Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Mendes in London at the opening night of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical in 2013.
Born Samuel Alexander Mendes
(1965-08-01) 1 August 1965
Reading, Berkshire, England
Residence Dorset, England[1]
Education Magdalen College School
Alma mater Peterhouse, Cambridge
(BA, English)
Occupation Film and stage director
Years active 1993–present
Spouse(s) Kate Winslet (m. 2003–11)
Children 1

Samuel Alexander "Sam" Mendes, CBE (born 1 August 1965)[2] 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 Spectre (2015). He also is known for dark re-inventions of the stage musicals Cabaret (1994), Oliver! (1994), Company (1995), and Gypsy (2003). He directed an original West End 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.[3][4] In 2008 The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 15 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture".[5]

Early years

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.[2][6] His father, who is from Trinidad, is of Portuguese and Italian descent,[7] and his mother is an English Jew.[8] His grandfather was the Trinidadian writer Alfred Hubert Mendes.[6][7]

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.[6][9][10] 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.[11] He was also a "brilliant" schoolboy cricketer, according to Wisden and played for Magdalen College School in 1983 and 1984.[12] He also played cricket for Cambridge University.[13]

Aged 24 Mendes directed a production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in the West End that starred Judi Dench.[14] 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, and Othello with Simon Russell Beale as Iago.



In 1990 Mendes was appointed artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, a studio space in London's Covent Garden which he helped transform into one of the city's more notable theatre venues.[15] He spent his first two years overseeing the redesign of the theatre, and his opening production was Stephen Sondheim's Assassins in 1992.[15] Several successful productions followed.[15]

In 1993 Mendes staged an acclaimed revival of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret starring Jane Horrocks as Sally Bowles, Alan Cumming as Emcee, Adam Godley as Cliff Bradshaw and Sara Kestelman as Frau Schneider.[15] The production was approached with a fresh concept, differing greatly from both the original 1966 production directed by Harold Prince and the famed film version, directed by Bob Fosse. This production opened at the Donmar and received four Olivier Award nominations including Best Musical Revival, before transferring promptly to Broadway where it played for several years at the Kit Kat Club (i.e. the Stephen Sondheim Theater). The Broadway cast included Cumming once again as Emcee, with Natasha Richardson as Sally, Mary Louise Wilson as Frau Schneider and John Benjamin Hickey as Cliff. Cumming and Richardson won Tony Awards for their performances.

1994 saw Mendes stage a new production of Lionel Bart's Oliver!, produced by Cameron Mackintosh. Mendes, a longtime fan of the work, worked in close collaboration with Bart and other production team members, William David Brohn, Martin Koch and Anthony Ward, to create a fresh staging of the well-known classic. Bart added new musical material and Mendes updated the book slightly, while the orchestrations were radically rewritten to suit the show's cinematic feel. The cast included Jonathan Pryce (after much persuasion) as Fagin, Sally Dexter as Nancy, and Miles Anderson as Bill Sikes. Mendes, Pryce and Dexter received Olivier Award nominations for their work on Oliver!.[16]

He has also directed productions of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, Stephen Sondheim's Company (which had the first ever African American Bobby), Alan Bennett's Habeas Corpus and his farewell duo of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night, which transferred to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[15]

In 2003 Mendes directed a revival of the musical Gypsy. Originally, he planned to stage this production in London's West End with an eventual Broadway transfer, but when negotiations fell through, he brought it to New York. The cast included Bernadette Peters as Rose, Tammy Blanchard as Louise and John Dossett as Herbie. Mendes also directed the 2014 Olivier Award-nominated stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.[17]


In 1999 Mendes made his film directorial debut with American Beauty, starring Kevin Spacey. The film grossed $356.3 million worldwide.[18] 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,[19] becoming the sixth director to earn the Academy Award for his feature film debut.[20]

Mendes's second film, in 2002, was Road to Perdition, which grossed US$181 million. The aggregate review score on Rotten Tomatoes is currently 81%; critics praised Paul Newman for 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.'"[21] 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.

In 2010 he co-produced a critically acclaimed documentary film Out of the Ashes that deals with cricket in Afghanistan.[22][23] In 2012 Neal Street Productions produced the first series of the BBC One drama series, Call the Midwife, following it with a second season which began transmission in early 2013.[24] In April 2016 he was named as the President of the Jury for the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.[25]

James Bond

Mendes (right) collaborated with Javier Bardem for Skyfall, November 2012

On 5 January 2010, news broke that Mendes was employed to direct the 23rd Eon Productions installment of the James Bond franchise.[26] 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.[27][28]

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."[29]

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[30] 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."[30] 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.[31]

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,[32] going back on his previous comments.[19][33] 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. Named Spectre, it was released in October 2015.[34] This made him the first filmmaker since John Glen to direct two Bond films in a row.

