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One of America's best known independent filmmakers, John Sayles's work is primarily concerned with personal and political relationships. "My main interest is making films about people," he admits. "I'm not interested in cinematic art." Nonetheless, he has developed a distinctive personal style, utilizing ensemble acting as well as his own performing skills. His films have recieved much critical acclaim, but have met with little popular success. Sayles secures financing for, writes, directs, and edits each of his films, thus assuring that he makes the movies he sets out to make.

Born on September 28, 1950 in Schenectady, NY, Sayles went to Mont Pleasant High School followed by Williams College, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. He appeared in school plays and summer stock at Williams College, and, after he graduated, moved on to a career as a fiction writer, submitting stories to magazines and supporting himself as an orderly, day laborer, and meat packer. He wrote two novels: Pride of the Bimbos (1975) and Union Dues (1977) - both of which did well critically, but not financially.

In the mid-1970s, Sayles joined Roger Corman's stable of B-movie scriptwriters, penning Piranha (1978), The Lady in Red (1979), and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). He also wrote the scripts for a couple of low budget horror flicks, The Howling and Alligator. His early genre writing is suprising and interesting in the light of his later work. His first film as director, Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980), was shot in four weeks during 1978 at a reported cost of $40,000. A witty story concerning a reunion of 1960s activists on the verge of adulthood. The film is considered to be a more authentic exploration of the same territory portrayed in the more commercially successful The Big Chill (1983). It won the Best Screenplay award from the Los Angeles Film Critics and was Oscar-nominated in the same category.

In 1983, Sayles was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Foundation "genius grant", which provided him with over $30,000 per year, tax-free, for five years. One of the results was The Brother From Another Planet (1984), an unlikely story of a mute, black alien (Joe Morton) adrift in Harlem.

Sayles went on making ambitious, complex, and challenging films, including Matewan (1987) (about West Virginia coal mines of the 1920s) and Eight Men Out (1988) (an account of the 1919 Black Sox scandal told from the perspective of individual players). A change of pace was the heart-warming folk tale The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), which Sayles both wrote and directed. The story of a girl living with her grandparents in County Donegal, the story incorporated mystical and whimsical elements unusual for Sayles (not that he couldn't handle it or anything).

He followed that with a substantially darker film in 1996: Lone Star (also written and directed by Sayles). The film is, once again, a brilliant character study that plays with the preconceptions of the Western genre of film. Sayles was nominated for an Oscar for his Lone Star screenplay, but lost out to the Coen Brothers' Fargo.

His most recent works include Men With Guns (1997) (aka Hombres Armados), a Spanish-language political road movie which garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, and Limbo (1999), which is perhaps most infamously known for its highly ambiguous ending.

Sayles' contributions to other media is less well-publicized. In addition to his novels, he wrote the plays "New Hope for the Dead" and "Turnbuckle." He directed three popular Bruce Springsteen videos, and has been involved with TV since A Perfect Match (CBS, 1980), for which he wrote the screenplay. Sayles created the pilot and series Shannon's Deal (NBC, 1989-91), about a Philadelphia lawyer. He also wrote and acted in the Vietnam vet drama Unnatural Causes (NBC, 1986), played a baseball player on Mathnet: The Case of the Unnatural (PBS, 1992) and turned up on the documentaries Naked Hollywood (A&E,1991) and Baseball (PBS, 1994).

Sayles shares a home in Hoboken, N.J., and a farm in upstate New York, with longtime companion Maggie Renzi, an actress and producer on several of his films. He is currently working on a collection of short stories and continues work on his next film, Sunshine State, which stars Angela Bassett and Edie Falco.

Filmography: Info gleaned from various interviews, 1996 Baseline's Encyclopedia of Film, and the ever helpful IMDB

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