Family & Companions
Award-winning American Indian poet, short story writer and novelist Sherman Alexie is an enrolled member of the Spokane tribe who grew up on the reservation about 50 miles from Spokane, Washington. Though he first attracted attention for his poetry, he earned increasing praise and interest from the film industry for his prose, but he rejected offers from producers who wanted to cast dark-skinned whites, choosing to wait for an Indian to come forward who would share his vision for a film. NYU-trained director Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne-Arapaho, contacted Alexie through a mutual friend after discovering his work, and together they developed material from his 1993 short story collection "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" at the 1995 Sundance Filmmakers and Screenwriters Lab. The result was the short "Somebody Kept Saying Powwow," culled from the second act of what would become the feature "Smoke Signals."
The first major film written by, directed by and starring American Indians, Eyre's "Smoke Signals" premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and carried off the Audience Award and the Dramatic Filmmaker's Trophy. Capturing the dark comedy of reservation life, where broken-down cars run only in reverse and men theorize about the reason John Wayne's teeth are not visible, it follows two males who leave "the rez" on a road trip of personal enlightenment. The filmmakers hope to do for Indians what Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" did for African-Americans in terms of inspiring would-be Native filmmakers to believe in themselves. Considered one of the top 20 novelists under 40, Alexie plans to keep mixing movies and literature, aspiring to a career like that of the multi-talented John Sayles. In 2002, his directorial debut, "The Business of Fancydancing," loosely based on his book of poetry and short stories, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Director (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Gave up liquor at age 23 after spending much of college in an alcoholic stupor ("One of those Indians upholding the stereotype"), has not had a drink since (date approximate)
Found a publisher in NYC, Hanging Loose Press, which brought out "The Business of Fancydancing", a book of poetry
Published award-winning collection of stories, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven"
Together with American Indian director Chris Eyre, began developing material at the Sundance Filmmakers and Screenwriters Lab, resulting in the short, "Somebody Kept Saying Powwow", culled from the second act of the longer script that would become "Smoke Signals"
Published first novel, "Reservation Blues"
Second novel, "Indian Killer"; ShadowCatcher Entertainment (producer of "Smoke Signals") has agreed to produce a movie adaptation written and directed by Alexie
Named by Granta magazine as one of the 20 best American novelists under 40
"Smoke Signals", adapted from material in "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven", premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the Audience Award and the Dramatic Filmmaker's Trophy; in addition to writing the screenplay, Alexie provided lyrics for five songs in the movie, four written and performed by Colville Indian singer Jim Boyd, the other written and performed by Eaglebear Singers; also co-produced
Feature directorial debut, "The Business of Fancydancing"; screened at Sundance