John Thomas Sayles (born September 28, 1950) is an American independent film director, screenwriter, editor, actor and novelist. He has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, for Passion Fish (1992) and Lone Star (1996). His film Men with Guns (1997) was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. His directorial debut, Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980), has been added to the National Film Registry.
John Sayles in March 2008
John Thomas Sayles
September 28, 1950
Schenectady, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Director, screenwriter, editor, actor, author|
Sayles was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Mary (née Rausch), a teacher, and Donald John Sayles, a school administrator. Both of Sayles's parents were of half-Irish descent and Catholic. He attended Williams College with frequent collaborators Gordon Clapp and David Strathairn.
Like Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, Sayles began his career working with Roger Corman. In 1979, Sayles used $30,000 he earned writing scripts for Corman to fund his first film, Return of the Secaucus 7. To make the film on a limited budget, he set the film in a large house so that he did not have to travel to or get permits for different locations, set the story over a three-day weekend to limit costume changes, and wrote about people his age so he could cast his friends in it. The film received near-unanimous critical acclaim at the time and has held its reputation. In November 1997, the National Film Preservation Board announced that Return of the Secaucus 7 would be one of the 25 films selected that year for preservation in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.
In 1983, after the films Baby It's You (starring Rosanna Arquette) and Lianna (a story in which a married woman becomes discontented with her marriage and falls in love with another woman), Sayles received a MacArthur Fellowship. He put the money into the fantasy The Brother from Another Planet, a film about a black, three-toed slave who escapes from another planet and after crash-landing on Earth, finds himself at home among the people of Harlem, being pursued by white male agents from his home planet dressed as men in black.
In 1989, Sayles created and wrote the pilot episode for the short-lived television show Shannon's Deal about a down-and-out Philadelphia lawyer played by Jamey Sheridan. Sayles received a 1990 Edgar Award for his teleplay for the pilot. The show ran for 16 episodes before being cancelled in 1991.
Sayles has funded most of his films by writing genre scripts, such as Piranha, Alligator, The Howling and The Challenge. Having collaborated with Joe Dante on Piranha and The Howling, Sayles acted in Dante's movie, Matinee. In deciding whether to take a job, Sayles reports that he is interested mostly in whether there is the germ of an idea for a movie which he would want to watch. Sayles gets the rest of his funding by working as a script doctor; he did rewrites for Apollo 13 and Mimic.
A genre script, called Night Skies, inspired what would eventually become the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That film's director, Steven Spielberg, later commissioned Sayles to write a script (unused) for the fourth Jurassic Park film.
In early 2003, Sayles signed the Not In Our Name "Statement of Conscience" (along with Noam Chomsky, Steve Earle, Brian Eno, Jesse Jackson, Viggo Mortensen, Bonnie Raitt, Oliver Stone, Marisa Tomei, Susan Sarandon and others) which opposed the invasion of Iraq.
In February 2009, Sayles was reported to be writing an HBO series based on the early life of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The drama, tentatively titled Scar Tissue, centers on Kiedis's early years living in West Hollywood with his father. At that time, Kiedis's father, known as Spider, sold drugs (according to legend, his clients included The Who and Led Zeppelin) and mingled with rock stars on the Sunset Strip, all while aspiring to get into show business.
In February 2010, Sayles began shooting his 17th feature film, the historical war drama Amigo, in the Philippines. The film is a fictional account of events during the Philippine–American War, with a cast that includes Joel Torre, Chris Cooper, and Garret Dillahunt.
His novel A Moment in the Sun, set during the same period as Amigo, in the Philippines, Cuba, and the US, was released in 2011 by McSweeney's. It includes an account of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 in North Carolina, the only coup d'état in United States history in which a duly elected government was overthrown.
Awards for Honeydripper:
Award for Silver City:
Awards for Sunshine State:
Awards for Limbo:
Awards for Men with Guns/Hombres armados:
Awards for Lone Star:
Awards for The Secret of Roan Inish:
Awards for Passion Fish:
Awards for City of Hope:
Awards for Matewan:
Awards for The Brother from Another Planet:
Awards for Return of the Secaucus 7:
In 1983, Sayles received the John D. MacArthur Award, given to 20 Americans in diverse fields each year for their innovative work. He has also been the recipient of the Eugene V. Debs Award, the John Steinbeck Award and the John Cassavetes Award. He was honored with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Writers Guild of America (1999).
Actors who have regularly worked with Sayles include Maggie Renzi, David Strathairn, Joe Morton, Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, Vincent Spano, Kevin Tighe, Josh Mostel, Tom Wright, Gordon Clapp and Angela Bassett.
