(Michael Wiese Productions, 217 pages, $26.95)
By John Badham and Craig Modderno
The love-hate relationship between directors and actors is entertainingly dissected by veteran director John Badham and industry journalist Craig Modderno in this kiss-and-tell primer from the directing frontlines. What does a director do when he has a crew of 60 standing around at midnight in below zero weather on New York’s Verrazano Bridge and the film’s 22-year-old star won’t come out of his trailer? Badham, who experienced that dilemma on his second film, Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta, has practical tips for this dreaded scenario and many others. Enlivened by interviews with over 40 directors and actors who aren’t afraid to name names and tell what bugs them–or inspires them–the book will be especially useful to novice filmmakers. Though Alfred Hitchcock famously stated that actors should be “treated like cattle,” Badham and Modderno advocate a more humane approach. In fact, a deep respect for the art and craft of acting and those who practice it imbues the book. Chastising directors for rudeness during auditions and aloofness on the set, the authors are not afraid, with tongue firmly in cheek, to title one of their chapters, “Are Actors Nuts?” and then proceed to cite various examples of behavior that answers the question affirmatively. At the same time, directors come under fire for their own nutty or, at the very least, obsessive behavior. Working with a young director who wanted to do take after take despite pronouncing what he already had as “perfect,” actor Clint Eastwood, known for running a fast moving set himself, walked away from the director mid-sentence saying, “Kid, perfect is as good as I get.” In the power play between actor and director, it seems one word can tip the balance or one ill-advised decision can have dire consequences. For instance, the authors have some succinct advice for those directors thinking of engaging in “intimate relations” with their actors: “why not drink Drano instead?”
Review written by Gloria Norris.