Alexander Payne grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He studied history and Spanish literature at Stanford University before earning an MFA in film at the University of California, Los Angeles. Payne has made eight feature films, including Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011), and Nebraska (2013). His films have been nominated for a total of nineteen Academy Awards, including three times each for Best Picture and Best Director. He has won two Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay (for Sideways and The Descendants), and two of his films have won the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Sideways and About Schmidt). His most recent film, The Holdovers (2023), had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.