The Hollywood Reporter's annual roundtables are in full effect.
An eclectic crew of mostly white guys talk about movies in this year's Director Roundtable, including Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs), Tom Hooper (The Danish Girl), Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant), David O. Russell (Joy), Ridley Scott (The Martian) and Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight).
Despite the fact that it seems we see a lot of the same faces each year in these things, it's still inherently fascinating watching these directors shoot the shit. They cover the state of cinema, career challenges, working with actors and their favorite movie-making movies. If nothing else, it's worth watching for Ridley Scott's story about getting 17 hours of helicopter footage from Stanley Kubrick for the end of Blade Runner.
The State of Cinema
The tone of these directors' outlook on the state of cinema is something we've heard before: the middle class is gone and there's way too many films. Tarantino brings up an interesting point as well: movies used to be a medium for the "working class," but with ticket prices steadily rising it's priced out a lot of people from going to the theaters. Not only that, but the films that are being released aren't giving people enough of a reason to leave their homes.
Ridley Scott admits that there were no challenges in making The Martian. From his experience directing 2,000 commercials, making feature films was "pretty straightforward." Ridley became adept at seeing problems and dealing with them before they happen. "Watch the problem coming over the horizon and knock its head off before it gets near you."
Working With Actors
Great directors are nothing without the actors who bring their characters to life, and these guys had a lot to say about their physical counterparts. Tarantino learned early on from Harvey Keitel to not give direction to actors in the first reading of a part. Recalling a conversation he had with Keitel during Reservoir Dogs: "An adjustment is the easiest thing in the world to give, but let them give it their first shot." Tarantino stuck with this rule for over 20 years afterwards.
Innaritu and Hooper explain what it means to work with a veteran actor who are able to zoom out and see the entire film — not their own part within it. "You can tell an actor what you want, but the tempo that has, the pace..." Innaritu says. "Even if you block 100 times, there is an internal rhythm to actors. Leo has an internal rhythm like a machine, and I was very impressed by that." Hooper adds "If you're open to it, the really great actors have a director's mind as well as an actor's mind."
Regrets / No Going Backwards
Directors can be very romantic at heart, their films being documents of their innermost dreams. This can get in the way of the pragmatic needs of a set, Innaritu has learned:
Sometimes I would have loved to make decisions earlier than later. I have learned that when something is not working on set, it will get worse. Sometimes I delay those decisions because I want to be hopeful, or I want to give it a chance, or I'm hiding myself attending other priorities. Sometimes I'm a little bit romantic and that can backfire.
Tarantino and Innaritu also express something I found important: once you've established the rules and language of your film there's no going backwards. "When you are rock climbing, you go up or you die," Innaritu says.