Sir Samuel Alexander "Sam" Mendes CBE (born 1 August 1965 in Reading, England) is an English stage and film director.
His stage career dates back to the mid-1980s, with directorial credits racked up on the West End and with the Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, and Donmar Warehouse (which he was artistic director of from 1992-2002). He's done plenty of productions of Shakespeare, Chekhov, and the like, but is particularly well-regarded for his fresh stagings of musicals such as Oliver! and Gypsy. His much-acclaimed 1993 revival of Cabaret managed a Broadway transfer in 1998 and was his first production to be seen in the U.S.
Shortly after his breakthrough as a stage director, Mendes made his film directorial debut with American Beauty, which netted him a Best Director Academy Award — one of five Oscars, including Best Picture. His film output is definitely weighted towards Oscar Bait, but he also directed one of the most acclaimed James Bond films to his credit, Skyfall, in 2012, and went on to direct its sequel, Spectre, in 2015. Speaking of range, he went from the Skyfall hit directly to a stage musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
He was married to Kate Winslet between 2003 and 2010.
- American Beauty (1999)
- Road to Perdition (2002)
- Jarhead (2005)
- Revolutionary Road (2008)
- Away We Go (2009)
- James Bond:
- 1917 (2019) note
- Empire of Light (2022) note
Common tropes in his works
- Anyone Can Die: A recurring theme in his work with the exception of Away We Go. In that film, nobody dies and the tone is unambiguously happy.
- Associated Composer: Thomas Newman is a regular collaborator for all of his films (except for Away We Go, where Alexi Murdoch's songs play over the film and Empire Of Light which is scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).
- Dysfunctional Family: A major theme in Mendes’ filmography. This happened all the way from the Burnhams in American Beauty to the brothers Bond and Blofeld in Spectre.
- Despite not having written any of his films prior to 1917, this counts as Author Appeal largely due to Mendes himself having bared this trope in real life
- Creator Cameo: He briefly appeared as one of John Rooney's henchman in Road to Perdition when Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) engages in a silent shootout and kills Rooney at the end.
- Epic Tracking Shot: Though his later films became known for this, he incorporated this technique from the beginning.
- Road to Perdition had two scenes: the scene in the club and the climatic scene where Michael shoots Connor in his hotel room.
- Done immensely in Skyfall.
- Spectre had this in the first four minutes. It becomes this when the camera starts off from ground-level to being operated by a crane.
- Crossed over with The Oner, 1917 is the entire 110-minute film as this.
- Genre Roulette: Mendes likes to tackle a lot of different genres. Even when he does another film in the same genre, he likes to do it differently.
- American Beauty and Revolutionary Road are both suburban dramas, though both lean on opposite ends on tone. American Beauty is optimistic in its tone, while Revolutionary Road is pessimistic.
- Road to Perdition is a gangster crime drama based on a comic book.
- Jarhead and 1917 are both war films. However, Jarhead is a plotless slow-burn drama while 1917 is a fast-paced thriller.
- Empire of Light is a period romantic drama.
- Away We Go is a modern-day road trip comedy.
- Skyfall and Spectre are both James Bond films. While both are spectacle-driven action thrillers, Spectre is slower-paced compared to Skyfall.
- Scenery Porn: His collaborations with renowned cinematographers such as Conrad L. Hall, Roger Deakins, Ellen Kuras and Hoyte Van Hoytema really shows, particularly in Road to Perdition, Skyfall, Spectre, and 1917.
- Signature Shot: Try watching a Mendes film that doesn't contain a shot where a character stares out into a deep-focus background. Even James Bond did it in BOTH Skyfall and Spectre..
- Signature Style: Mendes uses a composed theatrical directing style in his films. He loves to create scenes using detailed atmosphere and extended shots to extreme precision.