Personal life

Mendes married British actress Kate Winslet in May 2003 on what they characterised as a whim while on holiday in Anguilla.[35] He had previously dated Rachel Weisz and Calista Flockhart.[36]

Mendes and Winslet met in 2001 when Mendes approached her about appearing in a play at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, where he was then artistic director.[21] Their son Joe Alfie Winslet Mendes was born on 22 December 2003 in New York City.[35] Mendes also had a stepdaughter, Mia, from Winslet's first marriage to filmmaker Jim Threapleton.[35] The couple's representative announced on 15 March 2010 that "they separated earlier this year". They were divorced in 2011.[35] Winslet said in 2011 that "the first stage of my divorce with Sam came through" on the same day she was filming a divorce scene for her HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce.[37][38] Following the separation, it became known that Mendes was in a relationship with actress Rebecca Hall. Mendes and Hall dated from 2010 to 2015.[39][40]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Film or stage play Result
1989 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer The Cherry Orchard Won
1995 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Director The Glass Menagerie Won
Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Won
1996 Laurence Olivier Award for Director Company Won
1998 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Cabaret Nominated
2000 Academy Award for Best Director American Beauty Won
BAFTA Award for Best Direction Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Director Won
Directors Guild of America Award for Best Director Won
2002 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Director Uncle Vanya and Twelfth Night Won
2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Won
Society of London Theatre Special Award N/A Won
2008 Golden Globe Award for Best Director – Motion Picture Revolutionary Road Nominated
2012 Jupiter Award for Best International Film Skyfall Won
2013 BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film Won
2013 Saturn Award for Best Action or Adventure Film Won
2013 Empire Award for Best Director Won


Stage productions

Feature films and television series

Year Film Credited as Oscar nominations Oscar wins BAFTA nominations BAFTA wins Golden Globe nominations Golden Globe wins
Director Producer Executive
1999 American Beauty Yes 8 5 14 6 6 3
2002 Road to Perdition Yes Yes 6 1 3 2 1
2005 Jarhead Yes
2006 Starter for 10 Yes
2007 Stuart: A Life Backwards Yes
Things We Lost in the Fire Yes
The Kite Runner Yes 1 2
2008 Revolutionary Road Yes Yes 3 4 4 1
2009 Away We Go Yes
2010 Out of the Ashes Yes
2012 Call the Midwife Yes
Richard II Yes
Henry IV, Part I Yes
Henry IV, Part II Yes
Henry V Yes
Blood Yes
Skyfall Yes 5 2 8 2 1 1
2014 Penny Dreadful Yes
2015 Spectre Yes 1 1 1 1
Total 15 7 10 4 24 9 29 10 15 5

Recurring collaborators


  1. "Winslet's ex Mendes falls for Trumpet Crumpet: James Bond director dates glamorous classical musician".
  2. 1 2 "Sam Mendes Biography". 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  3. "Sam Mendes gets directing honour". BBC. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  4. "Caine heads birthday honours list". BBC Online. 17 June 2000. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  5. "The 100 most powerful people in British culture". Daily Telegraph. 9 November 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 "Can Kate tame Sam?". 20 November 2001.
  7. 1 2 The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991, p. 112-114
  8. Wood, Gaby (14 December 2008). "How Sam became The Man". The Observer. London. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  9. Sutcliffe, Thomas (20 January 2000). "Sam Mendes: don't you just hate the guy?". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  10. Eminent Petreans
  11. "About The Marlowe". Cambridge University Marlowe Society. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  12. "Never a famous cricketer". ESPNCricinfo. 2001. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  13. "Profile: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes". BBC News. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  14. "Profile: Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall - the 23rd James Bond film". BBC. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 "The Donmar's successes". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  16. Olivier Award 1995. The Society of London Theatre, 2011
  17. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to open in West End". BBC. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  18. "American Beauty (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-11-22.
  19. 1 2 Kaya Burgess, 'Bond director drops 007 for something sweeter', The Times, March 7, 2013, No. 70826, p. 3
  20. Tim Dirks. "Academy Awards Best Director - Facts & Trivia". AMC Filmsite. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  21. 1 2 Diane Solway (January 2009). "Scenes from a Marriage". W. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  22. "They Also Played Cricket". Yahoo!. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  23. "Out of the Ashes reveals the amazing story of Afghanistan cricket". The Guardian. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  24. "Call the Midwife: series two, episode one, BBC One, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  25. Vivarelli, Nick (24 July 2016). "Laurie Anderson, Joshua Oppenheimer, Zhao Wei Set For Venice Jury". Variety. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  26. Allen, Nick (6 January 2010). "British director Sam Mendes in talks over next James Bond film". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  27. "Skyfall: 'most successful' James Bond film tops $1bn at global box office", The Daily Telegraph, Retrieved 24 January 2013
  28. "Box Office Milestone: Daniel Craig's 'Skyfall' Crosses $1 Billion Worldwide". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  29. Hewitt, Chris (6 November 2012). "Sam Mendes Talks Gun Barrel Sequence". Empire. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  30. 1 2 "BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Director Sam Mendes has James Bond back in his sights after Skyfall's phenomenal box office success". Daily Mail. 14 February 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  31. Phil de Semlyen (6 March 2013). "Sam Mendes Won't Direct Bond 24". empire. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  32. "BBC News - Sam Mendes back in talks with Bond producers". BBC News. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  33. O'Neal, Sean (6 March 2013). "Sam Mendes turns down the next James Bond film for a life in the theater". Newswire. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  34. "Sam Mendes Returns to Direct". Eon Productions. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  35. 1 2 3 4 Brooks, Xan (15 March 2010). "Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes separate after seven years of marriage". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  36. "The Tatler List". Tatler.
  37. "Kate Winslet: I'm soldiering on after divorce". The Telegraph. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  38. Harper's Bazaar (UK), November 2011
  39. "Rebecca Hall on her film career so far: 'I've played too many repressed neurotics'". The Independent. 19 July 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  40. "Rebecca Hall 'weds her Broadway co-star Morgan Spector' over a year after splitting from Bond director Sam Mendes". The Daily Mail. 27 September 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  41. Simon Russell Beale and Sam Mendes Reunited for King Lear at National's Olivier Theatre; Further Casting and Dates Also Announced
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