“I am fascinated by America. No question about that. I will stop making films about it eventually, though, because I think there's a limited amount to say. But I am drawn to it. I don't think it's weird for an outsider to go and make movies that are quintessentially American. I think the 20th century shows that there is a tradition of people being drawn to America as the site of the great mythic landscape. You can tell big stories there that you might not be able to tell with such scale and grace elsewhere.” Sam Mendes
First coming to prominence when he directed Judi Dench in the West End production of Anton Chekhov's “The Cherry Orchard” (1989), British theater and film director Sam Mendes continued to build a respective career on stage with notable work on “Oliver” (1994), “The Glass Menagerie” (1995), “Company” (1995), “Othello” (1998), “The Blue Room” (1998) and the Broadway revival of “Cabaret” (1998, earned a Tony nomination), among other plays, before making his promising big screen directing debut with “American Beauty” (1999), which starred Kevin Spacey. The film was a critical and commercial victory and won Mendes countless Awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Directors Guild of America Award. After winning the 2000 Tony Award for the David Leveaux directed “The Real Thing,” in which he served as artistic director, Mendes enjoyed additional recognition on stage as the director of Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night” and Chekov's “Uncle Vanya” (both 2002) and a Broadway revival of “Gypsy” (2003). In 2003, he became the first triple winner at the United Kingdom's prestigious Laurence Olivier awards. More recent stage credits include “The Vertical Hours” (2006) and “The Winter's Tale” (2008).
In between his stage work, Mendes, who served as Artistic Director of London's Donmar Warehouse Theater from 1992 to 2002, directed the movies “The Road to Perdition” (2002), “Jarhead” (2005), “Revolutionary Road” (2008, received a Golden Globe nomination) and “Away We Go” (2009). He is scheduled to direct the new James Bond film, “Bond 23” (2011).
Mendes received the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his services to drama. He was also awarded the ShoWest Award for Director of the Year at the 2003 ShoWest Convention and the Director of the Year Award at the 2005 Hollywood Film Awards. Also in 2005, he was handed a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Great Britain. Commenting on his Lifetime Achievement Award, he said, “I feel very undeserving. I feel the award is a bank loan, which I'll take out and pay back by the end of 20 years, and by then I'll feel more deserving.”
Mendes has been married to British actress Kate Winslet since 2003. He has one biological son, Joe Alfie Mendes, (born 2003) and a stepdaughter named Mia Threapleton (born 2000). Prior to the marriage, Mendes was linked to several women, including Jane Horrocks (dated from 1992 to 1995), Calista Flockhar (briefly dated in 1999) and Cameron Diaz. He also had an on and off again relationship with actress Rachel Weisz from 1999 to 2001.
Childhood and Family:
Samuel Alexander Mendes was born on August 1, 1965, in Reading, Berkshire, England, to a Trinidadian father, James Peter Mendes (former university lecturer) and an English Jewish mother, Valery Helene Mendes (author of a children's book). His parents divorced in 1970 when Sam was five years old. He was then raised by his mother in London, but frequently returned to Reading on weekends to see his dad. In his youth, he developed an interest in sports, especially cricket, which later led to a job as a cricket trainer at Summer Fields School, in Oxford. After graduating from Oxford's Magdalen College School, Sam attended the University of Cambridge and received his BA in 1987. It was at Cambridge that he had his first taste of directing plays with David Halliwell’s “Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs.”
On May 24, 2003, Sam married fellow Reading native and girlfriend Kate Winslet (born on October 5, 1975) in a private ceremony while they were on holiday in the West Indies. They met in 2001 when Sam approached her about appearing in a play at the Donmar Warehouse Theater. They began dating in November that same year. The couple welcomed a son named Joe Alfie Mendes on December 22, 2003. Sam also has an older stepdaughter named Mia Threapleton (born on October 12, 2000) from his actress wife's previous marriage to assistant director Jim Threapleton. Sam and his family reside in New York City and London.
Sam was the childhood friend of English actor Tom Hollander. His grandfather, Alfred Mendes, was a writer and founded the literary magazine “The Beacon.” Sam's nickname is Midas Mendes.
