Alexander Payne is a Nebraska-born director known for his films, including “Election,” “Sideways,” and the recent Oscar winner, “Nebraska.” Born Alexander Payne on November 10th, 1962, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Alexander James Payne Sr. and Patricia Taylor. He graduated from Pasadena’s Polytechnic School in 1980 before attending Stanford University, where he started making short films with Chris Langhoff. After graduating with an English degree in 1986, he attended UCLA film school. Still, he dropped out after one semester when he was offered a job by producer Sydney Pollack to become an assistant editor of two films: “The Firm” (1993) and “Sabrina” (1995). Alexander wrote scripts for many other movies and had his first screenplay of “Citizen Ruth” (1996), produced Alexander himself, and directed the film in 1998. He then wrote and ran a series of other films, including: “Election” (1999), “About Schmidt” (2002), “Sideways” (2004). After winning an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2005, Alexander Payne went on to direct his first work outside of the U.S.: “The Descendants” (2011) and has since been recognized for many other works, including “Nebraska” (2013), which won him a second Academy Award for Best Director in 2013.
Alexander is known for his ability to work with the same people across multiple films and has worked with many actors, producers, and writers over his 25-year career. Alexander Payne’s unique way of directing is often described as “a mix between improvisation and structure.” His style allows for improvising in scenes while keeping characters realistic to their scripted personalities; this results in brilliant, authentic moments between actors and characters. Alexander also makes sure the film’s narrative stays true to its original vision, working closely with his writers. Alexander’s movies often take an honest look at human behavior and relationships while always maintaining a sense of humor about life in general, making them relatable for audiences worldwide.
Alexander is currently finishing post-production on his newest film, “Downsizing,” which will be out later this year. Alexander has been nominated for 12 Academy Awards as a writer and director of fiction and nonfiction films across many different genres, from comedy to drama to horror.