skip navigation
John Sayles

John Sayles

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Matinee DVD Life and schlock collide in this nostalgic look at the days of the Cold War and... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

The Secret Of Roan Inish... Island Of The SealsJohn Sayles' most popular movie ever is the magical tale of a... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

Passion Fish DVD Mary McDonnell, in an Oscar-nominated performance, stars in writer-director John... more info $14.99was $14.99 Buy Now

Lone Star DVD An Academy Award nominee for its screenplay, "Lone Star" (1996) offers a... more info $5.99was $14.98 Buy Now

Obscene: A Portrait Of Barney Rosset &... Starting in 1951, Barney Rosset's Grove Press pushed the envelope of obscenity... more info $29.95was $29.95 Buy Now

Great Directors: 2-Disc Set... One man's obsessive search for excitement leads him to a life of crime in this... more info $29.95was $29.95 Buy Now

Also Known As: John Thomas Sayles Died:
Born: September 28, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Schenectady, New York, USA Profession: screenwriter, director, actor, producer, playwright, novelist, meatpacker, nursing home orderly, factory worker, laborer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

After making his start as an actor and published author, John Sayles first entered filmmaking as a prolific screenwriter for low-budget producer Roger Corman, writing the scripts for "Piranha" (1978), "The Lady in Red" (1979) and "Battle Beyond the Stars" (1980). But when he decided to direct his own work, Sayles avoided writing clichéd genre movies to instead explore social and political themes through richly drawn characters set against the backdrop of a unique time and place. His first, "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" (1980), was made for a scant $60,000, which established Sayles as a rugged, self-reliant director willing to avoid the studio system in order to make films that stood apart. Though he did use studio money to direct "Baby It's You" (1982) and the lush "Eight Men Out" (1988), Sayles was a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, and perhaps even the father of the independent movement of the early 1990s. By the time being an independent filmmaker was the hip new thing, Sayles already had an exemplary body of work that demonstrated the artistic freedom he sought to achieve by making a living as a script doctor-for-hire and using the money to finance his personal...

After making his start as an actor and published author, John Sayles first entered filmmaking as a prolific screenwriter for low-budget producer Roger Corman, writing the scripts for "Piranha" (1978), "The Lady in Red" (1979) and "Battle Beyond the Stars" (1980). But when he decided to direct his own work, Sayles avoided writing clichéd genre movies to instead explore social and political themes through richly drawn characters set against the backdrop of a unique time and place. His first, "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" (1980), was made for a scant $60,000, which established Sayles as a rugged, self-reliant director willing to avoid the studio system in order to make films that stood apart. Though he did use studio money to direct "Baby It's You" (1982) and the lush "Eight Men Out" (1988), Sayles was a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring filmmakers, and perhaps even the father of the independent movement of the early 1990s. By the time being an independent filmmaker was the hip new thing, Sayles already had an exemplary body of work that demonstrated the artistic freedom he sought to achieve by making a living as a script doctor-for-hire and using the money to finance his personal projects, which culminated in the exquisite crime thriller "Lone Star" (1996), which established Sayles as the one of the few independent filmmakers worthy of the name.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Amigo (2010)
3.
4.
  Silver City (2004) Director
5.
  Casa de Los Babys (2003) Director
6.
  Sunshine State (2002) Director
7.
  Limbo (1999) Director
8.
  Men With Guns (1997) Director
9.
  Lone Star (1996) Director
10.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Casting By (2013)
4.
5.
 Toe Tactic, The (2008)
6.
 Honeydripper (2007)
7.
 Obscene (2007)
8.
 Tell Them Who You Are (2004) Cast
9.
 American Storytellers (2002) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Acted and directed with Eastern Slope Playhouse, North Conway, NH
1975:
Publication of first novel, <i>Pride of the Bimbos</i>
1978:
First screenwriting assignment, Joe Dante's "Piranha" (for Roger Corman); also played small unbilled role
1978:
Directed (also wrote, edited and acted) first film, "Return of the Secaucus Seven" (released in 1980)
1980:
TV debut as screenwriter on "A Perfect Match" (CBS)
1982:
Wrote and directed lesbian coming-of-age tale, "Lianna"
1983:
Worked within studio system (at Paramount) to ease the financial burden of making "Baby, It's You"
1984:
Played one of the Men in Black (with frequent Sayles repertory actor David Strathairn) sent to hunt down "The Brother from Another Planet" (Joe Morton); also wrote and directed
1986:
TV acting debut, in "Unnatural Causes"; also scripted
1987:
First collaboration with cinematographer Haskell Wexler, "Matewan"
1988:
Wrote and directed "Eight Men Out" about baseball's "Black Sox" scandal; also played sportswriter Ring Lardner; first collaboration with director of photography Robert Richardson
1990:
Created TV series "Shannon's Deal"; also scripted episodes and wrote lyrics; prominent jazz musicians Wynton Marsalis (who wrote the theme), Dave Grusin, Chick Corea and Lee Ritenour contributed to the score
1991:
Reteamed with Richardson and received almost universally good reviews for "City of Hope"
1992:
Received first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, "Passion Fish"
1994:
Reteamed with Wexler for "The Secret of Roan Inish"; Sayles' first foreign location
1996:
Earned second Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for big commercial breakthrough, "Lone Star"
1998:
Wrote and directed "Men With Guns", a pet project of his put temporarily on hold prior to filming "Lone Star"
1999:
Third collaboration with Wexler, "Limbo"; also seventh role for David Strathairn
2000:
Served as executive producer on the Sundance prize winner "Girlfight"; directed by Karyn Kusama
2002:
Wrote and directed "Sunshine State"
2003:
Helmed the feature "Casa de los babys" about six American women who travel to South America to adopt babies
2004:
Co-directed with John Lee Hancock "The Alamo" starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton
2004:
Wrote (also directed) the political satire "Silver City"; co-starred Chris Cooper, Daryl Hannah and Richard Dreyfuss
2007:
Helmed (also wrote) the musical drama, "Honeydripper"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Mount Pleasant High School: Schenectady , New York -
Williams College: Williamstown , Massachusetts - 1972

