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Neil LaBute
Born 03/19/1963
Wayne, Michigan

Neil N. LaBute[1] (born March 19, 1963) is an American film director, screenwriter and playwright.


Early life

LaBute was born in Wayne, Michigan,citation needed the son of Marian, a hospital receptionist, and Richard LaBute, a long-haul truck driver.[2][3] LaBute is of French Canadian, English and Irish ancestry,[3] and was raised in Spokane, Washington. He studied theater at Brigham Young University (BYU), where he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At BYU he also met actor Aaron Eckhart, who would later play leading roles in several of his films. He produced a number of plays that pushed the envelope of what was acceptable at the conservative religious university, some of which were shut down after their premieres. However, he also was honored as one of the "most promising undergraduate playwrights" at the BYU theater department's annual awards.[4] LaBute also did graduate work at the University of Kansas, New York University, and the Royal Academy of London.


In 1993 he returned to Brigham Young University to premiere his play In the Company of Men, for which he received an award from the Association for Mormon Letters. He taught drama and film at IPFW in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the early 1990s where he adapted and filmed the play, shot over two weeks and costing $25,000, beginning his career as a film director. The film won the Filmmakers Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival, and major awards and nominations at the Deauville Film Festival, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Thessaloniki Film Festival, the Society of Texas Film Critics Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle.

LaBute has received high praise from critics for his edgy and unsettling portrayals of human relationships.[citation needed] In the Company of Men portrays two misogynist businessmen (one played by Eckhart) cruelly plotting to romance and emotionally destroy a deaf woman. His next film Your Friends & Neighbors (1998), with an ensemble cast including Eckhart and Ben Stiller, was a shockingly honest portrayal of the sex lives of three suburban couples. In 2000 he wrote an off-Broadway play entitled Bash: Latter-Day Plays, a set of three short plays (Iphigenia in orem, A gaggle of saints, and Medea redux) depicting essentially good Latter-day Saints doing disturbing and violent things. One of the plays was a much-talked-about one-person performance by Calista Flockhart.[citation needed] This play resulted in his being disfellowshipped from the LDS Church. He has since formally left the LDS Church.[5]

LaBute's 2002 play The Mercy Seat was one of the first major theatrical responses to the September 11, 2001 attacks.[citation needed] Set on September 12, it concerns a man who worked at the World Trade Center but was away from the office during the attack — with his mistress. Expecting that his family believes that he was killed in the towers' collapse, he contemplates using the tragedy to run away and start a new life with his lover. Starring Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver, the play was a commercial and critical success.[citation needed]

LaBute's The Wicker Man, was an American version of a British cult classic. His first horror film, it starred Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn and was released on September 1, 2006 by Warner Bros. Pictures to scathing critical reviews and mediocre box office.[citation needed]

He is working with producer Gail Mutrux on the screen adaptation of The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff.[citation needed]

reasons to be pretty played Off-Broadway May 14-July 5, 2008 in a production by MCC Theater at The Lucille Lortel Theatre. LaBute's first ever Broadway production is reasons to be pretty which began previews at the Lyceum Theatre on March 6, 2009 with an opening on April 2, 2009. The play was nominated for three 2009 Tony Awards -- including Best Play, Best Leading Actor in a Play (Thomas Sadoski), and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Marin Ireland) -- but did not win in any category. reasons opened to good reviews and continued to pick up fans, but, not enough to sustain its existence on Broadway. The producers ended the run early, with the last performance on June 14, 2009.

Critics have responded to his plays as having a misanthropic tone.[6][7][8] Rob Weinert-Kendt in "The Village Voice" referred to LaBute as "American theater's reigning misanthrope."[9] "The New York Times" said that critics labeled him a misanthrope, on the release of his film, Your Friends and Neighbors. The UK's "Independent" dubbed him "America's misanthrope par excellence."[10] Citing "In the Company of Men" and "The Shape of Things," critic Daniel Kimmel identified a thread running through his work: "LaBute is a misanthrope who assumes that only callous people who use and abuse others can survive." Critics labeled him a misogynist after his "In the Company of Men."[11]

LaBute just finished filming "Death at a Funeral", a remake of a 2007 British film of the same name. Written by Dean Craig (who also wrote the original screenplay) and starring Chris Rock, it is currently in post-production, with a 2010 release date.


LaBute also provides a guest audio commentary for the DVD release of Sex, lies, and videotape, alongside Steven Soderbergh.[citation needed]

Theater productions

The live stage performance rights for most of these plays are licensed by Broadway Play Publishing Inc.


  • Seconds of Pleasure (stories) (2004)


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Bigsby, C. W. E. (2007). Neil LaBute: stage and cinema. pp. 2, 235. ISBN0521882540. 
  4. ^ People in the arts . The Deseret News. Sunday, May 6, 1984
  5. ^ Times & Seasons » An Interview with Neil LaBute
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Jailbait Evokes a More Human Neil LaBute, Village Voice April 7, 2009
  10. ^ The Independent, "First Night: Fat Pig, Trafalgar Studios, London: A heart-warming tale from America's master misanthrope" "
  11. ^ "Neil LaBute has a Thing About Beauty," The New York Times, March 25, 2009

External links



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