Samuel Alexander "Sam" Mendes, CBE (born 1 August 1965) is an English stage and film director. He is best known for his Academy Award-winning work on his debut film American Beauty (1999) and his dark re-inventions of the stage musicals Cabaret (1994), Oliver! (1994), Company (1996) and Gypsy (2003).
Mendes was born in Reading, Berkshire to Valerie Helene (née Barnett), an author of children's books, and Jameson Peter Mendes, a university professor. His father is from Trinidad's ethnic Portuguese community, and his mother an English Jew. His grandfather is the Trinidadian writer Alfred Mendes. He attended Magdalen College School, Oxford and later he graduated from Cambridge with a BA in English.
Mendes first attracted attention for his production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard in the West End which starred Judi Dench before he was twenty-five years old. Soon he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where his productions, many of them featuring Simon Russell Beale, included Troilus and Cressida, Richard III and The Tempest.