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Class Notes May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

'Sideways' to the Golden Globes
Rex Pickett, ’76


If you’ve been lucky enough to savor the movie Sideways you now know the finer points of a good glass of pinot and when to avoid merlot.

The novel by Rex Pickett, ’76, is the story of two former college roommates and their wine-soaked romantic adventures in the Santa Inez Valley. Pickett’s college buddies were originally from UCSD but in the movie they became San Diego State alumni. “I wish the director hadn’t changed it,” says Pickett, with a wicked chuckle. “When I went to UCSD, we were the elite, and they were the beer-drinking party heads.”

Pickett’s novel had one of those sickening roller coaster Hollywood journeys.

“I actually wrote it in 1998, and my agent flipped for it,” Pickett says. “We went out to Hollywood and the publishing industry at the same time, and neither of them bit. The publishing industry hated it, and my publishing agent wanted me to rewrite it. And then my film agent had a nervous breakdown.” That would have probably been the end of it, except that nine months later, director Alexander Payne retrieved the manuscript from his reading pile and optioned it.

Pickett, who is a screenwriter as well as a novelist, won the Oscar for Best Short Film with his 1999 script My Mother Dreams the Satan’s Disciples in New York, directed by his ex-wife Barbara Schock, ’78. He also wrote and directed the 1989 movie From Hollywood to Deadwood. He recalls starting his film career at UCSD with two “experimental” movies of 15 minutes and 75 minutes duration. “UCSD was great,” Pickett says. “And one of the greatest influences on my life was Manny Farber. His film classes were unbelievable. Sideways is actually a sojourn movie... it’s influenced by Manny Farber and what happened in UCSD. I give him a lot of credit for where I am today.”

The movie is thrilling audiences and critics alike. Roger Ebert wrote, “at the end of the movie we feel like seeing
it again,” and Rolling Stone pronounced it “pure movie bliss.” It also garnered a whopping seven Golden Globe nominations in mid-December. Sideways has obviously struck a chord and Pickett’s career has jump-started. “I have more emails, more agents, more opportunities and for once in my life, they’re going to pay me to write a book,” he says whimsically. “I have a book agent. I have a film agent. I also have a former agent who is now my personal manager.”

And a glass of good pinot as well!

— R.H.

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“When I went to UCSD, we were the elite, and they were the beer-drinking party heads.”