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Samuel Alexander "Sam" Mendes CBE (born 1 August 1965) is an English stage and film director who also directs commercials at Ridley Scott Associates (RSA US). He is known for his 1998 production of Cabaret, starring Alan Cumming, and his debut film, American Beauty, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director.

Early years

Mendes was born in Readingmarker, Berkshire, Englandmarker to Jameson Peter Mendes, a university professor, and Valerie Helene Barnett, an author of children's books. His father is from Trinidadmarker's ethnic Portuguese community, and his mother an English Jew. His grandfather is the Trinidad writer Alfred Mendes. He attended Magdalen College School in Oxfordmarker and graduated from Peterhousemarker, the oldest college of the University of Cambridgemarker, with a B.A. in 1987.

Mendes first attracted attention for his production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in the West Endmarker which starred Judi Dench before he was twenty-five years old. Soon he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where his productions, many of them featuring Simon Russell Beale, included Troilus and Cressida, Richard III and The Tempest.

He has also worked at the Royal National Theatremarker, directing Edward Bond's The Sea, Jim Cartwright's The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party, and Othello with Simon Russell Beale as Iago.



In 1992 Mendes was appointed artistic director of the Donmar Warehousemarker, an intimate studio space in London's Covent Gardenmarker which he quickly transformed into one of the most exciting venues in the city. His opening production was Stephen Sondheim's Assassins which reveled in the show's dark, comic brilliance and rescued it from the critical opprobrium it had suffered on its American opening. He followed this with a series of excellent classic revivals, many of which attracted some of the finest actors and biggest stars of the decade. Among Mendes's best productions were Lionel Bart's Oliver! in 1994 at the London Palladium, in which new dialogue and music was added by the original composer himself. This production starred Jonathan Pryce and Sally Dexter, and is the longest running musical to play at the Palladium, having closed in 1998/99. John Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret, Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, Stephen Sondheim's Company, Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus and his farewell duo of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night, which transferred to the Brooklyn Academy of Musicmarker. As artistic director Mendes also gave some of the country's finest younger directors the opportunity to do some of their best work: Matthew Warchus's production of Sam Shepard's True West, Katie Mitchell's of Beckett's Endgame, David Leveaux's of Sophocles's Elektra and Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing were amongst the most critically acclaimed of the decade. The Donmar's present artistic director, Michael Grandage, directed some of the key productions of the later part of Mendes's tenure, including Peter Nichols's Passion and Privates on Parade and Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. Mendes also directed Bernadette Peters in a Broadway revival of Gypsy. This production didn't run for long, due to Peters' short illness throughout. A recording is available however, and it is considered one of the best to this day.


Mendes made his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed and box-office success American Beauty, starring Kevin Spacey. The film grossed US$356.3 million worldwide and had a 2373% ROI. The film won the Golden Globe Award, the BAFTA Award and the Academy Award for Best Picture. Mendes won a Directors Guild of Americamarker Award, a Golden Globe Award, and the Academy Award for directing American Beauty.

Mendes's second film, in 2002, was Road to Perdition, which grossed US$181 million. The aggregate review score on Rotten Tomatoes was 82%; critics praised Paul Newman for his performance. The film was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor, and won one for Best Cinematography.

In 2005, Mendes directed the war film Jarhead. The film received mixed reviews, receiving a Rotten Tomatoes aggregate of 60%, and a gross revenue of US$96.9 million worldwide. The film focused on the boredom and other psychological challenges of wartime, instead of being a traditional combat-action film.

In 2008, Mendes directed Revolutionary Road, starring his wife, Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kathy Bates. In a January 2009 interview, Mendes opened up about directing his wife for the first time:

Mendes most recently completed work on a comedy-drama called Away We Go, which opened the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film follows a couple searching across North America for the perfect community in which to settle down and start a family. The film stars John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Catherine O'Hara, and Melanie Lynskey. Mendes is also starting pre-production on a film adaptation of the acclaimed 1971 Tony-winning Broadway musical Follies and has announced his intentions to film an adaptation of the novel Middlemarch in the near future.

According to, Columbia Pictures has purchased the rights to the Preacher graphic novel series and have hired Sam Mendes to direct it. He will also be an executive producer for the American movie remake of the British mini series Lost in Austen.

Personal life

Mendes married British actress Kate Winslet on 24 May 2003 in Anguillamarker in the Caribbeanmarker. The pair met in 2001, when Mendes approached his future wife about appearing in a play at the Donmar Warehouse Theater, where he was then artistic director. Their first child, Joe Alfie Mendes, was born on 22 December 2003. Mendes also has a stepdaughter, Mia Honey Threapleton (b. 12 October 2000), from Winslet's first marriage to assistant director Jim Threapleton. The family now lives in New York Citymarker and Church Westcote Manor, Church Westcote, Gloucestershire, Englandmarker. He previously dated Jane Horrocks, Rachel Weisz and Calista Flockhart. Mendes was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.


Stage productions


Year Film Oscar nominations Oscar wins
1999 American Beauty 8 5
2002 Road to Perdition 6 1
2005 Jarhead
2008 Revolutionary Road 3 0
2009 Away We Go

Year Film Notes
2002 Road to Perdition
2006 Starter for 10 (executive producer)
2007 The Kite Runner (executive producer)
Things We Lost in the Fire
2008 Revolutionary Road
2009 Away We Go


List of Awards and nominations
Year Award Film or Stage Play Result
1989 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer The Cherry Orchard
1995 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Director The Glass Menagerie
1995 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director
1996 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Company
1998 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival Cabaret
1999 Academy Award for Best Director American Beauty
Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture American Beauty
2002 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Director Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night
2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director
Society of London Theatre Special Award N/A
2008 Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture Revolutionary Road



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