You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

For Veteran Directors, Personal Style Never Compromises Fresh Approaches

For veteran directors in this year's Oscar race, personal style never compromises fresh approaches to their work.

After 23 studio releases, master filmmaker Ridley Scott begins each new project the exact same way. The iconic director, whose fall blockbuster “The Martian” has earned Scott his best reviews in years, still sits down and sketches out every single shot in his movies the old-fashioned way — on paper.

“I start quick on pencil and then I fill in with these gray felt tips with a fine felt tip. I do the whole film,” Scott says. “ ‘Black Hawk Down,’ that was a nightmare, 11 cameras. I’d do each fragment of what I wanted. There were three cameras in each corner. So, I would just put my head down and sketch, ‘This, this, this, this.’”

Scott’s approach appears to be consistent over the years, but many of his peers, such as Todd Haynes and Danny Boyle, have their own perspective on tackling new films. Haynes took on the directing duties of the early ’50s drama “Carol” aware that one of his most acclaimed and well-known pictures, “Far From Heaven,” was set toward the end of the same decade. But Haynes says if you assume he has a “thing” for that era you’re mistaken. In his mind “Heaven” was filtered through the language of high melodrama backlot filmmaking, while “Carol” was inspired by the photo documentation and journalism prevalent in 1952. That being said, he made sure he didn’t reference his previous work.

Haynes recalls walking into the color-timing suite where cinematographer Edward Lachman was already hard at work adjusting a number of shots. Realizing the color palette looked slightly too familiar, he said he immediately told the d.p.: “ ‘Wait! Ed, that’s “Far From Heaven.” And he was like, ‘Omigod. You’re right.’ We were both like, ‘No, it’s not Technicolor. It’s not over saturation.’ It’s about this more subtle, more soiled color palette that we both love and he totally dug.”

For the always-energetic Boyle, who won the director Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire,” it’s hard to fathom a signature style because his goal is to address each film with a “certain naiveté.”

“When you arrive at the question of ‘Hey, how you going to direct it?’ You want to have a sort of freshness and innocence about you,” Boyle says. “You’re not feeling overconfident really about how you do it because you are trying to discover it through that process and a lot of it, for me, is that you try and work through the actors more.”

Like Haynes, however, Boyle is smart enough to realize when the viewer may recognize a reference to an earlier film, even if it’s not an intended one. Hence the unexpected “Steve Jobs” and “Trainspotting” connection moviegoers may have caught.

In the Universal Pictures biopic there is a scene where star Michael Fassbender, as Jobs, is doing yoga. Before filming commenced Boyle recalls thinking, ‘‘He’s upside down, why is that?’ And you could track that back and I do remember thinking, ‘We’re not gonna do that? Bloody hell, no, it looks great. Let’s do this.’ It’s an important moment where Jobs appears to have everything he wants and you show him upside (down) to just sort of cast some doubts on that, I suppose.”

Like Haynes, Boyle’s perspective is that the material dictates how a scene is filmed and if that reminds audiences of a previous picture he helmed? Well, so be it.

A relatively new director compared to many in the awards-season mix, Scott Cooper has already made a name for himself guiding standout performances from some of Hollywood’s most talented actors including Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart,” Zoe Saldana in “Out of the Furnace” and, most recently, Johnny Depp in “Black Mass.” He is purposely sticking to a directing style that he hopes trumps any signature aesthetic.

“The kind of films I hope to make are the kind of films where you don’t feel the director’s hand. I don’t like the audience to recognize or feel the camera,” Cooper says. “It’s much easier to move the camera than not and I have a much more restrained cinematic style that allows my actors to flourish and allows the world to feel it’s not being overly manipulated.”

On the flip side, legendary director George Miller reminds directors both young and old that no matter what your initial plan was, once you get on set “you’ve got to be able to adjust it.”

Miller adds, “You’re driven by the story and the characters. And you’re driven by the technical realities of what you’re trying to achieve. So, if you’re sitting there thinking about what the fans will think that’s another voice that you don’t need to hear.”

After 30 years of diving into more serious drama and fetching an Academy Award for the animated feature “Happy Feet,” Miller returned to the post-apocalyptic world that announced his arrival in global cinema with “Mad Max: Fury Road.” The critically lauded epic took over a decade to get off the ground, but Miller realizes that with any artistic endeavor fit for public consumption at some point all those years of work will belong to someone else — the audience.\

“Someone said to me, once a film gets out there and people respond to it in different ways then it’s no longer the filmmaker’s story, it’s everybody’s story,’” Miller says. “You have to think about putting all your skills and wisdoms into the process. What comes out on the other end people are going to grab hold of or not.”

More Film

  • Sam Mendes

    Sam Mendes' World War I Drama '1917' Set for Awards-Season Launch on Christmas 2019

    Universal Pictures has given an awards-season release date of Dec. 25, 2019, to Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1971.” Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners is producing “1917” through its DreamWorks Pictures brand. “1917” will open in limited release on Christmas Day then go wide two weeks later on Jan. 10, 2020. Mendes wrote the script [...]

  • Ventana Sur Queer Latin Film Panel

    Ventana Sur: Panel Talks Merits, Setbacks in Latin Queer Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES — Four venerable professionals from the cinema world joined on Monday evening for Queer Cinema In Latin America, a frank discussion on Latin America’s role within the queer filmscape for Ventana Sur’s Industry conference series held at the UCA campus in Buenos Aires. Touching on advancements in character arc and notable achievements in [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez 'Absolutely' Wants to Direct Film and Television

    Jennifer Lopez epitomizes the phrase “she’s done it all” — but there’s still more that the superstar would like to do. Lopez recently directed her first music video, “Limitless,” the track featured on her new rom-com “Second Act,” and it seems the multi-hyphenate has caught the directing bug. “Absolutely, absolutely,” Lopez responded when asked by [...]

  • Daniel Craig

    Rian Johnson's Murder Mystery 'Knives Out,' Starring Daniel Craig, Set for Thanksgiving Release

    Lionsgate has bought distribution rights to Daniel Craig’s murder mystery “Knives Out” and set a Thanksgiving release date of Nov. 27. MRC financed “Knives Out,” directed by Rian Johnson — best known for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Lionsgate will also distribute the pic worldwide. The movie came together during the Toronto International Film Festival [...]

  • The favourite Movie

    Olivia Colman to Be Honored by Palm Springs Festival for 'The Favourite'

    “The Favourite” star Olivia Colman will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award by the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The award will be presented by her co-star Emma Stone at the festival’s awards gala on Jan. 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival, now in its 30th year, runs from Jan. 3 to [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Motion Pictures Academy Announces Scientific and Technical Awards

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced nine scientific and technical achievements, represented by 27 individual recipients, to be honored at the annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation Feb. 9 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. In addition, Curtis Clark will be receiving the John A. Bonner Award for his service [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content