Sam Mendes - Director, Producer - Biography

Sam Mendes Biography

Director, Producer (1965–)
English stage and film director Sam Mendes won an Oscar for 'American Beauty' and went on to direct films like 'Jarhead,' 'Revolutionary Road' and 'Skyfall.'

Who Is Sam Mendes?

Born in England on August 1, 1965, Sam Mendes is a stage director and an Academy Award-winning film director. In 1992, Mendes was appointed artistic director of London's Donmar Warehouse, attracting some of the world's finest actors to appear in Assassins, The Glass Menagerie and Habeas Corpus. Mendes's most acclaimed directorial work includes his dark 1998 production of Cabaret; his debut film, American Beauty (1999), which earned him the 2000 Academy Award for best director; 2005's Jarhead; and his James Bond movies Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015). He's also garnered fame as a producer for several other cinematic works, including The Kite Runner (2007), Revolutionary Road (2008) and the 2010 documentary Out of the Ashes.

Younger Years

Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes was born Samuel Alexander Mendes on August 1, 1965, in Reading, Berkshire, England. With a bloodline of successful writers and scholars, Mendes seemed to be destined for a career in the arts: He is the grandson of popular Trinidadian novelist Alfred Mendes, and son of Jameson Peter Mendes and Valerie Helene (Barnett) Mendes, a literature professor and successful fiction author/publisher, respectively. His family's influence was apparent early on; by the time Mendes was 5 years old—around the time of his parents' divorce—he had developed an affinity for writing, theater and film.

Receiving a good education helped Mendes's passions evolve into talents. After graduating from the Magdalen College School, Mendes enrolled at the University of Cambridge, graduating with an honors degree in English in 1987. Following graduation, he landed an entry-level position at the Chichester Festival Theatre, located in England's West Sussex County.

Early Career

While working at Chichester, at age 25, Mendes was asked to fill in as director for a comedy stage production. The show was a success, spurring further job offers for the recent graduate. In the late 1980s, Mendes directed actress Judi Dench in a production of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, which garnered strong reviews. Around the same time, he was hired as a director at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. Mendes headed various stage productions during this time, including The Sea, Othello and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

In the early 1990s, Mendes began a new directing position; he was appointed artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, a nonprofit theater in London's West End. Mendes served in that position for nearly a decade, and is credited with attracting some of the world's finest actors to appear in many Donmar productions, including Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, Mendes's opening play in 1992; Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie; and Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus.

Award-Winning Filmmaker

'American Beauty'

The late 1990s brought a big career move for Mendes, who, by this time, had become well-known among colleagues and revered for his stage work. Moving from the stage to the silver screen, he directed his first feature film, American Beauty, which was released by DreamWorks in 1999. (Mendes worked with popular filmmaker and DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg in the early stages of the film's production.) Starring Annette Bening and Kevin Spacey, the dark comedy details the life of a suburban man in a mid-life crisis as well as the experiences of his family. 

American Beauty met with great critical and commercial success, earning Mendes one of his greatest accolades to date—an Academy Award for best director—as well as a reputation as a serious filmmaker. In his acceptance speech at the 2000 Academy Awards, Mendes gave a special nod to the Donmar and thanked many in the film industry, including one of his idols, the late director-producer Billy Wilder. "If my career after this point amounts to one-tenth of what yours has been, I will be a very happy man," Mendes said of Wilder.

'The Road to Perdition' and 'Revolutionary Road'

Mendes went on to direct many successful movies over the next several years, including 2002's The Road to Perdition, starring Tom Hanks; 2005's Jarhead, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard; and Revolutionary Road (2008), starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The director also earned producer credits for The Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road, as well as 2007's The Kite Runner and the 2010 documentary Out of the Ashes

'Skyfall' and 'Spectre' 

Mendes was tapped to helm 2012's Skyfall, the 23rd film of the James Bond franchise and the director's first run at a large-scale action feature. Starring Daniel Craig as 007 and Ben Whishaw as Q, the film earned an estimated $90 million during its opening weekend en route to a $1.1 billion showing worldwide, breaking box-office records in several territories. 

Mendes also directed the next Bond adventure, Spectre. The film saw Craig once again playing the super spy and co-starred Christoph Waltz and Monica Bellucci. After premiering in autumn 2015, Spectre became the U.K.'s highest grossing film within the first seven days of its release; the previous record holder had been Skyfall.

In June 2018, it was announced that Mendes was joining forces with Spielberg's Amblin Partners studio to bring the World War I drama 1917 to the big screen. Mendes, who co-wrote the script, was slated to make his return to directing with the feature, scheduled for a December 2019 release. 

Personal Life

Mendes married actress Kate Winslet in 2003. They had a baby boy, Jon Alfie, that same year. (Mendes also became the stepfather of Mia, Winslet's daughter from her previous marriage to director Jim Threapleton.) The couple divorced in 2011.

In January 2017, Mendes married award-winning trumpeter Alison Balsom, who gave birth to daughter Phoebe that September.

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