|Actor||Return of the Secaucus 7
|Baby It's You
|The Brother from Another Planet
|Eight Men Out
|City of Hope
|The Secret of Roan Inish
|Men with Guns
|Casa de los Babys
|Go for Sisters|
|Liane Alexandra Curtis|
|Lisa Gay Hamilton|
Amigo is a 2010 American-Filipino drama film written and directed by John Sayles. The film takes place in the Philippines in 1900 during the Philippine–American War. It is one of only a small handful of films directed by an American to address the war. The only other notable example is The Real Glory (1939), starring Gary Cooper.Baby It's You (film)
Baby It's You is a 1983 American romantic comedy film written and directed by John Sayles. It stars Rosanna Arquette and Vincent Spano.Casa de los Babys
Casa de los Babys ("House of the Babies") is a 2003 drama film written, directed, and edited by filmmaker John Sayles. It features an ensemble cast, including Marcia Gay Harden, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Daryl Hannah.City of Hope (film)
City of Hope is a 1991 American drama film written and directed by John Sayles. The film features Vincent Spano, Stephen Mendillo and Chris Cooper.Eight Men Out
Eight Men Out is a 1988 sports drama film based on Eliot Asinof's 1963 book Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series. It was written and directed by John Sayles. The film is a dramatization of Major League Baseball's Black Sox scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. Much of the movie was filmed at the old Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.Go for Sisters
Go for Sisters is a 2013 crime drama, written and directed by John Sayles. The title refers to the history of friendship between the two main characters: when they were in high school, the two African American women were so close they could "go for sisters". Sayles shot the film in 19 days, using 65 locations, for under a million dollars. The DVD was released in August 2014 and features a Directory Commentary in which Sayles goes on at length about the art and craft of guerrilla film making.Honeydripper (film)
Honeydripper is a 2007 American musical drama film written and directed by John Sayles.Lianna
Lianna is a 1983 drama film written and directed by John Sayles and starring Linda Griffiths, Jane Hallaren, and Jon DeVries.Limbo (1999 film)
Limbo is a 1999 drama film written, produced, edited, and directed by American independent filmmaker John Sayles. The drama features Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Strathairn, Vanessa Martinez and Kris Kristofferson. It is the first theatrical film to be released and distributed by Screen Gems.Lone Star (1996 film)
Lone Star is a 1996 American neo-western mystery film written, edited, and directed by John Sayles and set in a small town in Texas. The ensemble cast features Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey and Elizabeth Peña and deals with a sheriff's investigation into the murder of one of his predecessors.Matewan
Matewan () is a 1987 American drama film written and directed by John Sayles, and starring Chris Cooper (in his film debut), James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell and Will Oldham, with David Strathairn, Kevin Tighe and Gordon Clapp in supporting roles.The film dramatizes the events of the Battle of Matewan, a coal miners' strike in 1920 in Matewan, a small town in the hills of West Virginia. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.Men with Guns
Men with Guns (Spanish: Hombres armados) is a 1997 American drama film written and directed by John Sayles and starring Federico Luppi, Damián Delgado, Damián Alcázar and Mandy Patinkin. The executive producers were Lou Gonda and Jody Patton.Set in an unnamed Latin American country, it is the story of one man's discovery of what actually happened in the political history of his nation as well as his students. It was filmed in Mexico and most of the crew were Mexican.Passion Fish
Passion Fish is a 1992 American film written and directed by John Sayles. The film stars Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, Vondie Curtis-Hall, David Strathairn, Leo Burmester, and Angela Bassett.
It tells the story of a soap opera star, paralyzed after being struck by a taxi, who is forced to return to her family home and rely upon a series of nurses, forcing each of them to leave her employment until one shows up guaranteed to stay.Return of the Secaucus 7
Return of the Secaucus 7 is a 1980 drama film written and directed by John Sayles and starring Bruce MacDonald, Maggie Renzi, Adam LeFevre, Maggie Cousineau, Gordon Clapp, Jean Passanante, and others. The film tells the story of seven friends who spend a weekend together in New Hampshire. The weekend is marred by the break-up of a relationship between two of the friends. This causes a ripple effect among the group and brings up old desires and problems.
The picture was thought to have inspired The Big Chill (1983), which is a more widely known film with a similar storyline. However, writer/director Lawrence Kasdan has denied having seen Return of the Secaucus 7 before working on The Big Chill.Silver City (2004 film)
Silver City is a 2004 American political satire comedy-drama film written and directed by John Sayles.Chris Cooper portrays an inept Republican gubernatorial candidate, a character that was noted for similarities to U.S. President George W. Bush. The film's ensemble cast includes Richard Dreyfuss, Danny Huston, Michael Murphy, Maria Bello, Kris Kristofferson, Mary Kay Place, Thora Birch, Tim Roth, Billy Zane and Daryl Hannah.
The film is a "murder mystery [linked] to a political satire"; according to Sayles, it is "about electoral politics, but also about the press."Sunshine State (film)
Sunshine State is a 2002 American comedy–drama film written and directed by John Sayles. The picture stars an ensemble cast that features Angela Bassett, Edie Falco, Jane Alexander, Alan King, Timothy Hutton, Mary Steenburgen, Bill Cobbs, and others. It was filmed on Amelia Island, Florida, which includes settings in historic Fernandina Beach. Amelia Island is located 30 or so miles north of Jacksonville.
Set in a small town in northern Florida, the main two interwining stories focus on two women at crucial points in their lives, and also comments on such issues as race relations and commercial property development.The Brother from Another Planet
The Brother from Another Planet is a 1984 science fiction film written, directed and edited by John Sayles. It stars Joe Morton as "The Brother", an alien and escaped slave who, while fleeing "Another Planet", has crash-landed and hides in Harlem.The Lady in Red (1979 film)
The Lady in Red is a 1979 action-drama/romantic film directed by Lewis Teague and starring Pamela Sue Martin and Robert Conrad. It is an early writing effort of John Sayles who became better known as a director in the 1980s and 1990s.The Secret of Roan Inish
The Secret of Roan Inish is a 1994 American/Irish independent film of Irish magical realism written and directed by John Sayles. It is based on the novel Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry, by Rosalie K. Fry.It is centered on the Irish and Orcadian folklores of selkies—seals that can shed their skins to become human. The story, set on the west coast of Ireland, is about Fiona, a young girl who is sent to live with her grandparents and her cousin Eamon near the island of Roan Inish, where the selkies are rumored to reside. It is a family legend that her younger brother was swept away in his infancy and raised by a selkie. Part of the film takes place in Donegal.
Films directed by John Sayles