In association with The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Director Roundtable series, David O. Russell, Danny Boyle, Tom Hooper, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott met to discuss their careers and the problems facing film today. Read the full interview here.
On their rise from indie flicks to big studio films:
Inarritu: A lot of things went right — it’s just that, to make it right, we had to fight a lot. I remember Clint Eastwood said: “You are dealing with horses and snow. Sorry for you.” And I didn’t know. How am I going to shoot a horse? I was having nightmares. And everything was in the mountains, in remote locations and incredibly bad conditions. The weather, it’s like a terrorist: Everything can explode in any moment. This was like rock climbing without the rope. Once we established the rules of the film language, we couldn’t change and say, “Oh, let’s go to a blue screen,” because [the film] will collapse. There is no way back when you are rock climbing. You go up or you die.
Tarantino: We had a lot of the same issues. And one of the things that prepared me for that was watching a documentary about Apocalypse Now and hearing [cinematographer Vittorio] Storaro talking about creating an aesthetic: “Once you do, you can’t go back.” I told that to the crew, I go: “We’re going to create this thing, and we can’t go backward. If that means it takes us three months to do this scene, because we have to match that snowfall, then that’s what we have to do.”
On getting studio backing when film budgets soar:
Tarantino: They backed us. Everyone knew what the problem was, all right? It’s not that we’re jerking off. They all see what the problem is, they all know what we’re trying to do. They trust us. They like the project in the first place, so they double down.
Inarritu: This is an art form and it’s a business form; that’s why it’s so contradictory, so exciting and at the same time so nasty. But we responded responsibly [to the] circumstances. When we went out there, the budget we all signed was $90 million to $95 million — and we knew that was already dangerous because we could confront problems. Well, guess what? It was the hottest winter in the history of Calgary, which changed weather seven times a day, easily. And we were there in February, running out of snow. Now we were chasing ice, and it was really difficult. That impacted the postproduction because then we were running out of time, so then it cost more money. Was it our fault? No. We responded correctly. There was no indulgence.
Scott: Planning is a big thing. Who’s your line producer? He may need his head slapped. I’m a strategist because I’ve had so much experience [with] 2,000 commercials, every which way: upside down, in lakes, under water, in snow. And that’s a textbook you’re never going to get in the career as a filmmaker. Watch the problem coming over the horizon, and if it’s a problem, knock its head off before it gets near you.
Hooper: Sometimes your most urgent battles are lack of time and lack of money, lack of resources. And yet we all find ways to render this fight invisible. So when you see the final film, you’re not aware of what the directors were really facing. I had a screenplay [The Danish Girl] with 184 scenes and 44 days to shoot it — four scenes every day. And in the U.K. system, it’s always a strict 11-hour day.
On the challenges facing film today:
Scott: The problem with this town is there is no tax rebate. We’re in the village, the place of the beginning of features, in Hollywood, and there is no tax rebate.
Tarantino: There are philosophical problems with films today. I mean, frankly, I have to tell you the truth, a lot of films that 10 years ago I would have actually [gone] out to the theaters and watched, I can wait for them to get to the cable channels. I’m watching them six or seven months later, and I’m perfectly enjoying them, but I didn’t really miss that much.
Inarritu: Independent filmmaking has [been] transported to TV. There’s great stories, great things. And in a way, the screens are now full of films that look like TV, just on the big screen. There is no revelation, there is no mystery. I need the mystery of it…What has happened in the economy in the world is happening to film: the 99 percent and the 1 percent division. Now there are super-expensive films or just very tiny-budget films. The middle-class films are disappearing.