Interview with Sideways Author Rex Pickett

Sideways — the play — debuts on stage in Los Angeles, Calif.


For many wine lovers, Sideways is perhaps the most famous film ever made about wine. Based on a best-selling novel by American author Rex Pickett, it was released in 2004 and starred Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen. The movie won more than 100 awards, including an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay — and it set off an international passion for pinot noir that still shows no signs of letting up. Since the film’s release, Pickett has adapted his novel for theatre, and this month, Sideways — the play — will debut on stage. The Ruskin Group Theatre Company is presenting the show in Los Angeles, Calif. Opening night is May 18; the play is scheduled to run for 10 weeks.

When the play opens, will Pickett be on stage?

“Absolutely not. I’m not an actor! I wouldn’t sleep at all if I had to do that.”

How he found the inspiration to write Sideways:

“Really, it all started with golf. I used to be a great golfer when I was a kid, but I quit when I was 14. I got back into the game when I was older … but playing golf in L.A. is a drag unless you are rich, so I started going north.” North of Santa Barbara, that is, to La Purisima golf course, near Lompoc. “There was nobody on it. It was paradise. I played golf by myself. I was broke but I’d go up and come back in a day. That’s about 300 miles [480 kilometres] of driving, so I’d say to myself, ‘Maybe I should just stay overnight and get a cheap motel.’ I’m a creature of habit and I’d stay at the Windmill Inn. Then I needed a place to eat. There was the Hitching Post and there was nobody there midweek. I’d go have a burger, a couple of glasses of wine and a place to stay. For $150, my life was really good. “Now you can’t even get in.”

How he learned his technical wine knowledge:

“There was a little wine shop near me, where, on Saturdays from 3 to 5 o’clock, they’d pour wines. I was so lonely and depressed, I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t ask a girl on a date, but for four dollars, I could go taste wine…But there’s only so much you can learn by drinking. The Oxford Companion to Wine, Sideways owes a great deal to that book. You just go to the topics you’re interested in, and you dive right in.”

What’s next for Pickett:

“I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at the North American Wine Bloggers conference [Aug. 17 to 19 in Portland, Ore.],” he says. “And my ultimate dream would be to direct Vertical [the movie followup to his second novel].

For the full interview, visit Watch for an essay by Pickett in the August-September issue of Wine Access.

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