The grandson of Greek immigrants, Alexander Payne grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was educated by Jesuits. He later studied History and Spanish Literature at Stanford University before earning an MFA in Film Directing at UCLA.
His first two feature films were the comedies Citizen Ruth
(1996) and Election
(1999). About Schmidt
premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002. Both Sideways
(2004) and The Descendants
(2011) won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and were nominated for four others, including Best Picture and Best Director. Four of his six feature films were filmed in Nebraska.