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Alexander Payne was born in Rome, the son of a sculptor father and professor mother, and was raised largely in Scotland and Benin. He left Stanford after two years to work as a salmon fisherman, a bus driver, a pool man and a translator. A lifelong asthmatic, he moved to Nebraska for theraputic reasons and grew so fascinated by the rituals and customs of the American plains that he picked up a movie camera as a way of documenting them before they vanish forever. After seven feature films, he is currently at work on his second volume of poetry; his first, Shadings and Shadowings, was published in 1991.