Alexander Payne
Birth Date:
February 10, 1961
Birth Place:
Omaha, Nebraska, USA
5' 10" (1.78 m)
Famous for:
Election' (1999)
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“I want all of my films to belong to me. There is an audience out there for literate films, slower, more observant, more human films and they deserve to be made, which is why I want ‘Sideways’ (2004) to succeed, to encourage other film makers.” Alexander Payne

First attracting notice with the movie “Citizen Ruth” (1996), Academy Award winning Greek American director, screenwriter and producer Alexander Payne picked up an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award for his script of the dark comedy “Election” (1999) and the highly acclaimed road movie “About Schmidt” (2002), respectively. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his direction in the latter film. Payne's big breakthrough arrived with the hit “Sideways” (2004), which won him the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, a BAFTA Award, Independent Spirit Awards, and other awards and nominations. Payne co-wrote the screenplay of all four films with Jim Taylor. The two also co-wrote “Jurassic Park III” (2001) and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” (2007). The Omaha native has also produced such films as “The Assassination of Richard Nixon” (2004), “The Savages” (2007) and “King of California” (2007) and is the executive producer of the TV series “Hung” (HBO, 2009).

In 2005, Payne served as a Member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Directors Branch). He is also on the Board of Directors of an Omaha nonprofit film theater, Film Streams. Payne has released two books, “The Coffee Table, Coffee Table Book” (with James Zemaitis) and “The Sideways Guide to Wine and Life'” (with Jim Taylor).

On a more personal note, Payne and his former wife, screen beauty Sandra Oh, have been divorced since 2006. He is good friends with fellow directors Spike Jonze, David O. Russell, and Jay Roach. His favorite filmmakers include Akira Kurosawa, Luis Bunuel, Hal Ashby, Martin Scorsese and Sergio Leone.

Alexander Papadopoulos

Childhood and Family:

The son of restaurant owners, Alexander Papadopoulos, who would later popular as Alexander Payne, was born on February 10, 1961, in Omaha, Nebraska. He became interested in filmmaking at a very young age, especially after his family earned an 8mm camera for being a good customer of Kraft Foods and he began making movies.

Alexander attended Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska, and went on to study Spanish and History at Stanford University in Stanford, CA. As part of his Spanish degree, he went to Spain to study at the University of Salamanca. In 1990, Alexander got a MFA in film directing from the University of California at Los Angeles.

On January 1, 2003, Alexander married Korean Canadian actress Sandra Oh (born on July 20, 1971). After working together in “Sideways” (2004), the couple became estranged in the early 2005 and eventually divorced on December 21, 2006.

About Schmidt


Alexander Payne made the short film “Carmen” (1985) while attending UCLA. His thesis film, “The Passion of Martin,” about a photographer who falls in love, screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989 and brought him critical acclaim and attention from studios. Payne eventually got a job at Universal Pictures. While at the studio, he wrote the script “The Coward.” Separately, he completed several shorts for Propaganda Films, which aired on the Playboy Channel. In the early 1990s, Payne declined an offer to direct “Romeo Is Bleeding” (released in 1994) based on his belief that it would be a weak script. Instead, he began writing “Citizen Ruth” with his roommate Jim Taylor.

“Citizen Ruth” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1996 with Payne making his feature film debut as director and screenwriter (shared the credit with Taylor). The satirical film received positive reviews from critics and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the Dramatic category at Sundance. The film also won the Best Screenplay Award and a Golden Alexander nomination at the 1996 Thessaloniki Film Festival. The cast of the film included Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place and Kelly Preston.

Three years, Payne resurfaced with his sophomore directorial effort, “Election” (1999), an adaptation of Tom Perrotta's critically acclaimed 1998 novel of the same name with the script written by Payne and partner Taylor. Starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Campbell and Chris Klein, the high school-set dark comedy was a critical triumph. “Election” brought Payne an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Independent Spirit Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay, and a Writers Guild of America for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, among other awards and nominations. Commenting on the star of the film, Reese Witherspoon, Payne said, “She has such intelligence and humor, so it was a joyous leap of faith. Working with her, I kept thinking of Holly Hunter. She is an actress who is equally at home in character roles and in leads and in comedy and in drama. Reese has that kind of range, as an actress and as a human being.”

2001 found Payne contributing to the script of “Jurassic Park 3,” the third film in the “Jurassic Park” franchise and the first film in the series that is not either directed by Steven Spielberg or based on a book by Michael Crichton. The movie received mixed reviews by critics and enjoyed less success than its predecessors. The following year, Payne returned to the director's chair for the dramatic comedy “About Schmidt” (2002), which he again co-wrote with Taylor. Loosely based on Louis Begley's 1996 novel of the same name and starring Jack Nicholson and Hope Davis, the film won a Golden Globe and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Screenplay.

