Summer 2011

To Serve and Protect

Through changing times, for more than 50 years Gil Cates has been a steadying force and voice of reason in the Directors Guild. As a board member, head of negotiations, and two-term president, he has guided the DGA through some of its most challenging and glorious days.

Photographed by Michael Kelley

DGA Interview Gil CatesDriving down Sunset Boulevard, one can literally see Gil Cates' imprint on the Directors Guild of America. As president from 1983 to 1987, he helped spearhead construction of the DGA's distinctive circular headquarters. And while he has directed film, television, and theater in his long career, Cates' greatest work may have been in guiding the Guild into the 21st century.

Born and raised in the Bronx, Cates entered show business in the late 1950s and joined the New York–based Radio & Television Directors Guild before its historic merger in 1960 with the Screen Directors Guild. A member of the board since 1975 and currently secretary-treasurer, he was a part of the Guild's negotiations committee in the '80s and later headed negotiations four times, establishing the industry template for new media residuals, and making essential gains for the Guild's health plan. As president, he led the Guild's one and only strike in 1987, helped broker the first pay-TV contract with HBO, created an agreement for low-budget projects, and put together the first blended film and tape agreements, among many other accomplishments.

Following a stint as a Broadway stage manager upon graduating from Syracuse University, Cates moved into the growing television industry as a game show director/producer, then transitioned into directing film and TV during the late '60s and early '70s. His first feature, an adaptation of the Broadway drama I Never Sang for My Father, starring Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman, received three Academy Award nominations. He went on to produce the Oscar telecast more times than anyone else and founded the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where he now teaches, and also serves as producing director at the Geffen Playhouse.

Despite his demanding schedule, Cates has always felt a deep affinity for the Guild. "The guys who originally started the Guild really got together because of this magic thing of wanting as much power as they could over telling their stories," he says. And thanks in large measure to Cates' contribution, the Guild has protected and advanced those creative and economic rights.

JEFFREY RESSNER: Your early union involvement was with the Radio & Television Directors Guild. What do you recall about the merger with the Screen Directors Guild in 1960?

GIL CATES: I was around 28 years old and working on my brother Joe's NBC game show Haggis Baggis, one of the early color series taped at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. It wasn't hard getting into the RTDG—you just needed a job. I think the dues were $45 a year. There was definitely a sense among members that sometime in the distant future tape would be the format on which all material would be recorded. Of course no one knew about ¾-inch or ½-inch tape at that point, let alone DVD or anything digital. So a small group said 'not so fast' about merging with the Screen Directors Guild. But more of us felt the SDG was very powerful and we were in awe of all its A-list directors like Frank Capra and George Stevens. We wanted to be a part of that, and we also thought it would help those of us who wanted to make movies.

Q: Frank Capra became the first president of the merged Guilds. What do you remember about him?

A: It felt great to be in a union where Capra was president and it was also very helpful in terms of negotiations. I remember meeting him years later at Columbia Pictures, where I was making a film. After I became Guild president, I met him again and was really excited because not only did I love his movies but I also appreciated what he had done as head of the Guild and the Academy. But he was amazing, so easy to speak to, so accessible, and there weren't any airs about him or any of the mannerisms you might expect from a great director. When you met George Stevens or Elia Kazan or Howard Hawks or John Ford, you somehow looked at them from a distance, you elevated them, you put them on a pedestal. Capra wasn't like that—he was just like a character from one of his movies, an Everyman. You'd talk to him and he'd laugh, he was just a nice guy. And a great leader of the Guild. I'll probably get stung by saying this, but I'd rank him as our greatest president.

DGA Interview Gil Cates Haggis Baggis
GETTING STARTED: Cates (center) directing the game show Haggis Baggis
circa 1960 with technical director Walter Miller (left) in the basement
control room of the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York.

Q: What initially drew you to become so involved with the Guild?

A: Well, there's the nuts and bolts of directing: the camera angles and dolly shots and the hardware and so forth. But there's also a magical side to it, with all these larger-than-life characters like Hawks, Billy Wilder, and the rest who were responsible for telling great stories on a huge screen. When I joined the Guild, Rouben Mamoulian was a member of the East Coast board—he did the first color feature film, and directed Oklahoma on Broadway. He was an amazing talent. I would have paid for the privilege to just sit in a room with Mamoulian, let alone to do so as a Guild member. Later, when I came to California in 1977 and attended a Directors Council meeting, it was like heaven. Every major director—Mel Brooks, Franklin J. Schaffner, George Sidney—was at the table. Somehow, to be part of that lore, to use the same furniture and drink from the same cups, presented a great opportunity. Maybe my hope was that some of their magic would wash off onto me. I know a lot of my friends became involved because they had been really screwed over by a producer or a studio, and the Guild came in and saved them or gave them their cutting rights or something. But for me it was more than that. Every group has a spirit, and the DGA has a certain culture to it. To me, if you talk about the Directors Guild and leave out the point of trying to have one person reach the spirit of other people, then you're really missing the whole point of the Guild.

