Oscars: How Damien Chazelle, Mel Gibson and Other Nominees "Started Dreaming of Being a Filmmaker"

9:30 AM 2/6/2017

by THR staff

Films from 'Cinderella' to 'Star Wars' inspired this year's helmers.

Cinderella_Star_Wars_Split - Photofest - H 2017
Courtesy of Photofest

  • Damien Chazelle

    "My dad was obsessed with music, so there was always a lot of jazz playing. Those [musicians] were the heroes in the house. But he had no interest in movies, really. I think the first movie I saw [when I was 2 or 3] was Cinderella, and it happened to be on TV. That's what I'm told, at least. I just sat and watched that over and over again. And I became one of those kids that very early on was glued to that experience of being just completely transported. So it started with the Disney movies I saw when I was at that age."

  • Mel Gibson

    "I didn't go to a big dark room of public dreaming [as a child]. I had a lot of brothers and sisters, and no one took us to the cinema, so my cinema experience was at home on a little black-and-white TV with one channel. And you just digested whatever came along. The 1970s for film just knocked my socks off. When I was a teenager, I'd go see the [Roman] Polanski films and the [Francis Ford] Coppola films and the ones by Don Siegel. I remember watching [Elia Kazan's] On the Waterfront, and it blew my socks off."

  • Barry Jenkins

    "Like any kid, I went to the movies on the weekend to see the blockbusters. But then I saw Chungking Express. I really liked how unique director Wong Kar-wai's voice was in that film. He opened my eyes for the first time to the possibilities of what movies could be. His movie didn't really influence my work with Moonlight, but it did affect my moviemaking in general. Another major influence later in my career was David Fincher's The Social Network. He took a story I assumed I knew and told it in an unexpected way."

  • Kenneth Lonergan

    "I always loved movies but never thought I'd direct one. My father used to take my brother and me to the movies every Sunday, and this was back when there were a lot of revival houses in New York. So I got to see everything, from To Have and Have Not to Casablanca to Serpico to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to The Godfather. I was just watching [Sidney Lumet's] Dog Day Afternoon, which I've probably seen more than 50 times, and every time, I see something in the directing that blows me away."

  • Denis Villeneuve

    "At 10, I dreamed of being both a knight and an astronaut, and [George Lucas'] Star Wars seemed to be the combination of both. I went to see it with my father and brother. We arrived late. The theater was very dark; C-3PO had been captured by the Jawas. We'd missed 20 minutes. Before I saw the movie again several months later, I had to imagine the beginning. I dreamt about those 20 minutes for a long time. That is when I lost my passion for medieval times and space travel and started dreaming of being a filmmaker."