The Road to Perdition
Sam Mendes directed his first play, “Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs,” while attending the University of Cambridge. Upon graduating in 1987, he worked as an artistic director for the Minerva Studio Theatre in Chichester, England, before earning attention as the director of the West End production of Chekhov's “The Cherry Orchard” (1989), which starred Judi Dench. He was handed the 1989 London Critics Circle Theatre Award (Drama Theatre Award) for Most Promising Newcomer. By 1990, Mendes had joined the prominent Royal Shakespeare Company and in 1991 he directed the productions “Troilus and Cressida,” starring Ralph Fiennes, and “The Alchemist.” The same year, he also helmed “The Sea” for the National Theatre Company and “The Plough and the Stars” at the Old Vic Theatre.
After directing Jim Cartwright's “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” (1992, starred Jane Horrocks), Mendes was appointed Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse Theater in London. He made his debut with Donmer in 1992 when he directed Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s musical “Assassins” and continued to work extensively for the company in plays like “Richard III” (1993) and “Cabaret” (1994), which starred Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson, John Benjamin Hickey, Ron Rifkin and Mary Louise Wilson. Meanwhile, outside of Donmar, Mendes directed the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of “The Tempest” (1993), staged Harold Pinter's “The Birthday Party” at the National Theatre Company's Lyttelton Theatre and premiered “Oliver” at the London Palladium (both 1994). The latter production went on to run for four years and became the longest running musical to play at the Palladium.
Mendes' career gained another boost in 1995 when he successfully staged Tennessee Williams' “The Glass Menagerie.” The production received positive reviews and he was handed a 1995 London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre) for Best Director for his work. He enjoyed further recognition by directing the acclaimed London revival of the Sondheim musical “Company” (1995). His choice of casting Adrian Lester in the lead role was notable for making the Jamaican British performer the first black actor to star in a major production of the show. Mendes won a 1996 Laurence Olivier Theatre award for Best Director for “The Glass Menagerie” and “Company.” Two years later, however, he had a flop at the Donmar with the American musical “The Fix” (1997).
In 1998, Mendes made his Broadway directing debut with a revival of “Cabaret.” Opening at the Kit Kat Klub on March 19, 1998, the production went on to enjoy a long run at Studio 54, where it became the longest running revival in Broadway musical history. For his effort, Mendes earned a Tony nomination for Best Director (Musical), which he shared with collaborator Rob Marshall. The same year, he also staged a praised London production of “Othello.” He picked up a 1998 Laurence Olivier Theatre nomination for Best Director for the play. “Othello” gave the prolific director further notice in New York when it had a limited run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Mendes returned to Broadway with David Hare's “The Blue Room” (1998), which premiered to rave reviews in London before being transferred to Broadway. Starring Nicole Kidman, the play brought Mendes a 1999 Laurence Olivier Theatre nomination for Best Director.
In 1999, Mendes staged a workshop production of the long anticipated Sondheim/Weidman show “Wise Guys,” starring Nathan Lane and Victor Garber. He quit upon the decision not to transfer the production to Broadway. The same year, as the artistic director of Sophocles' “Electra” (1997), helmed by David Leveaux, he received a Tony nomination for Best Revival. He won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for his production of Tom Stoppard's “The Real Thing” (1999), which was directed by Leveaux.
Already popular on the stage circuit in the United States and England, Mendes eventually made the switch to feature film when he directed the American drama “American Beauty,” with Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Chris Cooper and Allison Janney starring in the movie. Released on September 15, 1999, the film won the hearts of audiences and critics and emerged as the best reviewed American movie of the year. It was nominated for eight Oscars and won for Best Picture, Best Director (Mendes), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spacey), Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Cinematography. A box office hit, “American Beauty” grossed more than $356 million worldwide against a $15 million budget. Apart from his Oscar, Mendes also took home the Best Director award at the Golden Globe Awards, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards, the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, and the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards.
After the success of his first film, Mendes established Donmar Films in 2000, with partial support from DreamWorks. The same year, he returned to the stage to direct Dougray Scott and Ray Winstone in “To the Green Fields and Beyond.” He later decided to leave as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in December of 2002.
Mendes returned to the big screen to direct the big budget “The Road to Perdition” (2002), which he also produced with Richard D. Zanuck and Zanuck's son, Dean Zanuck. An adaptation of Max Allan Collins' graphic novel of the same name with the screenplay written by David Self, the drama earned positive feedback from critics and won one out of six nominations at the Academy Awards (for Best Cinematography). For his work, Mendes received the Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Readers' Choice Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2003 Kinema Junpo Awards, and a Washington DC Area Film Critics Association for Best Director, and many additional nominations. The $80 million movie earned over $104 million in the U.S. and over $76 million in other countries. The cast included Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Liam Aiken, Dylan Baker and Ciaran Hinds.
