated) - 1999 Golden Globes
  • Peace Award (Nominated) - 1999 Political Film Society
  • FIPRESCI Prize (Win) - John Sayles - 1997 San Sebastián International Film Festival
  • OCIC Award (Win) - John Sayles - 1997 San Sebastián International Film Festival
  • Solidarity Award (Win) - John Sayles - 1997 San Sebastián International Film Festival
  • Golden Seashell Award for Best Film (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1997 San Sebastián International Film Festival

Awards for LONE STAR:

  • Best Original Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1997 Academy Awards
  • Best Original Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1997 BAFTA Awards
  • Best Screenplay, Motion Picture (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1997 Golden Globes
  • Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1997 Writers Guild of America
  • Best Picture (Nominated) - 1997 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
  • Best Motion Picture Original Screenplay (Win) - John Sayles - 1997 Golden Satellite Awards
  • Best Motion Picture - Drama (Nominated) - Maggie Renzi & R. Paul Miller - 1997 Golden Satellite Awards
  • Best Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1997 Independent Spirit Awards
  • Best Film (Win) - Lone Star - 1996 Lone Star Film & Television Awards
  • Best Director (Win) - John Sayles - 1996 Lone Star Film & Television Awards
  • Best Screenplay (Win) - John Sayles - 1996 Lone Star Film & Television Awards
  • Special Achievement Award for Outstanding Feature Film (Win) - 1996 NCLR Bravo Awards
  • Best Director (Win) - John Sayles - 1997 Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards

Awards for THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH:

  • Best Genre Video Release (Nominated) - 1996 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films
  • International Critics Award (Win) - John Sayles - 1996 Gérardmer Film Festival
  • Best Director (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1996 Independent Spirit Awards
  • Best Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1996 Independent Spirit Awards

Awards for PASSION FISH:

  • Best Original Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1993 Academy Awards
  • Golden Spur Award (Win) - John Sayles - 1993 Flanders International Film Festival
  • Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1993 Writers Guild of America

Awards for CITY OF HOPE:

  • Critics Award (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1991 Deauville Film Festival
  • Special Award, Democracy Award (Win) - 1992 Political Film Society
  • Tokyo Grand Prix Award (Win) - John Sayles - 1991 Tokyo International Film Festival

Awards for MATEWAN:

  • Critics Award (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1987 Deauville Film Festival
  • Best Director (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1988 Independent Spirit Awards
  • Best Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1988 Independent Spirit Award
  • Human Rights Award (Win) - 1988 Political Film Society

Awards for THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET:

  • Best Screenplay Caixa de Catalunya Award (Win) - John Sayles - 1984 Catalonian International Film Festival, Sitges, Spain
  • Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1985 USA Film Festival (later became the Sundance Film Festival)

Awards for RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN:

  • Best Independent Film (Win) - 1981 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards
  • Best Screenplay (Win) - John Sayles - 1980 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
  • National Film Registry - 1997 Library of Congress, National Film Preservation Board
  • Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1981 Writers Guild of America
  • Best Screenplay (Nominated) - John Sayles - 1980 New York Film Critics Circle
  • Second Place - 1981 US Film Festival (later became the Sundance Film Festival)
  • 1975 His novel, “Union Dues,” was nominated for a National Book Award as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award.
  • In 1985, Sayles received the John D. MacArthur Award, given to 20 Americans in diverse fields each year for their innovative work.
  • He has also been the recipient of the Eugene V. Debs Award, The John Steinbeck Award and the John Cassavetes Award.
  • He was honored with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Writer’s Guild of America (1999).
  • His first published story, "I-80 Nebraska," won an O. Henry Award

See also

Further reading

Diane Carson and Heidi Kenaga, eds., Sayles Talk: New Perspectives on Independent Filmmaker John Sayles, Wayne State University Press, 2006

John Sayles, Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie Matewan, Da Capo Press, 2003

References

External links








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