Neil LaBute Biography

Neil LaBute photo

Born: March 19, 1963


Date of Birth: March 19, 1963

A native of Spokane, Washington, Neil LaBute and his friends acted in their high school's productions of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Arsenic and Old Lace. Partly out of boredom and frustration, and also fueled by a steady diet of films from being an usher at a cinema, LaBute began writing plays that would "speak" to him and his pals.

Attending Brigham Young University, he developed a taste for the politically incorrect. One of his earliest college plays, Bash, began with a man gleefully discussing a previous night's gay-bashing, as he waits to get his photo taken with his picture-perfect wife. It did not go over well. Writing pieces that left audiences morally hanging, his plays, like his films, were about asking questions instead of prescribing answers.

LaBute went on to write and direct 1997's In the Company of Men (shot on just $25,000, most of which LaBute raised from two friends who got into auto accidents and invested their insurance money in the film) which prompted outbursts from women angered by its frank depiction of male cruelty, sexism, and corporate nastiness. The movie followed two businessmen (Aaron Eckhart, Matt Malloy) who woo the same woman—a deaf secretary (Stacy Edwards)—with the intention of dumping her simultaneously, just for the fun of it.

Though the film landed on many critics' best-of-the-year lists, some in the press reacted as violently as did screening audiences. The film even sparked an on-air tiff between Siskel and Ebert as to whether men really do this kind of thing to women.

His followup, Your Friends and Neighbors (1998) was an emotionally grim look at infidelity and deception among six prosperous professionals who do their best to deceive, betray, or disappoint each other at every turn. The film starred Ben Stiller, Jason Patric, Aaron Eckhart, Catherine Keener, Amy Brenneman and Nastassja Kinski and was one of the first in history to receive an NC-17 despite an absence of nudity or violence. The sticking point was a scene in which Jason Patric's character coolly recounts sodomizing a teenage boy.

His third directorial effort, Nurse Betty (2000), moved on to less controversial ground. The dark comedy told the story of a widow (Renee Zellweger) who blocks out the murder of her husband (Aaron Eckhart) and instead focuses on meeting the soap opera doctor she pines for (Greg Kinner).

In 2003, as his fourth movie, The Shape of Things (2003), was released, he received the Storyteller Award at the Taos Talking Picture Festival.

A Mormon, Labute is married with two children and lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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