Directors enjoy advising colleagues and explaining themselves as much as they do directing. The five finalists for the DGA’s top feature award dispensed advice and insight on an array of topics Saturday morning to a capacity crowd at the DGA’s 15th annual symposium at guild’s HQ.
Ang Lee, who won the DGA’s award Saturday night for “Brokeback Mountain,” emphasized the need to prepare without over-rehearsing. “You must allow life to happen on the set,” he added. “It’s somewhere between knowing and the unknown that you get the best results.”
Steven Spielberg said the worst part of “Munich” wasn’t the filmmaking at all. “The worst part of it was the six years of indecision on this,” he explained. “I have the Shoah Foundation and 52,000 Holocaust survivors. I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t want them to feel I was betraying any of their beliefs in this story, which touches every single color of the spectrum of how people feel about what’s happening today.”
George Clooney asserted that casting is a gut feeling, noting he never auditioned David Strathairn for the part of Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night, and Good Luck.” “There’s the weight of the world on David’s shoulders in every scene in every movie he ever does, and Murrow always felt like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Clooney said.
Bennett Miller said he was motivated by a desire to portray the price of passion in “Capote.” “I wanted to make a film that was sobering,” he noted. “So many of us have our passions and how that might intoxicate us and what we lose sight of in the pursuit of that. There’s going to be some kind of reckoning if you believe your character is your destiny and you’re going to face yourself and the consequences of what you’ve done.”
Paul Haggis had a simple motive in making “Crash.” “The theme is about how good people can do terrible things,” he said. “We can be the hero and the villain in our own lives.”
Lee generated big laughs when asked about dealing with hundreds of sheep. “It was hell,” he replied. “They’re not the smartest animal.”
Clooney said the toughest part of “Good Night” was screening it for his father, Nick Clooney, a news anchor for three decades. “You talk about film festivals and opening nights,” he added. “There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than a newsman watching a movie about the news. At the end, my dad walked by and said, ‘You got it right.’ ”
Spielberg recalled he didn’t know what was going to happen when Arab and Israeli actors re-created the Olympic athletes’ murders at the airport. When the first take was done, the actors began sobbing, and the other Israeli and Palestinian actors rushed in and all began hugging each other. “We were unglued, and I said peace is just around the corner waiting to happen,” he added.
Panel was moderated by Jeremy Kagan.