Rex Pickett on the set of the film Sideways
July 9, 1956 |
Merced, California, United States
|Occupation||Writer, film director|
Pickett was born in Merced, CA, but grew up in San Diego. He attended the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) where he was a Special Projects major, his diploma reading: “Specializing in Contemporary Literary and Film Criticism and Creative Writing.” He graduated summa cum laude, then moved to Los Angeles to attend USC’s Graduate School of Cinema. He dropped out in the early ‘80s and, with his then wife, Barbara Schock, wrote and directed two independent feature films, California Without End and From Hollywood to Deadwood. California Without End was sold to Bavarian Radio Television (one of Germany’s top TV stations) and From Hollywood to Deadwood to Island Pictures, who, according to Pickett, “butchered my film.”
Pickett returned to writing, landing a job as the last writer on David Fincher’s first feature, Alien III. Ultimately, Walter Hill and David Giler, whose script Pickett was rewriting, coerced Fincher into accepting their script and Pickett was let go. He continued to write screenplays, both adaptations and original scripts, some on spec and some for hire. In ’98 his short script My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York was produced at the AFI as Barbara Schock’s thesis film. The 33-minute short went on to win over 15 film festivals and ultimately captured the 2000 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short.
In ’95 Pickett turned to novels. His first novel, a mystery titled La Purisima, landed representation at prestigious literary agency Curtis Brown, LTD. Though the novel didn’t sell, it galvanized Pickett to write what would become his greatest success, Sideways. Completed in ’99, Sideways was submitted to both publishers and film production companies. After 18 rejection letters from a Who’s Who of the publishing world, Pickett’s agent pulled it from submission. Film production companies likewise turned a blind eye and passed en masse. In late ’99, nearly a year after it had been written, one of the submissions by Pickett’s agent, Jess Taylor, at Endeavor, was to Alexander Payne’s agent, David Lonner at the same agency. Payne’s assistant, Brian Beery, read it, then passed it to Payne who immediately optioned it. Shortly after Payne optioned Sideways it was greenlit by Artisan Entertainment. Emboldened by front page Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter news about the Artisan greenlight, Pickett’s agent at Curtis Brown went back out to publishers in a mass submission, but to no avail. It was rejected by everyone of them. Eventually, Payne would put Sideways on hold and go off to do About Schmidt.
In early 2003, Payne, fresh off the success of About Schmidt, returned his attention to Sideways. The project was greenlit by Fox Searchlight, who gained control of it from Artisan, in July of 2003 and a start date announced for late September. After over 100 rejection letters, Pickett’s new agent at Trident Media Group went back out with his still unpublished novel and ended up selling it at a fire sale to St. Martin’s Press for $5,000. It was published in June of 2004, 5 months before the film was released.
Sideways the film was released October 22, 2004. It went on to win over 350 awards from various critics and awards organizations, including 6 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, 5 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, 5 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, 6 Indie Spirit Awards, 2 Golden Globes, et alii. It was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, winning in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. The film had an enormous impact on the world of wine, driving Pinot Noir sales – and prices – into the stratosphere, and causing serious damage to Merlot, the grape variety the main character vocally expressed hatred for.
In 2011, Pickett released a sequel to Sideways, titled Vertical. That same year it won the Gold Medal for Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
In 2012 Pickett staged a play version of his novel Sideways at the 50-seat Equity-waiver Ruskin Group Theater in Santa Monica, CA. It ran for 6 record-breaking months. Less than a year later the play was remounted in the Potiker Theater at the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse under the direction of 3-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys). Extended twice, it was the most successful non-musical play in their 30-year history.
Pickett spent a year traveling in Chile, New York and Costa Rica and is now working on a Sideways Part III to be set in the Chilean wine world. He is currently represented by WME for theater and publishing and APA for TV/Film. He is managed by Brian Young.
- California Without End (1984) (Bavarian Radio Television)
- From Hollywood to Deadwood (1989) (theatrically released by Island Pictures)
- California Without End (1984)
- From Hollywood to Deadwood (1989)
- My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York (1998)
- Repairman (2010) (as writer/director/producer)
- California Without End (1984)