Alexander Payne is a man dedicated to taking the pain and humor of humanity and putting it on full display. A successful filmmaker, Payne has produced highly acclaimed movies such as, “Sideways” (which won an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay), “The Descendants” (another Oscar winner for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay), and “Small Town Wisconsin” (which won several film festival awards).
His films aren’t of the run-of-the-mill Hollywood variety. Those who are familiar with his work often refer to it as dark comedy and satire. The content matter he chooses are often topics that others shy away from. “Citizen Ruth,” for example, is described by him as an “abortion comedy”. Another movie, “Small Town Wisconsin” is a comedy about alcoholism in parenthood. Alexander Payne strives for movies that are real and human, choosing to showcase rather than hide the ugly bits.
Many people attribute his success to just that – his daringness to exploit taboo topics by turning them into comedies. He, however, attributes his success to the people he works with.
Contrary to the choices of other filmmakers, Alexander Payne prefers to work with the same people on multiple projects, mostly for ease of communication, which leads to good collaboration, which leads to great movies. There’s no better example of this than his relationship with his co-writer, Jim Taylor, who he’s been working with ever since they became roommates in 1989. Rather than the typical divide-and-conquer style approach to co-writing, these two longtime friends work with one monitor with two keyboards, and together crank out a story.
Another aspect of his films that sets Payne apart from his contemporaries are the settings. A native of Omaha Nebraska, Payne grew tired of movies that always took place in the big cities like New York. He wanted to show people that the world is larger and stories worth telling can happen anywhere. That’s why most of his movies are set in his native Nebraska and are celebrated for it.
Alexander Payne is a man with a passion for his home, humanity, and film. It shows in every bit of work he does and sets him firmly in the books as a filmmaking legend.