March 19, 1963
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Director, Playwright, Screenwriter
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Neil LaBute was a prolific American playwright, screenwriter, and director who was best known for writing and directing the 1997 black comedy "In the Company of Men," which was adapted from LaBute's award-winning play of the same name. Born in Detroit and raised in Spokane, Washington, LaBute grew up in a working class family (his mother was a secretary, while his father drove a long haul truck for a living). Yet, despite being culturally disconnected from creative hubs like New York or Los Angeles, LaBute knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a writer. He entered Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah at 18 and enrolled in the university's theater program. It was there that LaBute met a young actor named Aaron Eckhart; the two would later go on to become longtime creative collaborators. After graduating from BYU LaBute did his graduate studies at the University of Kansas and New York University, all while developing his voice as a playwright. In 1993 LaBute returned to his alma mater by premiering his play "In the Company of Men" at BYU. Although the play touched on dark themes of misogyny and sexism in the workplace, "In the Company of Men" was critically praised and even went on to receive an award at the university. Encouraged by the accolades bestowed upon his breakout theatrical work, LaBute, who was teaching drama at a college in Indiana at the time, decided to adapt "In the Company of Men" into a film. Shot with a small budget of $25,000 over the course of two weeks, the film version of "In the Company of Men", which starred LaBute's old college buddy Aaron Eckhart, premiered in 1997 to universal acclaim. With his newfound success in the film world, LaBute began prolifically writing and directing films over the next several years. Some of LaBute's films from this period include "Possession" (2002), "The Wicker Man" (2006), and "Lakeview Terrace" (2008). Furthermore, throughout his filmmaking period, LaBute never stopped writing and staging plays, some of which he also adapted into short films and features. By the 2010s LaBute also began writing for television. He created the Audience Network series "Full Circle" (Audience Network, 2013) and also created the comedy series "Billy & Billie" (Audience Network, 2015-16). In 2018 Netflix announced that it had picked up the science fiction series "The I-Land" (Netflix, 2019). The streaming service also announced that the series, which starred Kate Bosworth, had hired LaBute as its showrunner.