Rex Pickett on the set of the film Sideways
|Born||Merced, California, United States|
|Occupation||Screenwriter; Novelist; Playwright, film director|
Education and early career
Pickett was born in Merced, California, and grew up in San Diego. He attended the University of California at San Diego where he was a Special Projects major, 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 a German television station, and From Hollywood to Deadwood to Island Pictures.
Pickett returned to writing, landing a job as a writer on David Fincher’s first feature, Alien 3. In 1998 he wrote the screenplay for My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short in 1999.
Novels and Sideways
In 1995 Pickett began writing novels. His first, a mystery titled La Purisima, didn’t sell. His second was Sideways. Completed in 1999, the novel was submitted to both publishers and film production companies. After 18 rejection letters from publishers, Pickett’s agent pulled it from submission. Film production companies also passed. In late 1999, 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 make About Schmidt.
In early 2003, Payne, fresh from 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 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 After over 100 rejection letters, Pickett’s new agent at Trident Media Group went back out with his still unpublished novel and ended up selling it at a fire sale to St. Martin’s Press for $5,000.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 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 al. 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 Popular Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. (Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon, won the Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.)
In 2012 Pickett staged a play version of his novel Sideways at the Ruskin Group Theater in Santa Monica, California. It ran for six months, and a production was later staged at the La Jolla Playhouse under the direction of Des McAnuff.
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 has announced on his website it will be published as an ebook.
- 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)
- Asimov, Eric (October 6, 2004). "Wine, Women and a Pair of Buddies". The New York Times.
- "My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York (1999)". The New York Times. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
- Official website
- Rex Pickett at the Internet Movie Database
- Rex Pickett Papers MSS 750. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego Library.