Directors in the Oscar race

Perhaps best known for penning Universal’s Jason Bourne franchise, Gilroy had to wait nearly a decade to see his directorial debut hit the screen. He’d initially pitched “Michael Clayton” to Castle Rock, the production company for which he’d written “Dolores Clayborne” and “Extreme Measures.” “Michael Clayton” eventually got made with the help of, among others, friend Steven Soderbergh, Sydney Pollack and George Clooney. “I didn’t go to college, and I’m very autodidactic,” Gilroy says. “I found the people who would teach me.”

GENESIS: “I pitched it eight years ago. It turned into a much more ambitious and tougher project. It then went out in loose turnaround from (Castle Rock) and wandered around for a while. I had Steven, Sidney and Castle Rock in the background, and even with all that firepower, we wandered around for another two years. I changed agencies and went to CAA … that was the booster rocket. I abandoned the low-budget version, and I begged to get a meeting with George.”

VISION: “My temptation in the beginning would have been to show off, but by the time I was making this film, the urge was to do anything but show off. The mantra was: beautiful but not pretty at all. Electric but very still. Those contradictions were the sort of DNA that I wanted to follow.”

CHALLENGES: “To get George. After that, life got pretty simple. (Initially) Soderbergh sent it to George, who came back right away and passed. He said, ‘I don’t want to work with a first-time director.’ But George was always the prize.”

MAGIC: “The location for the scene with George in the police station, where Tom knocks on glass, was a second choice. There had been a snowstorm, and we had to melt a vast quantity of snow to shoot the scene outside with Tom. It was in the heart of the show, and the crew felt confident. It was one of 25 lucky grabs.”

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