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He also teamed up once again with writing partner Jim Taylor to write a draft of the screenplay for the film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, a comedy directed by Dennis Dugan, and starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James.Payne disliked the final product, stating that Adam Sandler rewrote so much of the story that almost all of what Payne and Taylor wrote was gone.He later lived a few months in Medellin, Colombia, where he published an article about social changes between 19.A short time after getting his MFA from UCLA Film School—and after his successful thesis film, The Passion of Martin had attracted industry attention—Payne got a writing/directing deal with Universal Pictures.Some unexpected life experience forces the central male figure to "crack" and see the world in a new and surprising way.This theme appears in Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, The Descendants, and to a lesser extent in Nebraska, via the son, one of two main characters.

In total, Sideways received five Academy Award nominations.

The ensuing screenplay, which was turned down, would ultimately become About Schmidt.

Payne worked in various capacities on films and television before he co-wrote and directed his first full-length film, Citizen Ruth (1996).

Payne was also executive producer of the acclaimed 2014 film Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter directed by David Zellner.

Payne's films often revolve around middle-aged or older men who reach a breaking point in their lives, enter into transformative existential crises, and then emerge in the end as changed people, for better or worse.

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