Notes

In 1983, Sayles received a 'genius grant' from the MacArthur Foundation receiving $30,000 tax-free over a five-year period.

The three Bruce Springsteen videos he has directed are "Born in the USA", "I'm On Fire" and "Glory Days".

"When you're making something with a lot of story lines, a lot of actors, and all these technical problems, and its very ambitious for the budget, you're juggling a lot of things. Anytime you've worked with an actor before, you can eliminate a question mark. That's just that much emotional energy and time that you don't have to spend working something out with an actor. You know, I've worked with Chris Cooper a couple of times and I know he can take care of himself. Poor Chris! So many of his scenes in 'Lone Star' involve asking for information. He's so consistent and such a deep actor; we could come to him with only two hours left in the day and say, 'Okay. now we're going to do your angle,' and he wouldn't feel panicked. He would have bben doing good stuff with the other actors all day, but he still had what he needed left." --John Sayles in Filmmaker, 1996

"If I had $200 million I'd probably find something more useful to put it into than movies, but if they told me I had to make a movie with the money, then I would probably make about 20 movies with it." --Sayles to Daily News, March 4, 1998

"There are movies which are just 'movie movies,' where the references in the movies are to other movies, where the behavior is a kind of movie behavior, and that's fine because that's the universe you're being asked to enter. Then there are movies on the other side of the continuum which are a little bit more like what goes on in life and is recognizable human behavior, and the references are to things that happen in real life, not to things which happen in movies.

"Ours are way over on that side. Even if there's a fantasy element, they still have their feet planted firmly on the ground of what happens in the world." --John Sayles, quoted in The Boston Globe, March 8, 1998

"One of the problems with my movies is that it's often hard to say what they're about in less than two sentences. I think that makes them more interesting, but much harder to sell." --Sayles in American Cinematographer, March 1998

Sayles is often referred to as the father of modern indie cinema

"I feel like so often you see women in films presented in this language of film that we've seen forever. They're inaccurate potraits, but we're so used to seeing them that we accept them. And John's movie is not like that"- Gyllenhaal on loving John Sayles work. Interview November 2002

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Maggie Renzi. Producer, actor. Has appeared in and produced Sayles' films.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Donald Sayles. School administrator.
mother:
Mary Sayles. Teacher.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Pride of the Bimbos" Atlantic/Little, Brown
"Union Dues" Atlantic/Little, Brown
"The Anarchists' Convention" Atlantic/Little, Brown
"Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie Matewan" Houghton Mifflin
"Sayles on Sayles" Faber and Faber
"Los Gusanos" HarperCollins
"John Sayles: An Unauthorized Biography" Renaissance Books
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute