Sayles, John

Sayles, John (John Thomas Sayles), 1950–, one of America's most influential independent filmmakers as well as a screenwriter, fiction writer, playwright, and actor, b. Schenectady, N.Y., grad. Williams College (1972). His earliest works are novels, e.g., Union Dues (1977), and short stories, e.g. The Anarchists' Convention (1979). He returned to fiction later in his career with the novel Los Gusanos (1991), the short stories of Dillinger in Hollywood (2004), and A Moment in the Sun (2011), a novel sprawling across the advent of the 20th-cent.

Sayles honed his screenwriting skills with B-movie scripts written for producer-director Roger Corman and with innovative horror-movie scripts, e.g., The Howling (1981). Working outside Hollywood, he began his directorial/writing career with the low-budget Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980), the tale of a reunion of 1960s activists that won several prizes. His subsequent films include the family drama Lianna (1983), the incisive Brother from Another Planet (1985), the historical Matewan (1987) and Eight Men Out (1988), and the grimly political City of Hope (1990). He achieved wide recognition for the script and direction of his two-character drama Passion Fish (1992). Among his later films are the mystical The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), the contemporary Western Lone Star (1996), the Spanish-language Men with Guns (1997), the Florida real-estate tale Sunshine State (2000), and the African-American music and rock 'n' roll roots fable Honeydripper (2007).

Sayles is primarily a storyteller whose original and realistic works feature nuanced and compelling characters, often in ensembles. Treating many themes and representing various genres, his films are unified by a sense of empathy, honesty, and social consciousness.

See G. Smith, ed., Sayles on Sayles (1998) and D. Carson, ed., John Sayles: Interviews (1999); biography by G. Molyneaux (2000); studies by J. Ryan (1998), D. Carson and H. Kanaga, ed. (2005), and M. Bould (2008).

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