Combining intriguing moral and ethical metaphors with dark portraits of the underside of American life, writer and director Neil LaBute became one of the most controversial new filmmakers to emerge in the 1990s, offering a perspective that was intelligent and possessing a brutally clear focus.
Neil LaBute was born in Detroit, MI, on March 19, 1963. When LaBute was a child, his family moved to Spokane, WA, and during his high school days in the Pacific Northwest he developed a keen interest in both writing and theater. After graduating from high school, LaBute received a scholarship from Brigham Young University, a college in Provo, UT, which was founded and is still overseen by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known to many as the Mormons. LaBute received a degree in Theater and Film at B.Y.U., and converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while a student. LaBute went on to graduate work at the University of Kansas and New York University, and participated in a writing workshop at London's Royal Court Theatre, as well as attending the Sundance Institute's Playwright's Lab at N.Y.U. LaBute first began writing and staging original plays while studying at Brigham Young, and in 1993 he returned to B.Y.U. to premier his drama In the Company of Men, a startling and controversial tale of two businessmen who conspire to emotionally destroy a receptionist at their firm. In 1997, LaBute decided to adapt In the Company of Men for the screen, and on a budget of only 25,000 dollars, shot the film in two weeks in and around Fort Wayne, IN, with a friend from his college days, Aaron Eckhart, who played Chad, one of the businessmen. In the Company of Men was accepted at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, and to LaBute's surprise, it won the Filmmaker's Trophy as Best Dramatic Feature; the film was picked up for national distribution, and went on to gross 2.9 million dollars.