Alan Ball was born on May 13, 1957 in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in the suburb of Marietta. Ball was an undergraduate student of the Florida State University School of Theatre, but did not receive a diploma. He told reporters he started writing and producing his own work at FSU and has been doing so since.
Ball started out by writing for the TV show Cybill, starring Cybill Shepherd, and he stated that he based the horrific suburban wife character played by Annette Bening in American Beauty on Shepherd, who has earned a reputation, from both male and female co-workers, for being extremely difficult to work with. He also created Oh, Grow Up, a sitcom that aired on ABC in 1999 but was canceled after only eleven episodes had aired. Ball has also written scripts for stage plays such as Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Bachelor Holiday, Power Lunch and Your Mother’s Butt.
In 2004, he acquired the film rights to the Alicia Erian novel Towelhead, published on April 6, 2005, and he announced that he would write the screenplay and direct the film, which would start production in 2006 after having wrapped up the fifth and final season of Six Feet Under. The film wrapped shooting in November 2006 and is based on the novel about a young Arab-American woman growing up in Texas who struggles with her identity, just as she falls for a bigoted Army Reservist during the Gulf War. Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette and Maria Bello star, and newcomer Summer Bishil plays the protagonist. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2007 under the title Nothing Is Private. “To me, it’s a story of personal courage,” Ball tells Time Out magazine, “claiming responsibility to be who you are at a very early age and without proper role models to guide you.”
In January 2007, the premier of his play All That I Will Ever Be opened at New York Theatre Workshop in New York City.