Payne gained even a bigger victory with “Sideways” (2004), which he directed and co-wrote with Taylor. Based on the 2004 popular novel of the same title by Rex Pickett, the movie was a surprise hit and won a number of awards, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, an Independent Spirit, a Writers Guild of America, a National Board of Review, a Broadcast Film Critics Association, a National Society of Film Critics, an Online Film Critics Society, a Phoenix Film Critics Society and a Robert Festival award. For his directing, Payne was handed an Independent Spirit Award, a Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award, a Palm Springs International Film Festival Award, a U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Award, a Florida Film Critics Circle Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, a San Francisco Film Critics Circle Award, and a Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, not to mention many additional nominations. “Sideways” stars Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church and costars Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh also received praise for their performances.

After “Sideways,” Payne stayed away from directing and focused his attention on producing. In 2004, he executive produced the biopic “The Assassination of Richard Nixon,” by Niels Mueller. He continued to lend his producing talents to Sue Kramer's “Gray Matters” (2006, starred Heather Graham and Bridget Moynahan), Mike Cahill's “King of California” (2007, starred Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood) and Tamara Jenkins's “The Savages” (2007, starred Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman). He was reunited with Taylor to write the script for the comedy “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” (2007), which was directed by Dennis Dugan.

2009 saw Payne's big hit “Sideways” remade into a Japanese film under the title “Saidoweizu,” with Payne given an executive producer credit as a courtesy. Also that year, Payne branched out to the small screen with “Hung,” a series that debuted on HBO on June 28, 2009. For the series, he served as an executive producer, with Dmitry Lipkin, Colette Burson, and Blueprint Entertainment. He also directed the show's pilot.

Payne has signed on as the director and a producer for the new films “The Descendants” (2011), based on Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel, and “Fork in the Road” (2011), which was scripted by Kerry Williamson and based on a novel by Denis Hamill. He is also the producer of the upcoming “Cedar Rapids” (2011), a comedy from director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Phil Johnston.

“It's my hope that we're getting into an era where the value of a film is based on its proximity to real life rather than its distance from it. To do that, you need actors, stars basically, who don't necessarily look like Ben Affleck.” Alexander Payne


  • Argentinean Film Critics Association: Silver Condor, Best Foreign Film not in the Spanish Language (Mejor Película Extranjera), “Sideways,” 2006

  • Robert Festival: Best American Film (Årets amerikanske film), “Sideways,” 2006

  • Oscar: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Golden Globe: Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, “Sideways,” 2005

  • BAFTA: Best Screenplay - Adapted, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Broadcast Film Critics Association: Critics Choice Award, Best Writer, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Independent Spirit: Best Director, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Independent Spirit: Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA): Best Direction, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle ( KCFCC): Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Sideways,” 2005

  • National Society of Film Critics: Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Palm Springs International Film Festival: Director of the Year Award, “Sideways,” 2005

  • U.S. Comedy Arts Festival: Comedy Film Honor, Best Director, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Adapted Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2005

  • Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC): Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA): Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC): Best Director, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC): Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Gotham: Best Film, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Director, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Marrakech International Film Festival: Golden Star, “Sideways,” 2004

  • National Board of Review (NBR): Best Screenplay - Adapted, “Sideways,” 2004

  • New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC): Best Screenplay, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Phoenix Film Critics Society: PFCS Award, Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium, “Sideways,” 2004

  • San Diego Film Critics Society: SDFCS Award, Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Sideways,” 2004

  • San Francisco Film Critics Circle: Best Director, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Seattle Film Critics: Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Director, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA): Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Sideways,” 2004

  • Sonoma Valley Film Festival: Imagery Honors, 2003

  • Golden Globe: Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, “About Schmidt,” 2003

  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Screenplay, “About Schmidt,” 2002

  • Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC): Best Screenplay, “Election,” 2000

  • Independent Spirit: Best Director, “Election,” 2000

  • Independent Spirit: Best Screenplay, “Election,” 2000

  • Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Election,” 2000

  • Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Election,” 2000

  • Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, “Election,” 2000

  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association: New Generation Award, “Citizen Ruth” and “Election,” 1999

  • New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC): Best Screenplay, “Election,” 1999

  • San Diego Film Critics Society: DFCS Award, Best Screenplay, Adapted, “Election,” 1999

  • Valladolid International Film Festival: Best New Director, “Election,” 1999

  • Thessaloniki Film Festival: Best Screenplay, “Citizen Ruth,” 1996

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