DGA Awards TV contenders
EmptyTop DGA Awards TV contenders reveal the nuances of getting the scene just right.
On how he keeps stars Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss loose on the set of "Mad Men" (AMC):
"We were doing a conference room scene in which Jon's and Elisabeth's characters are pitching a campaign for their client Martinson's Coffee. The music gets turned on, and they start the pitch. Except I asked both of them, privately, if, when the music kicks in, they would start dancing around the room instead of doing the pitch. So the music starts, they wait a couple of beats, and then they go right into dancing. And they totally keep a straight face, as if this is just the most natural thing in the world. Meanwhile, our guest star doesn't freak out. He plays right along and maintains this sort of detached observation, as if this is exactly what he's expecting. It was all just priceless and really indicative of the kind of fun you can still have even within the parameters of shooting a very ambitious show.
On re-creating Revolution-era America for "John Adams" (HBO):
"If you had said to me that I had to film the midwinter Atlantic sea battle in a half-built boat perched on a hill in a Virginian state prison farm 200 miles from the ocean in the middle of summer, I would have been surprised. Seeing it from the fields below, it looked like some latter-day Virginian Noah was halfway through building his ark. Yet a $100 million budget on a 108-day schedule is not what it seems. That half-built boat on a hill became the backdrop of the Boston wharf, a tea ship caught up in a tarring and feathering, a French man-o'-war and the boat in which Paul Giamatti's Adams returns home to the first election. All without being able to rock it or move it."
On how Hugh Laurie can sometimes double as a visual effects maestro on "House" (Fox):
"I was directing this episode 'Last Resort' that just aired in November. Toward the end of the shoot, we were doing this big explosion that creates a hole in the hospital wall. I wanted to see the dust particles moving through the air following the blast, and our crew had to rig this whole elaborate setup just to get a little dust in the air. Everyone on the set is wearing masks and the whole crew is just busting up in laughter because it's going on so long. Finally, Hugh bends down, picks up some dust, walks up to two of our effects guys, hands them the dust and says: 'Here -- on "Action!" just throw this stuff in the air, will you? That's all she really wants.' So that's what we did on the next take. And of course, it worked."
On the small joys of directing "30 Rock" (NBC):
"Jon Hamm from 'Mad Men' is currently doing a few episodes with us as (Tina Fey's) love interest. We were on the set, and there's Tina all dolled up before we rolled. The hair and makeup folks swarm in for a last-minute head-to-toe fluff of Tina. I said, 'It's tough being the babe, huh?' She points at Jon and replies, 'I hope you're talking to him.' Moments like that confirm for me that this is the greatest job I've ever had. Here's another one: When I was directing Oprah Winfrey in the season's second episode, she stopped suddenly and asked me, 'How do I play the Oprah Winfrey character?' I replied, 'Earnestly.'"
On the occasional surrealism of directing "Recount" (HBO):
"When we were shooting in Florida, we often found ourselves bumping into the real state supreme court justices who were figures in the 2000 recount. Their spokesman, Craig Waters, was standing there next to us while we were shooting on the same steps where he made the announcement about the decision for the recount to go forward. Then when we were done with that shot, he went back to work in that same office. Every day we'd bump into somebody new who was actually there. As a director, I have to say that having all of these people nearby -- or, in some cases, looking over our shoulder -- was probably valuable in keeping me focused and on my toes. Yet at the same time, it was a little unnerving. It drove home to me that there was a lot riding on our getting it right. If we ever forgot that, the real players weren't shy about reminding us."
Compiled by Matthew Belloni, Alex Ben Block, Shannon L. Bowen, Todd Longwell and Ray Richmond.