John Sayles Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (1)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (15)  | Personal Quotes (11)  | Salary (1)

Overview (3)

Born in Schenectady, New York, USA
Birth NameJohn Thomas Sayles
Height 6' 4" (1.93 m)

Mini Bio (1)

A bright child, John Sayles began reading novels before age 9. A Williams grad in 1972, he shunned a corporate career to work various blue-collar jobs, moving to east Boston to take a factory job. He wrote stories and submitted them to various magazines, and the Atlantic Monthly gave him the idea of publishing them in a novel--thus "Pride of the Bimbos" (1975) was born.

In the late 1970s he worked for renowned low-budget producer Roger Corman as a screenwriter. He saved much of the money he earned from that job, got some friends together and made Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979) in 25 days. Altough it was a hit, he had trouble obtaining financing for the films he wanted to make because he would not give up his right of final cut. Baby It's You (1983) was Sayles' only film made under studio control.

In 1983 the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship granted him a tax-free income of $32,000 a year for 5 years. That stipend and money he earned for writing such films as The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986), Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1983) and Breaking In (1989) enabled him to make the kinds of films he wanted to make. Lone Star (1996) placed Sayles in the ranks of top American filmmakers. In it and his other films, a broadly appealing social consciousness emerges, showing Sayles to be concerned with what's going on with regional cultures, national values and what living in the US is like today.

Sayles and Maggie Renzi, whom he met during college, have lived together since the 1970s, splitting their time between a Hoboken, NJ, house and a farm in upstate New York. They have no plans to marry.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bob Shields <rshields@igc.apc.org>

Family (1)

Parents Sayles, Donald John
Sayles, Mary

Trade Mark (2)

Towering height and slender frame

Trivia (15)

Drafted in 1968, but rejected by the United States Army because of missing vertebra.
His films are often more based on character than plot.
Was classmates at Williams College with actor David Strathairn, whom Sayles regularly casts in his films.
Did uncredited rewrites for Apollo 13 (1995) and Mimic (1997).
While staying in Greenville, Alabama, during the Honeydripper (2007) shoot, Maggie Renzi and Sayles called in a contribution during the fund drive for the National Public Radio affiliate WUAL-FM in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
In his hometown of Schenectady, New York, there is the Sayles School of Fine Arts Black Box Theatre at the high school.
In the 2008 Empire Magazine movie poll, Sayles listed his ten favorite films as: Yojimbo (1961), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Two Women (1960), The Organizer (1963), The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), Seven Samurai (1954), Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), Raging Bull (1980), The Wages of Fear (1953), Port of Shadows (1938).
Has English and Irish ancestry.
Speaks Spanish fluently.
In the Philippines filming Amigo. [June 2010]
In Greenville, Alabama, with partner Maggie Renzi, filming Honeydripper (starring Danny Glover) [September 2006]
Directed one Oscar nominated performance: Mary McDonnell in Passion Fish (1992).
Sayles is a great admirer of Akira Kurosawa and borrowed the basic plot of "Battle beyond the Stars" from "The Seven Samurai.".
In an AFI poll, he chose Akira Kurosawa's "Redbeard" as his favorite film.
He has appeared in two films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979) and Malcolm X (1992). He has also directed one film that is in the registry: Return of the Secaucus Seven.

Personal Quotes (11)

[on making Baby It's You (1983)] I got the cut I wanted, but I was thrown out of the editing room.
Oh, I've always felt like I was on the margins. Once upon a time that's what independent used to mean.
I always feel that there are no final victories and no final defeats. But it's true that America is in a hole right now. There are a lot of dead fish in the water.
I want to direct films that no one else is going to make. I know if I don't make them, I'm never going to see them. Of course, I hope some people will want to see my movies as well, but I won't pander to the public. I won't try to second guess what a Hollywood studio would like to see in a low-budget film, so that they will hire me the next time around. I know I will always do better work if I do projects in which I really believe. And if I never get to direct again, I will have made some movies I can feel proud of.
Being a screenwriter is a good job. I can make a good amount of money to put back into my own films.
The scariest movie I ever saw was John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) with special effects by Rob Bottin. The theater was full, and I had to sit in the front row.
There's a basic structure to movies. It's rigid and reductive. In a movie you only deal with core relationships: a protagonist, an antagonist. But in a novel you can do whatever you want. You can introduce characters that disappear for a hundred pages. You can have a dozen plot lines that interweave and overlap. In a novel, you get to be God. That doesn't happen in the movies.
[1983 interview] Because directing is very political and social, it takes up more of your time than writing does. It's more demanding because you have to make the movie when the money is there. A book can just sit there; it doesn't depend on anyone else. That's what's nice about it. You don't have to rely on anyone else - you either do it or you don't. Fiction writing is a break from movie-making for me.
[1983 interview] It's great not to have to go around and raise your money - a thousand here, ten thousand there. But if I can't get the same kind of control doing it through a studio - artistic control, which is always important to a project as far as I'm concerned - then I'd just as soon go back to looking for the money myself and do it independently.
[1983 interview] The things I write and direct are things I'm not going to see unless I do them.
[on The Brother from Another Planet (1984)] I couldn't afford to hire a production manager, a first assistant director, and a second assistant director. Their minimums would have been high enough to make up a third of my budget.

Salary (1)

Piranha (1978) $10,000

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