DGA Interview Gil Cates Ground Breaking DGA Headquarters
DIGGING IN: (left to right) Cates with past presidents George Sidney, George Schaefer,
Delbert Mann and Robert Wise breaking ground for the new DGA headquarters in 1987.

Q: Your two terms as Guild president during the 1980s saw several advancements, including the Sunset Boulevard headquarters. What convinced you to develop that property?

A: We needed it because our original building had far outgrown the old space, which also had significant structural issues, and we had the real estate available. We wanted a signature building that would express the special personality of the Directors Guild, so that it would be obvious that we didn't simply rent floors in someone else's building. The architects designed a beautiful round structure and demonstrated how, when you're driving down Sunset, the morning or evening sun would make it appear as if the building was turning. It was quite remarkable, and we were very excited about it.

Q: Wasn't there a story behind some initial problems with the sight lines in the theater?

A: I'll tell you what happened. Our mission was to design the very best theater for film projection in the world. The new building was designed by very good architects who had extensive experience designing hospitals and various institutional buildings. They built the tower first, then they were going to do the lobby, atrium, and the three theaters. At one point, someone suggested bringing in a theater architect, just to make absolutely sure it was going right. He came in and said the angle of the floor was all wrong, because the ideal image requires the screen to be exactly perpendicular to the projection beam. And you couldn't just lower or raise different parts of it, you had to repour the entire floor. We then faced the question of being second-best or spending approximately one million dollars to make it right. And of course we chose to make it right. It was just too important. And, as a result, we now have one of the greatest projection facilities in the world.

DGA Interview Gil Cates with Jay Roth
PARTNERS: Cates and National Executive Director Jay D. Roth have worked
closely together for more than 15 years. Cates credits him with instituting
"the best research system of any guild or union in the country."

Q: During your presidency the Guild produced several new agreements, perhaps the most significant being a contract for low-budget films in the mid-'80s. What led to that?

A: The first low-budget agreement was unique because every union at the time felt very strongly about not cutting their rates. A rate was a rate was a rate. The argument was that there was one price for a movie ticket at theaters, so it shouldn't matter whether that movie cost a million dollars or a hundred million dollars. Our board felt very strongly that if someone was going to make a movie in 18 days for $50,000, it's insane to expect the director and the AD and the unit manager to get the same salary as if they worked on a $50 million picture. It was a tough fight, both internally and externally, and I think getting that to happen was a bigger deal than it's ever been given credit for. We were chasing talented people away from the Guild. Someone might have thought, 'Why should I join the DGA? When I have a chance to direct an Easy Rider, the Guild's not going to let me make it.' But we included a methodology into the contract where, if the film was successful, you'd get the money back. So it seemed to me to be a win-win situation.

Q: As president, you also worked to combine the TV and film agreements. Why was that so crucial?

A: It was really significant because thinking of television and movies as totally separate, disparate things is crazy. Our original contract was nuts because it was predicated on whether a director shot on film or used electronics. It was really confusing to have separate contracts in the sense that, if you shoot a television show on film but it's shown on TV, is that a film or a television contract? And the corollary of that posed problems as well. At the time that we were doing those negotiations it seemed goofy, so instead we came up with the blended contract. As a result, if you wanted to hire a director or an AD, a UPM, a stage manager, an associate director or whatever, you've got one contract. We were fortunate to be able to do that in 2001, and I'm proud of that.

Q: The industry gets a lot of flak for not bringing enough women and minorities into the fold, but in your years as president the Guild launched a diversity campaign.

A: In 1979, a couple of years after I moved to Los Angeles, I was the only man on the Women's Committee, which encouraged the employment of females in the industry. It was an extraordinary experience. But it's a tough march; it's not that individuals are against hiring women or minorities; it's just that they usually hire the people whom they're closest to. At that time, it was critical for the board to stand up and declare that this was an important concern and vigorously examine all angles of the issue to affect change. Although we attempted legal remedies to force change in studio hiring practices, it is the Guild's principal goal to negotiate, not litigate to correct discriminatory hiring practices. Making sure that everyone is aware of the exceptional talent of our women and minority members is what we find to be the real game changer as it upends preconceived notions. During my presidency, we started the first lists of women and minorities in the annual DGA Directory of Members, so people couldn't say that they didn't know of any women directors or any black associate directors. Now the onus is on them to explain why they aren't hiring women or people of color. But a lot more can be done and we're still examining every opportunity.

Q: There were also several creative battles fought during your regime. What do you recall about the brouhaha over colorization that saw several directors lobby Congress?

