According to the recent income studies, film making is among the university majors that parents should advice their kids against. It is low paid, highly competitive, and only a few lucky ones will actually get to enjoy their glory. Luxurious mansions in Beverly Hills, Oscar Statuette and, of course, a sleek Aston Martin. Only a few know, however, that lots of film directors don’t reside in LA. That some of the famous directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, David Lynch, and Christopher Nolan never won the Best Director. And that some of the “lucky ones”, like Steven Spielberg, prefer to drive modest S Model sedan.
Film directors travelled a long way to fame; they have ambitions, beliefs, bizarre habits, and internal struggles. During Cannes 2011 press conference, Melancholia director Lars von Trier basically called himself a Nazi and expressed his feelings of sympathy for Hitler. I don’t think he would be ever forgiven by the film industry or the general public. This incident only illustrates that film directors can also be morally questionable.
Ready to get your brain tickled with more examples?
James Cameron Confronts Ignorance
When James Cameron was shooting The Abyss, a studio executive arrived at the location pampered up with an expensive suit and a limousine, ready to boss him around. Cameron found a clever way to show the unexpected visitor that he is not the one to mess with. The director put on a diving helmet on the visitor’s head and observed its arrogant owner practicing basic survival instincts, as the oxygen level in the helmet was rapidly decreasing. After the executive was finally set free, Cameron compared his interference with running out of air in deep water during the shoot (which happened to director that day).
Cameron has guarded the set from ignorance.
George Lucas Lets his Characters Live his Dreams
George Lucas cherished three dreams. Two of them failed, and one of them, which he is known for, came true. First – becoming a race car driver – went out of picture after a bad accident. Second – becoming a pilot – vanished after Lucas was turned down by the Air Force as a result of multiple speeding tickets. But his third dream did come true, which made it possible for the director to have Anakin and Luke Skywalker live out his unfulfilled childhood dreams.
Steven Spielberg Films Pro Bono
Schindler’s List directed by Steven Spielberg is considered to be the most pricey black and white film in the history of film making. Guess what? The director refused to get paid for his work! He explained his reasoning in Today Show by saying, “It is blood money. Let’s call it what it is. I didn’t take a single dollar from the profits I received from Schindler’s List because I did consider it blood money.” Spielberg kindly donated his earned money to the Shoah Foundation.
Spielberg also turned down the offer to use Auschwitz concentration camp as a shooting location, as it might have been disrespectful towards the Holocaust victims.
Oliver Stone Gets Wild
Oliver Stone is one of those directors that require patience to deal with. This is especially true when the whole crew are stuck together in the wild Philippine jungle shooting Platoon for 10 weeks. Oliver Stone, tortured by sleep deprivation and paranoia, created a fuss when he accused the film editor Claire Simpson of stealing the footage from one of the scenes. He was gently reminded that the only reason he couldn’t find the footage was that he hadn’t shot the scene yet.
Some of Them Skip School
For some reason we just love to dig around for the lucky exceptions. Yes, yes, yes. Many famous film directors, such as Spielberg, Cameron and Kubrick never made it to a film school and actually even advise against it.
Spielberg couldn’t get to the elite directing program at USC because of his C-average. He was accepted at California State University but he dropped out in 1968 to shoot a short film Amblin.
Stanley Kubrick not only didn’t go to college but also pretty barely handled high school. In 1945, university admission was skyrocketing because lots of veterans were returning home. Kubrick became photographer for Look magazine and started reading books at a rapid pace. High school curriculum, he says later, contains nothing but the “rote memorization of characters in books and plays”.
Martin Scorsese Says No to Smoking
Want to go up in flames during your break on Scorsese’s set? This ain’t gonna happen, my friend. Smoking was banned by the director during The Last Temptation of Christ mostly due to Scorsese’s asthma. Another possible reason for that was to protect the image of the biblical characters from the unnecessary public judgement. Jesus trying to kick his habit in front of the cross does sound a bit disturbing, doesn’t it?
Alfred Hitchcock Doesn’t Settle for Cheap Thrills
How much are you willing to pay to give your film a novelty ending? Well, Hitchcock paid about $9,000 to buy all the copies of the original novel Psycho, so that people who would watch the movie didn’t know how it would end. As Guardian describes, “He also filmed on a closed set and forced cast and crew to sign an agreement promising not to mention the ending to anyone. There were no advance screenings.”
Stanley Kubrick Makes the Worlds Collide
The world of 2001: A Space Odyssey collided with reality when Stanley Kubrick had the idea to ask Lloyd’s of London for an insurance policy that would cover damages caused by the alien invasion. According to Arthur C. Clarke, Kubrick wanted to protect himself if a latter event happened before the movie release.
Tim Burton Can Relate to Monsters
Tim Burton is one of the kings of dark and scary Disney stuff aimed at young folks. In the 80s Disney was a bit skeptical about introducing these murky visual to kids. However, they later gave green light to Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and Alice in Wonderland.
Burton puts his creative choices in a very simple way. “I don’t know why but I always related to characters like Frankenstein. I think a lot of kids do; its easier to relate to the monster in the sense of he’s alone. Growing up, you could feel those feelings and the way you felt about your neighbors is like they’re the angry villagers.”
Quentin Tarantino Hates his Fantasy Creation
You got to have such an unique and vivid imagination to create a fiction character that you will then hate with all your heart. Tarantino definitely has such an imagination, and Calvin Candie, the main antagonist in Django Unchained is this type of a character. Candie, a racist brilliantly executed by DiCaprio, is the only character ever written by the director that was hated that much. As Tarantino himself notes, “I hated Candie and I normally like my villains no matter how bad they are. I can see their point of view. I could see his point of view, but I hated it so much. For the first time as a writer, I just f*cking hated this guy.”
David Lynch Likes to Get Lost
What unites all these people, besides that they are all famous Hollywood film directors? They are dreamers, and most of the stories above are a result of them being dreamers. Out of all witty phrases about film making, I particularly like this one by David Lynch: “I like to make films because I like to go into another world. I like to get lost in another world. And film to me is a magical medium that makes you dream… allows you to dream in the dark. It’s just a fantastic thing, to get lost inside the world of film.“
Do you dream in the dark?