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David Poland

By David Poland

Happy Monday

Still in Seattle…
There are many reasons I love this town and this festival. The tone, the variety, the filmmaker experience… the people, the restaurants, the art…
Last night, after a quiet, pleasurable filmmakers’ dinner, in a restaurant with a live sax/piano combo playing all evening, I ran into my two first “have you seen anything great here?” films of this year’s experience.

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10 Responses to “Happy Monday”

  1. Toby Kwimper says:

    Another reason ‘The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner’ is only 37 minutes long is that the Academy limit for short docs is 40 mins, and HBO is very good at making sure its docs qualify for Oscars. As this one did.

  2. Hallick says:

    I can’t for the life of me think of what the Oscar push was for Paprika Steen last year.

  3. Stella's Boy says:

    Speaking of HBO documentaries, my wife and I watched I Knew It Was You the other night. Totally fascinating. It was about 40 minutes (imagine that) and I wish it was twice as long. Hackman, Pacino, De Niro, Streep, Lumet, Coppola, Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Savage. Good stuff.

  4. chris says:

    What’s with the “both dangerous for film critics?” I can think of at least a dozen first-timers who were actors-turned directors who did great work. Orson Welles made a pretty decent movie, for instance.

  5. Sam says:

    In the actors-turned-directors category, I can actually think of a lot more who directed good/great movies than bad. Welles, Keaton, Chaplin, Eastwood, Redford, Gibson, Hopper, Laughton, Polley, Buscemi, Lupino, Stallone, Stiller, Branagh, Nimoy, and two Reiners have done some fine work. For crying out loud, Ben Affleck made one of the best films of 2007.
    I had to think much harder to come up with failed actors-turned-directors. Of course some of the above have done bad work as well as good. But it seems like the jump from acting to directing is one that tends to work.

  6. Foamy Squirrel says:

    There’s the problem of survivorship bias though – you see and remember the ones that are good, but the ones that are bad tend to be less successful so you’re less likely to see them (let alone remember, unless they’re Uwe Boll-level terrible). Heck, there’s a good chance they might not even find a distributor to break out of the fest circuit.
    Just saying – memory ain’t the greatest guide as to whether actors make good (or bad) directors.
    Although to DP’s other point, looking at Sam’s list for successful actor-directors, the majority of their magnum opuses seem to come towards the start of their directing career. Welles – Citizen Kane, Gibson – Braveheart, Branagh – Henry V, Rob Reiner – Spinal Tap (Good Men is arguably more famous, but mostly on the performance of Cruise/Nicholson rather than direction).
    Who and what are some examples of actor-directors whose best pieces come later in their directing career? Clint Eastwood with Unforgiven, Chaplin with Great Dictator could be one but the format of film changed so dramatically over his career it’s hard to make comparisons.

  7. Sam says:

    This is probably true of directors as a whole, not just actors-turned-directors. Usually if a director is going to be great, that will be obvious within two or so movies. Even Hitchcock, a minor exception because his best work came largely in the fourth decade of his career, made The Lodger as his third film.

  8. David Poland says:

    “In the actors-turned-directors category, I can actually think of a lot more who directed good/great movies than bad.”
    You name 19 actors turned directors over the history of film. There are some more good ones.
    But there are more than 20 who have converted with little or no success this year, much less across history.
    Often, actors-turned-directors deliver chattery, actory pieces the first times out that are all about performance and fail to work as films.
    Let me be clear… I am always interested in a the work of an actor getting behind the camera. Some of my favorite directors were actors first. But every time I walk into one of those first movies from an actor, I hold my breath, hoping. More often than not, it’s not pretty.

  9. Sam says:

    “But there are more than 20 who have converted with little or no success this year, much less across history.”
    Granted, but of course there are more successful ones than the ones I named, too. I missed a bunch. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which one of us can conjure up a bigger list: the real question is, is the percentage of good actors-turned-directors statistically smaller than the percentage of good directors of any kind?
    There probably isn’t an easy way to answer that question definitively. But I have a hard time believing that actors are less likely to be good first-time directors than anyone else. And the percentage of great directors who started out acting is still pretty impressive.
    On the other side of the argument, I acknowledge that a well-known actor who directs a bad movie is far more likely to get attention from the media and the public than your average John Doe who directs a bad movie. The former will fail conspicuously, while the latter slips away unnoticed.
    Still. The great work done by many many actors over the years makes it hard for me to believe that critics, as a group, are naturally biased against the very idea of actors-turned-directors.

  10. Sam says:

    The opening sentence of that post, I now realize, makes a point you already acknowledged. Sorry about that.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon