Samuel Alexander “Sam” Mendes, CBE (born 1 August 1965) is an English stage and film director. He is best known for directing the comedy-drama film American Beauty (1999), which earned him the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Director, the crime film Road to Perdition (2002), and the James Bond films Skyfall (2012) and the upcoming Spectre (2015). He also is known for dark re-inventions of the stage musicals Cabaret (1994), Oliver! (1994), Company (1996), and Gypsy (2003). He directed an original stage musical for the first time with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2013).
In 2000, Mendes was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to drama” and in the same year was awarded the Shakespeare Prize by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation in Hamburg, Germany. In 2005, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Directors Guild of Great Britain.
Mendes was born in Reading, Berkshire, the only child of Valerie Helene (née Barnett), an author of children’s books, and Jameson Peter Mendes, a university professor. His father, who is from Trinidad, is of Portuguese and Italian descent, and his mother is an English Jew. His grandfather was the Trinidadian writer Alfred Hubert Mendes.
Mendes’ parents divorced when he was a child. He grew up in Oxfordshire and attended Magdalen College School and Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first in English. While at Cambridge, he was a member of the Marlowe Society and directed several plays, including a production of Cyrano de Bergerac with Tom Hollander among the cast members. He was also a “brilliant” schoolboy cricketer, according to Wisden and played for Magdalen College School in 1983 and 1984. He also playedcricket for Cambridge University.
Aged 24, Mendes directed a production of Chekhov‘s The Cherry Orchard in the West End that starred Judi Dench. 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 worked at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1988 as assistant director on a number of productions, including Major Barbara, and directing in “The Tent”, the second venue. He later directed at the Royal National Theatre, helming Edward Bond‘s The Sea, Jim Cartwright‘s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Harold Pinter‘s The Birthday Party, andOthello with Simon Russell Beale as Iago.
In 1999, Mendes made his film directorial debut with American Beauty, starring Kevin Spacey. The film grossed $356.3 million worldwide. The film won the Golden Globe Award, the BAFTA Award and the Academy Award for Best Picture. Mendes won the Golden Globe Award, Directors Guild of America Award, and the Academy Award for Best Director, becoming the sixth director to earn the Academy Award for his feature film debut.
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 Newmanfor his performance. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor, and won one for Best Cinematography.
In 2003, Mendes established Neal Street Productions, a film, television and theatre production company he would use to finance much of his later work.
In 2005, Mendes directed the war film Jarhead, in association with his production company Neal Street Productions. The film received mixed reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 61%, and a gross revenue of US$96.9 million worldwide. The film focused on the boredom and other psychological challenges of wartime.
In 2008, Mendes directed Revolutionary Road, starring his then-wife, Kate Winslet, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kathy Bates. In a January 2009 interview, Mendes commented, about directing his wife for the first time, “I would open my eyes in the morning and there Kate would be, going, ‘Great! You’re awake! Now let’s talk about the second scene.'” Mendes’ comedy-drama Away We Go opened the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film follows a couple (John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph) searching North America for the perfect community in which to settle down and start a family. The film was well received by critics but performed poorly at the box office.
On 5 January 2010, news broke that Mendes was employed to direct the 23rd Eon Productions installment of the James Bondfranchise. The film, Skyfall, was subsequently released on 26 October 2012, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Bond films. Mendes had been employed as a consultant on the film when it was in pre-production, and had remained attached to the project during the financial troubles of MGM. The film was a major critical and commercial success, becoming the 14th film to gross over $1 billion worldwide. Following the success of Skyfall, Mendes was asked if he was returning to direct the next Bond film. He responded, “I felt I put everything I possibly could into this film and it was the Bond film I wanted to make. And if I felt I could do the same again, then absolutely I would consider doing another one. But it is a big task and I wouldn’t do it unless I knew I could.”
It was reported that one reason Mendes was reluctant to commit was that one proposal involved making two films back-to-back, based on an idea by Skyfall writer John Logan, which would have resulted in Mendes and other creative personnel being tied up with filming for around four years. It was reported in February 2013 that this idea had since been shelved and that the next two films would be stand-alone. The same report claimed that Mendes was “75% on board, but was waiting to see the finished script before committing.”However, Mendes said in an interview with Empire Magazine in March 2013 that “It has been a very difficult decision not to accept Michael and Barbara’s very generous offer to direct the next Bond movie.” He cited, amongst other reasons, his commitments to the stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and King Lear.
However, on 29 May 2013, it was reported that Mendes was back in negotiations with producers Wilson and Broccoli to direct the next Bond film, going back on comments that he had previously made on 5 March 2013 announcing that he would not be directing the 24th Bond film in order to focus efforts on his career in theatre. Wilson and Broccoli were willing to postpone production of the film to ensure Mendes’ participation. On 11 July 2013, it was announced that Mendes would direct the 24th James Bond film, subsequently named Spectre, due for release in October 2015. This makes him the first filmmaker since John Glen to direct two Bond films in a row.