THR's Directors Roundtable: How to Fire People, Who to Steal From, and Amy Pascal's Secret Advice

 Joe Pugliese

Six auteurs reveal personal war stories and what makes a great movie in the second of THR's annual awards season series discussions.

THR: Who influences you most?

Payne: What does that mean to have an influence? Every time I'm asked that question, I'm nonplussed. Nothing and everything.

THR: For instance, Bob Zemeckis says that before he makes a film, he watches The Godfather. (Laughter.) Why do you laugh?

Reitman: Two things. One: watching The Godfather makes me not want to make movies. Why would I possibly want to make movies after watching something as brilliant as that? And for me, the biggest influences aren't movies that I see, it's life experiences -- the girl who wouldn't go on a date with me when I was a teen -- it's that shit that finds its way in and influences your daily decisions.

Mills: I am definitely writing letters to lots of directors in my mind when I'm making a film. I'm chasing Woody Allen and Godard and Milos Forman and all these people.

Reitman: Maybe that's the better question: Who are you chasing?

THR: OK, who are you chasing?

Reitman: Alexander.

Payne: Don't burden me with that.

McQueen: I'm just trying to do as much as I can before I fall down.

Hazanavicius: Billy Wilder is my favorite. But you can't think, "What would he do?" You're the only one who has the answers.

Payne: Except I would say that the films we've seen and loved operate as a vague mental spice rack for a mood.

Hazanavicius: I steal things, I really do. It's not that kind of "influence."

Payne: Concretely?

Hazanavicius: Concretely, yes. I have a breakfast sequence [in The Artist], it's exactly the Citizen Kane breakfast sequence. Exactly the same.

Payne: What the hell -- why not? Citizen Ruth is trying to be Ace in the Hole, and a bit of Viridiana, and it fails. Election is made by a guy who was drunkenly in love with Casino, and I still am. About Schmidt is chasing Ikiru and Wild Strawberries and The Graduate. Sideways is trying to be an early '60s Italian comedy, like Il Sorpasso, but with the mood of a '70s American film.

Mills: That spice rack -- it's very conscious, it's not a secret and everybody does it.

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