Directors love giving advice to colleagues.
The five finalists for the DGA’s top feature award — Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”), Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”), Taylor Hackford (“Ray”), Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) and Martin Scorsese (“The Aviator”) — dispensed nuggets of wisdom Saturday morning to a capacity crowd at the guild’s 14th annual three-hour symposium at DGA headquarters.
Among the most notable:
- Take it easy with child actors. “Children are the greatest actors in the world if you just don’t rehearse them and beat them up,” said Eastwood, who went on to win the DGA award Saturday night. “If you start to wear them down, they’ll become the stiffest, the worst, like they have a Hollywood mother leaning over their shoulders.”
- Harmony helps. “You had the feeling of an employee-owned cooperative,” Payne said of his ‘Sideways.” “We shot a 140-page script in 49 days, rarely working a 12-hour day, and came in a day under with great harmony.”
- Stay in the U.S. “I don’t think there’s going to be any reason to take a film to Canada very soon,” said Hackford, referring to his decision to shoot “Ray” in Louisiana and the increase of government incentives for filmmakers. “This film deals with the African-American milieu. I needed this film to be made in the South; I needed my extras to be real Americans, not Canadians.”
- Get the details right. “For Cate Blanchett, I screened every one of Katharine Hepburn’s films in 35mm, from ‘Bill of Divorcement’ up through ‘The Philadelphia Story,’ ” Scorsese recalled. “We also watched the later interviews with Dick Cavett to get a sense of the strength and yet the vulnerability.”
- Connect with the cast. “I felt I needed to have kids after I worked with them,” said Forster, who got a big laugh recounting that his young star Freddie Highmore wanted to act because his favorite soccer player had been a child actor.
- Go with your gut. “This is all done by feel,” Eastwood said. “It’s not any great intellectual exercise.”
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Panel was hosted for the 14th consecutive year by Jeremy Kagan.