In the Company of Men
Film director, screenwriter, and playwright Neil Labute broke into the film scene in 1997 when he scooped up several awards for his feature film debut "In the Company of Men" (starring Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy and Stacy Edwards), a controversial look at male bonding in a corporate setting, which originally premiered as a play at Brigham Young University in 1993.
The writer/director, whose films usually consist of a cruel and vicious battle of the sexes, has since directed and/or written such films as "Your Friends & Neighbors" (1998), "Nurse Betty" (2000), "Possession" (2002), "The Shape of Things" (2003) and "The Wicker Man" (2006). He has completed his newest film project, "Lakeview Terrace," a drama/thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, and Patrick Wilson set to be released on September 19, 2008. He is also writing the screenplay of Taylor Hackford's upcoming drama film "The Woman Next Door" and serves as the executive producer of Lee Toland Krieger's movie "The Vicious Kind."
"My plays are polarizing. People love them or loathe them." Neil Labute
As for his theatrical projects, Labute, who made his N.Y.C. debut as a playwright with "Bash: Latter-Day Plays" (starring Calista Flockhart, Ron Eldard and Paul Rudd), made his London stage directing debut directing his play "The Shape of Things" (2001), which he would later adapt into film in 2003. He also directed Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver in the play "The Mercy Seat" (2001), one of the first major theatrical responses to the September 11 attacks, wrote and directed "Wrecks," a one-man play starring Ed Harris, and wrote the play "Some Girl(s)," (starring Eric McCormack, Fran Drescher, Judy Reyes, Brooke Smith, and Maura Tierney), which was released at the Lucille Lortel Theater in New York in 2006.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 19, 1963, to a truck driver father, Neil Labute grew up in Spokane, Washington. He was president of his class in high school where he also starred in several school productions, including “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Arsenic and Old Lace” and the old high school staple “Our Town.”
Labute received a scholarship to attend Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, where he produced several plays and met actor Aaron Eckhart, who would play leading roles in may of his films. A quiet kid, LaBute participated in church and Bible study and eventually joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After receiving his bachelor degree in 1985, Labute married college sweetheart Lisa Gore then got a degree from the University of Kansas and another in dramatic writing from New York University. He also received a literary fellowship to study at the Royal Court Theatre in London.
Labute has a daughter named Lily LaBute (born in 1988) and a son named Spencer LaBute (born in 1991).
The Shape of Things
After working on his craft at Brigham Young University, the University of Kansas, and New York University (NYU), Neil Labute became an established playwright with such productions as "Filthy Talk for Troubled Times," "Bash," and "A Gaggle of Saints."
In 1997, Labute stepped behind the camera and directed his feature debut, "In the Company of Men," starring Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy and Stacy Edwards. The film originally premiered as a play at Brigham Young University in 1993, where it received an award from the Association for Mormon Letters. The film adaptation also garnered rave reviews, winning Labute a Best First Screenplay award at the Independent Spirit Awards, a Fun Radio Trophy at the Deauville Film Festival, a Channel 4 Director's Award - Special Mention at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, a Best First Film award at the New York Film Critics Circle, a Best Screenplay, Original award at the Society of Texas Film Critics, and a Filmmakers Trophy – Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival. Labute subsequently scripted and helmed his second feature, "Your Friends & Neighbors" (1998), an equally controversial look at marriage and relationships. Starring Amy Brenneman, Aaron Eckhart, Catherine Keener, Nastassja Kinski, Jason Patric, and Ben Stiller, the film earned Labute a Golden Seashell nomination at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.
That same year, Labute signed a deal with Touchstone TV to develop a TV series for ABC and entered into deals for three films with three production companies. In 1999, he made his N.Y.C. debut as a playwright with "Bash: Latter-Day Plays," a collection of three dark one act plays, each of which features seemingly harmless, everyday people who nevertheless commit a murder. The play that starred Calista Flockhart, Ron Eldard and Paul Rudd was later shown on cable television. It would also make its West End theatre premiere on January 10, 2007.
The new millennium saw Labute direct the comedy "Nurse Betty," a dark comedy about a widow's post-traumatic obsession with a soap star. The movie starred Renée Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear and won Zellweger the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for a Golden Palm.
"Sometimes I think it's hard for an audience to know when to laugh. It's such an immediate and spontaneous response and sometimes we're dictated by who we're with and the general public and if everybody else is not laughing, it can sometimes quell the feeling inside you and you put a damper on it." Neil Labute
Afterward, Labute made his London stage directing debut with his play "The Shape of Things" (2001), with the Alameida Theater Company where he was nominated for the 2001 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play. The play has been reprised several times with new cast members since its original premiere, most recently under the direction of Brian Rhinehart at the Bernie West Theater in New York City. Labute would later adapt it into a feature film in 2003, which starred Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz, Gretchen Mol, and Fred Weller.
In the following years, Labute directed Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver in the play "The Mercy Seat" (2001), one of the first major theatrical responses to the September 11 attacks, and helmed the screen adaptation of A S Byatt's novel "Possession" (2002), starring Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow.
"I don't shy away from subjects that come to me and once I decide to do a subject, I don't pull back. But, I'm not consciously stirring the pot or ripping stories out of the headlines to create tension and thus shine the light on me." Neil Labute
2006 saw Labute direct Nicolas Cage in "The Wicker Man," a remake of Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer's 1973 thriller. The film, which received skepticism from the original film's director, was nominated for 2006 Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Nicolas Cage), Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake or Rip-off, and Worst Screen Couple.
Labute next wrote and directed "Wrecks," a one-man play starring Ed Harris as a man coming to terms with the death of his wife and the dark secret that brought them together. A part of the city's Capital of Culture program in 2005, the play made its American debut at the Public Theater (in an extended run) in New York City in October 2006. He also wrote the play "Some Girl(s),” starring Eric McCormack, Fran Drescher, Judy Reyes, Brooke Smith, and Maura Tierney, which was released at the Lucille Lortel Theater in New York in 2006.
Labute has completed his newest film project, "Lakeview Terrace," a drama/thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, and Patrick Wilson set to be released on September 19, 2008. He is also writing the screenplay of Taylor Hackford's upcoming drama film "The Woman Next Door" and serves as the executive producer of Lee Toland Krieger's movie "The Vicious Kind."
Labute will appear as himself in the upcoming documentary "Killer at Large," an overview of politics, social effects and problems associated with the rising epidemic of American obesity.
"I take no pleasure in it, but I'm not afraid of it. Entertainment should be good, not nice and carefree." Neil Labute
Independent Spirit: Best First Screenplay, "In the Company of Men," 1998
Deauville Film Festival: Fun Radio Trophy, "In the Company of Men," 1997
Edinburgh International Film Festival: Channel 4 Director's Award - Special Mention, "In the Company of Men," 1997
New York Film Critics Circle: Best First Film, "In the Company of Men," 1997
Society of Texas Film Critics: Best Screenplay, Original, "In the Company of Men," 1997
Sundance Film Festival: Filmmakers Trophy - Dramatic, "In the Company of Men," 1997