Attended Magdalen College School and Peterhouse, Cambridge.
When American Beauty won the Oscar for best picture, and Sam Mendes pocketed another for best director, there was sniffiness in some circles— that American Beauty wasn’t really very good or new, and that it was a sign of unhappv times when a British stage director could win everything on his first shot. There was another line that said, just notice how closely and fondly Mendes is working with veteran cameraman Conrad Hall—see how eager he is to learn, and how excited bv the new toys. It was worth adding that American Beauty was an uncommonly tart, melancholy view of Americana that looks all the more prescient and striking in the Bushy empire of Crawford, Texas, as we wait for Road to Perdition.
In other words, Sam Mendes is going to do very well indeed in an age when so many talents raised in British theatre do seem able to grasp sufficient rudiments of American film in a quick, greedy look: such as of David Hare, Anthony Minghella, Stephen Daldry, Richard Evre, and Nicholas Hytner. In an age of excessive concentration on "filmic effects" it is absolutely refreshing to feel some sense of the large world and life experience, some real knowledge of dramaturgy, acting, and rehearsal in people coming into movie directing. The lessons and experience of good theatre still have enormous value for filmmaking.
American Beauty was a film that helped crystallize the uncertain mood of self-criticism in America.
Married Kate Winslet, May 24, 2003 (separated 2010).