Rex Pickett | Author and Playwright
Rex Pickett is the critically-acclaimed author of the novel Sideways, upon which the Oscar-winning Alexander Payne film of the same title was adapted. Not only did the film win over 350 awards from major critics and awards organizations and completely change the wine world, the film has continued to garner a worldwide cult following.
Rex was born in California and grew up in San Diego. He attended the University of California at San Diego where he matriculated summa cum laude with a Special Projects major, his diploma reading: “Specializing in Contemporary Literary and Film Criticism and Creative Writing.”
In the early ‘80s Rex moved to Los Angeles to attend USC’s graduate film school. Disappointed with their conservative approach to filmmaking, he and his then wife, Barbara Schock, spent the ‘80s making two independent feature films, California Without End and From Hollywood to Deadwood. Rex wrote, directed and edited both films. California Without End was a 1,000-mile road movie, made on the minuscule budget of $60,000. It sold to Bavarian Radio Television and played film festivals. From Hollywood to Deadwood was a 4,000 mile road movie, was produced for a cost of just under a million and sold to Island Pictures (now MGM) and was released in 1990.
Rex returned to writing and wrote numerous scripts, both on spec and for hire. He was the last writer on David Fincher’s first feature, Alien III. His original screenplay The Road Back was bought by Joan Micklin Silver (Crossing Delancey), for whose company he also adapted the novel Striking it Rich. His first studio paying job was for Kevin Bacon’s MixedBreed Films, a then Columbia/TriStar production company.
In the mid-‘90s Barbara Schock enrolled in the American Film Institute as one of 25 directors in their prestigious graduate film school. Rex wrote all three of her first-year shorts. Barbara was one of only four directors to be asked back for a second year. Her thesis film, My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York, written by Rex, won over 15 film festivals, then triumphantly captured the granddaddy of all short film recognition, the 2000 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. This year, Barbara Schock was just named Chair of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film program.
Around the same time Rex turned his prodigious talents to prose writing. Marrying his first love of film to the long-form style of the novel, he wrote a mystery titled La Purisima. It immediately attracted the attention of publishing agents and he signed with Curtis Brown, LTD. Though the novel didn’t sell, it galvanized Rex to write what would become his signature work, the novel Sideways.
In 2003 Alexander Payne, along with his writing partner Jim Taylor, began their adaptation of Rex’s novel. Payne was quoted in numerous interviews saying that “Rex’s novel was our easiest adaptation because Rex thinks like a screenwriter.” The film went into production in the fall of ’03 and was released the following year. It captured every single Best Screenplay Adaptation award in the world including the 2005 Academy Award, the Golden Globe, and the prestigious Writers Guild of America award. The film went on to gross over half a billion dollars in all ancillary markets.
In 2011 Rex came out with his Sideways sequel, titled Vertical. It won the Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Fiction. During the same time Rex wrote a pilot for HBO with Leverage Management (Entourage and Boardwalk Empire).
Also in 2011 Rex was asked to adapt his now iconic novel Sideways into a theatrical production. The play was first produced at the 50-seat Equity-waiver Ruskin Group Theater. It opened in May, 2012 with 3 performances a week. It sold out every performance for over 6 months, breaking all record at Ruskin and winning a number of awards. In no time Rex signed with William Morris Endeavor’s theatrical touring agent Susan Weaving, who got his play to 3-time Tony Award-winning director, Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys). In almost impossibly record time the play was produced at the august La Jolla Playhouse (50 plays sent to Broadway and over 80 Tony Awards) and opened July 21st, 2013. It was extended twice and broke all attendance records for a non-musical play in the La Jolla Playhouse’s 30-year history. It is now headed to London with The Dodgers, a Broadway powerhouse theatrical production company.
In the fall of 2012 the government of Chile, in conjunction with Wines of Chile, invited Rex to travel the length and breadth of their country, focusing on their emerging wine regions, and researching the writing of a third book in the Sideways series. Rex has just finished what he is titling Sideways 3 Chile and the book will come out in July of 2014.
In the summer of 2013, on the campus of his alma mater, UCSD — coincidentally also where the La Jolla Playhouse is situated — Rex’s papers were accepted by the Mandeville Special Collections in the Theodore Geisel Library where they are now archived for posterity.
Recently, Rex was contacted by the De Angelis Group, a large TV/Film entity based in Italy, and has been offered to travel there and write an original screenplay that will hopefully build a new Sideways brand. eOne Entertainment optioned a treatment titled Addicted USA, and that’s currently in development as a scripted TV show.
From two self-published books of poetry to two independent feature films, student shorts, screenplays — both feature and TV — to two published novels and now theater, Rex has written in practically every fictional form. (He has also won two travel journalism awards for articles written for Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine.) He is currently represented by William Morris Endeavor in theater and publishing, and by the Agency for the Performing Arts in screen and TV. He is managed by the former co-president of Untitled Entertainment, Brian Young. He has been a member of the Writers Guild of America since 1990 and the Dramatists Guild since 2012.