Like actor-director John Cassavetes before him, John Sayles is an indie film renaissance man. A protege of Roger Corman, Sayles' introduction to Hollywood was one of the no-budget schlocky variety. A year after penning the script for the cult classic Piranha, Sayles put up $30,000 of his own money to shoot Return of the Secaucus 7 (the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1997).

As part of this low-budget heritage, Sayles played a role in his debut feature, and has continued to pop up in parts big and small. Perhaps most impressively, Sayles is totally able to hold his own against the acclaimed pros in his stable of actors, including Chris Cooper and David Strathairn.