Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2013.jpg
Mendes in London at the opening night of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2013
Samuel Alexander Mendes

(1965-08-01) 1 August 1965 (age 54)
EducationMagdalen College School
Alma materPeterhouse, Cambridge
OccupationFilm director, film producer, screenwriter, stage director
Years active1993–present
AwardsFull list

Sir Samuel Alexander Mendes CBE (born 1 August 1965)[1] is an English film and stage director, producer and screenwriter. In theatre, he is known for his 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). For directing the play The Ferryman, Mendes was awarded the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play in 2019.

In film, he is best known for his directorial debut American Beauty (1999), which earned him the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Director, the crime film Road to Perdition (2002), the James Bond films Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), and the war film 1917 (2019), which earned him his second Golden Globe Award for Best Director.[2]

In 2000, Mendes was appointed a CBE for his services to drama, and he was knighted in the 2020 New Years Honours List. In 2000 he 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 son of Valerie Mendes (née Barnett), a novelist, children's writer, and poet, and Jameson Peter Mendes, an academic.[6][1] His father, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, is a Roman Catholic of Portuguese Creole descent,[7][8][9] and his mother is an English Jew.[10] His grandfather was the British Trinidadian writer Alfred Hubert Mendes.[7]

Mendes's 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.[11][12] 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.[13] He was also a "brilliant" schoolboy cricketer, according to Wisden and played for Magdalen College School in 1983 and 1984.[14] He also played cricket for Cambridge University [15], and in 1997 played for Shipton-under-Wychwood in the final of the Village Cricket Cup, thus being the only winner of the Academy Award for Best Director to have played at Lord's.[16]

At age 24, Mendes directed a production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in the West End that starred Judi Dench.[17] 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.[18] He spent his first two years overseeing the redesign of the theatre, and his opening production was Stephen Sondheim's Assassins in 1992.[18] Several successful productions followed.[18]

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.[18] 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!.[19]

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.[18]

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 2013 Olivier Award-nominated stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which ran in London's West End until January 2017. It starred Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka, followed by Alex Jennings and Jonathan Slinger who later took over the role.[20]

In 2014, Mendes directed Simon Russell Beale in King Lear by William Shakespeare at the National Theatre, London. Mendes directed Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman for the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2017, before transferring to the West End later that year and Broadway in 2018, for which he won an Olivier Award and Tony Award for Best Director.[21]

In 2018, Mendes directed The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini in an English adaptation by Ben Power for the National Theatre, London starring Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles. In 2019 the play played a season at the Park Avenue Armory in New York before returning for another London season in the West End.

Screen work[]

American Beauty to Skyfall: 1999–2012[]

In 1999 Mendes made his film directorial debut with American Beauty, starring Kevin Spacey. The film grossed $356.3 million worldwide.[22] 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,[23] becoming the sixth director to earn the Academy Award for his feature film debut.[24]

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.'"[25] Mendes's 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.

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

In 2010 Mendes co-produced a critically acclaimed documentary film Out of the Ashes that deals with cricket in Afghanistan.[26][27] On 5 January 2010, news broke that Mendes was employed to direct the 23rd Eon Productions instalment of the James Bond franchise.[28] 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.[29][30] In 2012, Mendes's 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.[31]

Spectre to 1917: 2013–present[]

After 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."[32] 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 and that the next two films would be stand-alone. 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.[33]

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,[34] going back on his previous comments.[23][35] Wilson and Broccoli were willing to postpone production of the film to ensure Mendes's 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.[36] This made him the first filmmaker since John Glen to direct two Bond films in a row. In April 2016 Mendes was named as the President of the Jury for the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.[37]

Mendes's war film 1917 was released by Universal Pictures on 25 December 2019. Based in part on an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes, it chronicles the story of two young British soldiers at the height of WWI, during spring 1917. Mendes won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director for the film; in his speech, he acknowledged fellow nominee Martin Scorsese's contribution to cinema and saluted his grandfather Alfred.[38]

Personal life[]

Mendes and actress Kate Winslet met in 2001, when Mendes approached her about appearing in a play at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, where he was then artistic director.[25] They married in May 2003, on what they characterised as a whim, while on holiday in Anguilla when Winslet was 2 months pregnant with Mendes' child.[39] Their son Joe Alfie Winslet Mendes was born on 22 December 2003 in New York City.[39] Mendes also had a stepdaughter, Mia, from Winslet's first marriage to filmmaker Jim Threapleton.[39]

Amid intense media speculation of an affair between Mendes and actress Rebecca Hall, he and Winslet announced their separation in 2010 and divorced in 2011.[39] Mendes and Hall were in a relationship from 2011 to 2013.[40] Mendes married trumpeter Alison Balsom in January 2017. Their daughter was born in September 2017.[41] He was knighted in the 2020 New Years Honours List for services to drama.[42]



Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes
1999 American Beauty Yes No No
2002 Road to Perdition Yes Yes No
2005 Jarhead Yes No No
2006 Starter for 10 No Yes No Executive producer
2007 Things We Lost in the Fire No Yes No
The Kite Runner No Yes No Executive producer
2008 Revolutionary Road Yes Yes No
2009 Away We Go Yes No No
2010 Out of the Ashes No Yes No Documentary;
Executive producer
2012 Blood No Yes No Executive producer
Skyfall Yes No No
2015 Spectre Yes No No
2019 1917 Yes Yes Yes


Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes
1993 Cabaret Yes No No TV film
2007 Stuart: A Life Backwards No Yes No TV film
2012 Call the Midwife No Yes No
Richard II No Yes No TV film
Henry IV, Part I No Yes No
Henry IV, Part II No Yes No
Henry V No Yes No
2014–16 Penny Dreadful No Yes No
2016 The Hollow Crown: Richard III No Yes No TV film
The Hollow Crown: Henry VI, Part I No Yes No
The Hollow Crown: Henry VI, Part II No Yes No
2017 Britannia No Yes No
2018 Informer No Yes No

Recurring collaborators[]


Year Film Academy Awards BAFTA Awards Golden Globe Awards
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1999 American Beauty 8 5 14 6 6 3
2002 Road to Perdition 6 1 3 2 1
2008 Revolutionary Road 3 4 4 1
2012 Skyfall 5 2 8 2 1 1
2015 Spectre 1 1 1 1
2019 1917 10 9 3 2
Total 23 9 38 10 16 7


  1. ^ a b "Sam Mendes Biography". 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  2. ^ Horton, Adrian (6 January 2020). "Golden Globes 2020: Fleabag and 1917 lead British invasion with major wins". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Sam Mendes gets directing honour". BBC. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  4. ^ "Caine heads birthday honours list". BBC. 17 June 2000. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  5. ^ "The 100 most powerful people in British culture". The Daily Telegraph. 9 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Sam Mendes: Bond movie Skyfall's not the limit". The Independent. 20 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991, p. 112-114
  8. ^ STEVE LINDE; A. SPIRO; G. HOFFMAN (25 May 2012). "50 most influential Jews: Places 31-40". Retrieved 26 May 2013. Michael Pollan, 57
  9. ^ Bloom, Nate (9 January 2009). "Jewish Stars". Cleveland Jewish News.
  10. ^ Wood, Gaby (14 December 2008). "How Sam became The Man". The Observer. London. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  11. ^ Sutcliffe, Thomas (20 January 2000). "Sam Mendes: don't you just hate the guy?". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  12. ^ "Eminent Petreans - Peterhouse Cambridge".
  13. ^ "About The Marlowe". Cambridge University Marlowe Society. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  14. ^ "Never a famous cricketer". ESPNcricinfo. 2001. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  15. ^ "Profile: Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes". BBC News. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  16. ^ Berkmann, Marcus, Berkmann's Cricketing Miscellany, p. 278
  17. ^ "Profile: Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall – the 23rd James Bond film". BBC. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  18. ^ a b c d e "The Donmar's successes". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  19. ^ Olivier Award 1995 Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine. The Society of London Theatre, 2011
  20. ^ "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to open in West End". BBC. Retrieved 18 June 2012
  21. ^ "Olivier Awards 2018: Winners in full". BBC News. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  22. ^ "American Beauty (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
  23. ^ a b Kaya Burgess, 'Bond director drops 007 for something sweeter', The Times, 7 March 2013, No. 70826, p. 3
  24. ^ Tim Dirks. "Academy Awards Best Director – Facts & Trivia". AMC Filmsite. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  25. ^ a b Diane Solway (January 2009). "Scenes from a Marriage". W. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  26. ^ "They Also Played Cricket". Yahoo!. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  27. ^ "Out of the Ashes reveals the amazing story of Afghanistan cricket". The Guardian. 20 July 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2013.
  28. ^ Allen, Nick (6 January 2010). "British director Sam Mendes in talks over next James Bond film". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  29. ^ "Skyfall: 'most successful' James Bond film tops $1bn at global box office", The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  30. ^ "Box Office Milestone: Daniel Craig's 'Skyfall' Crosses $1 Billion Worldwide". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  31. ^ "Call the Midwife: series two, episode one, BBC One, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2013
  32. ^ Hewitt, Chris (6 November 2012). "Sam Mendes Talks Gun Barrel Sequence". Empire. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  33. ^ Phil de Semlyen (6 March 2013). "Sam Mendes Won't Direct Bond 24". empire. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  34. ^ "Sam Mendes back in talks with Bond producers". BBC News. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ "Sam Mendes Returns to Direct". Eon Productions. 11 July 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  37. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (24 July 2016). "Laurie Anderson, Joshua Oppenheimer, Zhao Wei Set For Venice Jury". Variety. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  38. ^ Grobar, Matt; Grobar, Matt (6 January 2020). "Sam Mendes Surprises With Golden Globe Win For Best Director, Saluting Martin Scorsese & Grandfather Who Inspired His World War I Drama '1917'". Deadline. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  39. ^ a b c d Brooks, Xan (15 March 2010). "Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes separate after seven years of marriage". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  40. ^ "Rebecca Hall on love, Sam Mendes and being a shy girl". Evening Standard. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  41. ^ "Sam Mendes's Directorial Discoveries". New Yorker. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  42. ^ "No. 62866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 2019. p. N2.

External links[]

Media related to Sam Mendes at Wikimedia Commons