2003 saw Mendes direct a Broadway revival of “Gypsy.” The show ran for almost a year and starred Bernadette Peters, Tammy Blanchard, John Dossett, Kate Reinders and David Burtka. “Gypsy” was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress (for Peters). Also in 2003, Mendes became the center of attention for becoming the first triple winner at the 2003 Laurence Olivier awards, where he won Best Director, Best Revival and a Special Award for his services and contributions. In 2003, he also formed the film and theater production company Neal Street Productions, with Pippa Harris and Caro Newling.
Mendes revisited the motion picture industry to direct “Jarhead” (2005), which was based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best selling book. The movie earned mixed reviews and collected over $96 million worldwide. The next year, he helmed Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy in a new production of David Hare's “The Vertical Hours” on Broadway. It was followed by work on “The Winter's Tale” and “The Cherry Orchard” (both 2008).
Also in 2008, Mendes directed his wife Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the drama film “Revolutionary Road.” Adapted by Justin Haythe from the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates, the film brought Mendes a 2009 Golden Globe nomination for Best Director - Motion Picture. He next directed John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Carmen Ejogo, Jim Gaffigan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Josh Hamilton, Allison Janney, Melanie Lynskey, Chris Messina, Catherine O'Hara and Paul Schneider in the movie “Away We Go” (2009), which was written by the husband and wife team of Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. It opened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 17, 2009, after receiving a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on June 5, 2009.
Mendes will direct the new James Bond movie “Bond 23,” which is slated to be released on November 18, 2011. It will be the third movie in the James Bond franchise to star Daniel Craig as 007 after “Casino Royale” (2006) and “Quantum of Solace” (2008).
Christopher: Feature Films, “The Kite Runner,” 2008
Directors Guild of Great Britain: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005
Hollywood Film: Director of the Year Award, 2005
ShoWest Convention: ShoWest Award, Director of the Year, 2003
Kinema Junpo: Best Foreign Language Film, “Road to Perdition,” 2003
Kinema Junpo: Readers' Choice Award, Best Foreign Language Film, “Road to Perdition,” 2003
Laurence Olivier Theatre: Special for his services and contributions as Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse for the past ten years, 2003
Laurence Olivier Theatre: Best Director of 2002, “Twelfth Night” and “Uncle Vanya,” 2003
London Critics Circle Theatre: Best Director, “Uncle Vanya” and “Twelfth Night,” 2002
London Evening Standard Theatre: Best Director, “Uncle Vanya” and “Twelfth Night,” 2002
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA): Best Director, “Road to Perdition,” 2002
Bodil: Best American Film (Bedste amerikanske film), “American Beauty,” 2001
Czech Lion: Best Foreign Language Film (Nejlepsí zahranicní film), “American Beauty,” 2001
Lumiere: Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger), “American Beauty,” 2001
Robert: Best American Film (Årets amerikanske film), “American Beauty,” 2001
Academy Award: Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Amanda: Best Foreign Feature Film (Årets utenlandske kinofilm), “American Beauty,” 2000
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Critics Choice Award, Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association (DFWFCA): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Directors Guild of America (DGA): Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, “American Beauty,” 2000
Florida Film Critics Circle (FFCC): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture, “American Beauty,” 2000
Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best Director - Foreign Film (Regista del Miglior Film Straniero), “American Beauty,” 2000
Kansas City Film Critics Circle (KCFCC): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Kinema Junpo: Readers' Choice Award, Best Foreign Language Film, “American Beauty,” 2000
London Critics Circle Film: ALFS Award, Director of the Year, “American Beauty,” 2000
Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 2000
Tony: Best Revival of a Play, “The Real Thing,” 2000
Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA): Best Director, “American Beauty,” 1999
Toronto International Film Festival: People's Choice Award,” American Beauty,” 1999
Laurence Olivier Theatre: Best Director, “Company” and “The Glass Menagerie,” 1996
London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre): Best Director, “The Glass Menagerie,” 1995
London Critics Circle Theatre (Drama Theatre Award): Most Promising Newcomer, Director of Minerva Studio in Chichester, England, 1989