The Hollywood Reporter has a delightfully short little piece on Tom Hooper and his recent accolades called “The 5 Secrets of Tom Hooper’s ‘King’s Speech’ Success.” In it Hooper says,
“I was at the roundtable with Ethan Coen and he said to me, ‘I’ve never directed an actor in my life,’ and I thought, well — I wonder if that’s true. Because I’m sure if you walk into a Coen brothers setup, a good actor will immediately read so much from the locations, the art direction, where the camera’s placed, from the casting of the other person — that is all directing as well, just because it’s not saying, ‘Now do it this way, now do it that!'”
I think Tom’s on to something. While I do think that “True Grit” was better written than directed and would totally believe that the Coen Bros did not say a word to their actors on that set, I do think that perhaps the writing, costumes, set dec, and camera placement did have an effect on the performance of the actors. It’s probably why, my favourite scene, is also my favourite performance – the courtroom scene.
I find it hard to process this idea from the Coen Bros; because one of the reasons I love directing so much is that I love directing actors. The second reason is that I love directing the camera; but that’s a story for a different day. Directing was initially birthed in me when I would tell my childhood friends, after a rousing round of make-believe, “That was great! Let’s do it again but this time, let’s change a few things.”
I always found it strange that I was the only one who wanted to play the same story over again. But I digress.
I love directing actors and I can’t imagine being a director and avoiding that joyful experience! I’m not saying that all actors require direction all the time. That’s certainly not true. But the experience of working out the truth of a moment or the truth of a character with a friend is too delicious! Let me play!
You might think that perhaps I am just a frustrated actor, but I promise that I love directing more than I love acting. I’ve done both enough to know which I love more.
I love directing actors.