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Alexander Payne (born Constantine Alexander Payne; February 10, 1961) is an American film director and screenwriter, known for films like Sideways (2004) and Election (1999). His films are noted for their dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society. Payne was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Peggy (née Constantine) and George Payne, restaurant owners. He is of Greek descent (his grandfather Anglicized the last name from Papadopoulos). He was the youngest of three sons and grew up in the same neighborhood as billionaire Warren Buffett. Payne attended Creighton Preparatory School high school and later Stanford University, where he double majored in Spanish and History. As a part of his Spanish degree, he studied at the University of Salamanca (Spain). Payne got his MFA in 1990 from the UCLA Film School. Payne worked in various capacities on films and television before he wrote and directed his first full-length film Citizen Ruth in 1996. His film Election, starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, which takes aim at politics and education in America, attracted attention when New Yorker film critic David Denby named it the best film of 1999.