Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Who Is Neil LaBute?

Neil LaBute was born in Detroit, MI, on March 19, 1963. When LaBute was a child, his family moved to Spokane, WA, and during his high school days in the Pacific Northwest he developed an interest in both writing and theater. After graduating from high school, LaBute received a scholarship from Brigham Young University, a college in Provo, UT, which was founded and is still overseen by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LaBute received a degree in Theater and Film at B.Y.U., and converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a student. LaBute went on to do graduate work at the University of Kansas and New York University, and participated in a writing workshop at London's Royal Court Theatre, as well as attending the Sundance Institute's Playwright's Lab at N.Y.U. 

LaBute first began writing and staging original plays while studying at Brigham Young, and in 1993 he returned to B.Y.U. to premier his drama, In the Company of Men, a startling and controversial tale of two businessmen who conspire to emotionally destroy a receptionist at their firm. In 1997, LaBute decided to adapt In the Company of Men for the screen, and on a budget of only 25,000 dollars, shot the film in two weeks in and around Fort Wayne, IN, with a friend from his college days, Aaron Eckhart, who played Chad, one of the businessmen. In the Company of Men was accepted at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, and to LaBute's surprise, it won the Filmmaker's Trophy as Best Dramatic Feature; the film was picked up for national distribution, and went on to gross 2.9 million dollars. 

LaBute next wrote and directed Your Friends & Neighbors, an examination of the sexual and emotional failings and frailties of three couples; it was also based on one of LaBute's earlier plays, entitled Lepers. Shot on a relatively lavish five-million-dollar budget, Your Friends & Neighbors received solid reviews and confirmed his status as an exciting new talent in filmmaking. LaBute was also one of several new filmmakers chronicled in the documentary Independent's Day. In 2000, LaBute refocused his attentions to the stage with Bash: Latterday Plays, a collection of three short plays. Bash, starring Calista Flockhart and Paul Rudd, proved to be a hot ticket in its New York off-Broadway run, and a performance of the play was taped for later broadcast on the Showtime premium cable network. Incidentally, because of the subject matter of Bash, LaBute was disfellowshiped from the church and has since left it for good. That same year, LaBute released his third feature film, which was also his first film which he did not write -- Nurse Betty, a dark but sweet comedy about a slightly touched woman chasing her dreams after the murder of her husband, while being followed by the gunmen who did in her spouse. Nurse Betty proved LaBute could work with a lighter touch, and became a respectable box-office success. LaBute's next project, Possession (2002), was another departure for him, in that it focused mainly on romance and elements of period drama. After that, he returned to the themes of his earlier films, writing and directing The Shape of Things (2003), which he had originated as a play in London. In perhaps his most substantial departure to date, LaBute confounded fans and critics by taking a stab at the horror genre by serving as writer and director of the 2006 remake, The Wicker Man. Though many of LaBute's previous efforts could well have been considered horror films in the sense that they portrayed man as the ultimate emotional monster, The Wicker Man marked the first time the director had entered the genre proper. 

In 2013 LaBute made a film version of Some Girl(s) that went to Sundance and into limited release. It featured Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Zoe Kazan, Mia Maestro, Jennifer Morrison, and Emily Watson. 

LaBute's works are often tinged with misogyny and misanthropy and are populated with terrible characters. They're often hard to watch because people say horribly cruel things to each other, but most of his works fall into the category of dark comedy. His works are always well written with sharp dialogue and a kinda of nasty poetry. Like David Mamet, LaBute's plays are just crammed full of language and repartee and really challenge the audience to pay attention or risk missing something.

Listening to LaBute talk about his work is always interesting. Some interviews that are telling:

Love him or hate him, Neil LaBute at the very least always provokes a reaction and always inspires people to think and talk about his works. 

No comments:

Post a Comment