Writer-directors wear both hats comfortably

Wed Jan 6, 2010 11:46pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Janelle Tipton

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "There's a famous story about Billy Wilder," Nancy Meyers recalls of the days when Wilder was a screenwriter but had not yet become a director. "He wrote a (scene) where a man was having a bowl of soup, and his tie fell into the soup."

Wilder went to the set, only to discover that the scene had changed: The man was no longer wearing a tie, but rather a bowtie -- an object somewhat unlikely to fall into a bowl of soup.

"That was the moment he decided he needed to direct," quips Meyers.

When the age of the Hollywood auteur hit its stride in the 1970s and an explosion of talent wanted to do it the Wilder way, filmmakers like Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma chose to shoot their own screenplays with a minimum of outside interference -- in contrast to the Hollywood heyday of the factory system, when the two tasks were poles apart. These heavyweights set the stage for contemporary auteurs like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, and while the level of freedom may not be the same as it was in the anything-goes '70s, the advantages remain.

Not every writer wants to direct, but those who do both jobs relish the challenge. How they handle that challenge, however, differs greatly from one filmmaker to another.

Writer-director Scott Cooper thought of those '70s filmmakers when he came to make "Crazy Heart."

"I never attended film school, so what I did was watch films from the 1970s," he says. "I would watch them with the sound off, so I could watch how Terrence Malick or Peter Bogdanovich or Hal Ashby would tell stories with just the frame, the characterization, the lens, and see how they would move the camera and tell the story. That was my autodidactic film school experience."

Despite this being his first time behind the camera, Cooper had a clear vision for the film that was informed by his work as an actor.   Continued...