THR's Directors Roundtable: How to Fire People, Who to Steal From, and Amy Pascal's Secret Advice
Six auteurs reveal personal war stories and what makes a great movie in the second of THR's annual awards season series discussions.
THR: Steve, you have some extraordinarily difficult themes in Shame, plus full nudity. How do you get the trust of the actors to do that?
McQueen They're actors. They use their bodies to act, like dancers. That's what they have to do. If I was making the movie in 1951 as opposed to 2011, [Michael Fassbender's character would] be wearing pajamas, but a lot of people don't wear pajamas, so he walks around in the apartment naked, drinks a glass of water, goes to the bathroom, has a shower. It's so obvious. It's not a shocker, is it?
THR: Well, the film is quite shocking, isn't it?
McQueen: Not particularly. We all have sex, we all see what Michael and Carey [Mulligan] have, as far as being naked. Maybe because it's onscreen it's shocking, but that's maybe because it hasn't been portrayed on screen. What's unfamiliar, at least to me, is someone with a gun shooting someone in the head. I think we made a film that was responsible. I don't care -- NC-17? Brilliant! Fantastic! Bring it on! I take full responsibility for it. I think most violent films are not responsible, they are completely opposite of responsible. Film should reflect real life. Otherwise, what's the point? Just make superhero movies all the time.
THR: So what bothers you on the screen?
McQueen: A crappy movie.
THR: Mike, you had a particularly tough time getting Beginners off the ground. Is that because part of the story is autobiographical?
Mike Mills: It took me three-and-a-half or four years to get financing. I got to hear "no" in every language. Finally I got the nerve to ask Ewan [McGregor to star] and lo and behold, he's the coolest guy, totally easy to talk to. He did it for scale and becomes a great friend.
THR: Like the Christopher Plummer character, your dad announced that he was gay at 75. How did you take that?
Mills: I had some information as an 18-year-old that maybe my dad was gay, but my parents were married for 44 years. My dad was born in 1925, wore a suit and tie everyday, he voted for Reagan, he didn't seem like a gay guy, and I have many gay friends. So when he came out, that was great. If anything, it made him much more interesting, and it explained a whole hell of a lot. What was weird was that my dad was a horny 75-year-old. But Christopher is not my dad, films aren't reality at all, even when you're trying to document something very concrete and small that did happen.
Michel Hazanavicius: I don't try to ape reality, but there's something about life, even if it's a metaphor or if it's a completely invented story, you try to speak of life and of reality.
THR: How did the idea for The Artist come about?
Hazanavicius: The first attraction was for the [silent movie] format, not for the story itself. When you were talking about Ryan O'Neal, you said less is more. This is exactly the principle of a silent movie. As an audience, that [format] makes the movie really close to you because it's your own world, it's your own dialogue, it's your own voices. I believe that there are a lot of directors who have this fantasy to make a silent movie.
Payne: I want to kill you because you beat me to it.
THR: Mike, you're married to filmmaker Miranda July. How much does she influence your work?
Mills: We're married and we're directors, but we never talk about it. I love her because she's not work and she's not all this stuff. Of course, I like her work and we like each other's, but it's different; we go on our own path.