In the late '70s, the Williams College graduate caught the attention of producer Roger Corman with his novels and stories. Corman hired Sayles to write such B-movie favorites as Piranha and Alligator (1980). Sayles used that as a springboard for his own projects, starting with the well-received Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980).
Lianna, Baby It's You and The Brother from Another Planet (1984) were critical and art house hits, while Matewan and Eight Men Out (1988) broke through to wider audiences. Sayles earned Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominations for two of his most important films, Passion Fish (1992) and Lone Star (1996).