This past Saturday, two beloved film directors -- Clint Eastwood and Darren Aronofsky -- sat down for an extended Tribeca Talks: Directors Series discussion after the world premiere of director Richard Schickel's Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story. The hour-long film pieces together behind-the-scenes footage from Eastwood's acting and directing projects with interesting interview anecdotes from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and many others -- weaving together an illuminating portrait of the iconic actor turned director.
Eastwood and Aronofsky thoroughly entertained the packed Tribeca Film Festival audience by discussing everything from dealing with difficult studios and actors to Eastwood's work with Sergio Leone to why he doesn't yell "action" on his sets. The full discussion can be seen below, and it's definitely worth watching – nevertheless, we highlighted a few of our favorite moments.
Navigating the Studio System
Eastwood: Some of the best projects I've done I'd say the studios weren't particularly fond of. Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, right in a row - two which I did back to back. Neither one of those the studio wanted to do. They thought Mystic River was too dark. One studio said, "Well, we don't do dramas." But they finally acquiesced, they came around. And with Million Dollar Baby it was like, "Who the hell wants to see a woman's fight picture?" … So I said, "Well who the hell wants to see anything?" You just never know until you get into it. … A lot of times the people who put up money don't want to look that deep, they just want to say, "What are we going to get back on this deal?" They said no and I said, "Okay, I'll go elsewhere" and then they finally said, "Okay."
Dealing with Difficult Actors
Eastwood: I had one actor that I wanted to punch out one time. The guy turned out to be very good in the picture. I just moved his force around. … He wanted to go into a little corner, he said, "That's where I see playing it." And I said, "But the trouble is, there's no light in that corner." … I finally said, "But come here, look at this." So I go over and I stood in the light and I said, "Feel the way the light's coming in, see how it's hitting my face?" And I appealed to his ego, I said, "I just want to see your face glowing." And so the guy goes, "Yeah, okay, I'll try that!" … Sometimes you have to be an amateur psychologist.
The Requiem for a Dream Moment That Makes Aronofsky Cringe
Aronofsky: We did some crowd scenes in Requiem for a Dream, and while we were shooting it, the audience was featured, and I just noticed this one woman leaning forward. I had no idea what she was doing, but she was just sort of pushing her face closer to the camera, so suddenly she was bigger than everyone else. So whenever I see the scene, I just look right at her. And I'm like [throws hands up]. She's right in the middle, pushed her face out, just to be the number one extra in a crowd scene. Oh God, that's really bad.
Why Eastwood Doesn't Yell "Action!"
Eastwood: I don't use the word "action" a lot, because “action” puts a bad connotation out there, like some firecracker that has to go off to get everybody going. I just say, "Go when you're ready." Go, stop. Yeah, if there's a hundred people out there and they're all running at the camera, you yell, "Action!" If they're on horseback, you say, "Go!" Because if they're on horseback and you yell "action" the horses unload half those guys. I learned that in the Rawhide days, because you had to ride horses - three or four people ride horses up to a camera - you got some guy up there wheeling a mic back and forth, the horses don't like that. You yell "action" and they don't like that - you yell "action” and subconsciously, the actor squeezes the horse too tight and the horse starts jumping around, and pretty soon there's nobody in the shot. So eventually you learn that if it affects horses that way, probably human beings have a really quiet reaction to "action" - it's like a little jolt.
Why "Cut" Never Means "Cut"
Eastwood: You do a scene and right afterwards, after they yell "cut," or "stop" or whatever you yell, all of a sudden everybody is so natural. So I always tell my operator when I yell "cut" that means don't cut. If I say "stop" that means stop. … You have to steal a lot, you have to have a criminal mentality to be a film director.
How a Love of Kurosawa Brought Eastwood and Leone Together
Eastwood: I went over and I did A Fistful of Dollars, and I did that because I loved Yojimbo and I was a big fan of [Akira] Kurosawa - it wasn't because I'd even heard of Sergio.
Aronofsky: So you got the screenplay, and you immediately recognized that it was sort of taken from Yojimbo?
Aronofsky: Was it on the script that it was an adaptation?
Eastwood: No. In fact, half way through the picture… I was telling people, "Yeah, it's a remake of Yojimbo, I loved Yojimbo," and all of a sudden the producer comes up to me and says, "Don't mention that it's Yojimbo." I said, "Why not, that's what it is." And he said, "Well we haven't quite cleared the rights to it yet." I said, "Oh - one of those deals!"
Aronofsky: Do you know if Kurosawa ever saw it?
Eastwood: Yes, he did. I spent some time with him at Cannes one year, and we talked a little bit about it. He wasn't unhappy with it. He made some money on it, so he was okay! [Laughs]
A Behind-the-Scenes Leone/Eastwood Moment We'd Pay to See on Film
Eastwood: He [Leone] would love to come up with the cigar, he would come up and do the squint and he'd do the whole thing - he'd be imitating me. And I'd sit there and go, "Sergio, I know exactly what you're talking about." But I'd start laughing whenever I'd watch him do that, because he looked ridiculous.
How New Technology Actually Hindered Aronofsky While Shooting Noah
Aronofsky: We had a really hard time on my last film - we shot in 35 mm and we couldn't find a second AC in all of New York City. No one knows how to load cameras anymore! We also had the problem, all of the labs were closing and it was hard to get new stock. But the actual craftsmanship of loading a camera and unloading a camera is disappearing.