A: It was big. The studios thought colorization would make all of their libraries live again. And some were doing even sneakier things—they would colorize a movie and then take out a new copyright on it. Before he died, John Huston [made a special video to inform] Congress about it, and as I remember he was wearing his oxygen tank at the time to help with his emphysema. He said that The Maltese Falcon was 'made in black and white…and it is not to be conceived in any other way than black and white.' It was pretty easy at that time to get directors to testify because they were so upset about it. I asked a wonderful Guild member, Elliot Silverstein, who became chairman of the Creative Rights Committee, to get all the directors involved. We applied a tremendous amount of resources to this battle and although we were not able to get specific legislation against colorization, we were successful in pointing out to many people what a "stupid sin" this was and how this issue was about the audiences viewing the films, not just the directors' creative rights. The publicity, attention, and discussion that ensued both ended the studios seeking to colorize our work and directly led to later legislation through the Film Preservation Act and the National Film Registry that recognized specific films as historic treasures.

DGA Interview Gil Cates 5 Minute Strike
MARCHING ORDERS: As president, Cates rallied the troops for the one and only Guild strike in 1987.
Although it lasted about 40 minutes, in Guild lore it has come to be known as "the five-minute strike."

Q: The DGA's only strike took place on your watch in 1987. What triggered it?

A: Beyond the three-year fight by our founders for our original contract, the 1987 negotiations was perhaps the most difficult in Guild history. These negotiations were primarily an attempt by the studios to roll back DGA and industry residuals. The companies were seeking to change formulas for pay TV and video-on-demand residuals formats. I led the massive organized effort, where we spent months preparing the membership to be ready to strike to fight against this terrible rollback of our economic rights. It was amazing how prepared we were—with organized pickets, strike captains, and members ready and mobilized. We had been negotiating for months before the midnight deadline and the studios didn't withdraw their take-back proposals until late in the very last night. But instead of that being the end of it, the other side asked for a creative rights take-back which was never mentioned before, and which had never been agreed. It was not a salary issue, not even a working condition. We all thought they were asking for something inappropriate, they didn't give us a heads-up, they were asking for it at the last minute, and were insisting we had to accept it in exchange for their economic take-backs. It was such a ridiculous request at that late date, and everyone felt they were screwing around with us. Everyone expressed the opinion that it was wrong, and the vote was unanimous to strike unless producers removed it from the table.

Q: And in Guild lore this has come to be known as the five-minute strike.

A: The slogan of those negotiations was "Protect Our Future." We knew that caving into those residual take-backs would lead to a future without the economic prosperity our members had had for the past 25 years. Our strategy was to strike one studio at a time, starting with Warner Bros. No one had seen a strike like this before. The strike captain was Robert Butler and the head of the enforcement committee [who determined whether or not there were strikebreakers] was Clint Eastwood, which seemed appropriate. By 5:30 in the morning, there was a catering truck set up, a medical area, placards, people with walkie-talkies—it was amazing. There were about 300 members out there on strike. Someone called the studio heads, and I heard Lew Wasserman and a couple of them actually came over to see if the Guild was on strike. From then on, it was only about 20 minutes before calls were made to take the issue off the table and the strike was over. I would say while it's called a 'five-minute strike,' the actual strike itself, if measured from 9 o'clock in the morning when the strike started till folks were told they could leave, was probably about 40 minutes.

Q: You've led the negotiating committee four times, and have served on the bargaining team nearly a dozen times. What's your overall approach behind negotiating for the Guild?

A: It's no great mystery. You know what you want and you know what you need before walking in that door. And you have to be aware they want to give you back as little as possible. Coming into negotiations, we know approximately how much they make in their businesses. The Directors Guild probably has the best research system of any guild or union in the country, if not the world. That's something Jay Roth as national executive director has brought to the Guild. We often know more about a particular studio's businesses than the other studios do, because Warner Bros. is not particularly anxious to share data with Disney and vice versa. We spend an extraordinary amount on research and calculations, and I'm secretary-treasurer, so I can tell you that with great certainty. Not only that, but we go back to see how the prognostications we made six years ago are developing today and whether they're on track. We also use two different companies to do the research so that we can feather one into the other and really see where we are. The return on that investment has been very, very good for us.

DGA Interview Gil Cates Directing
RELATIONSHIPS: (left to right) Cates directing
Martin Balsam and Joanne Woodward in
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973); with
Gene Hackman on I Never Sang for My Father
(1970); and working on Oh, God! Book II (1980).

Q: How does one negotiation differ from another?

A: Each negotiation could have the same slogan we had in 1987 because ultimately it is all about 'protecting our future.' The question we have to ask each time is—what part of our future do we seek to protect? As I mentioned, there is only so much that can be accomplished in any one negotiations. It is not at all realistic to believe they are going to agree to increases in every area, so each guild has to face the basic question of defining its priorities. For instance in 2004, the central issue in that round was to resolve the crisis facing our health plan and protect the health benefits of our members, retirees and their families. I am proud that in addition to successfully funding our health plan and keeping our members and the industry working, the total economic benefits package we negotiated was the largest in Guild history.

In contrast, in 2007 our primary issue was to develop a new media template—which was extraordinarily difficult and extremely complicated. This agreement was groundbreaking in that we were able to concretize the two fundamental principles we regard as absolutely critical to any employment agreement in the digital age: jurisdiction and compensation. Without secure jurisdiction over new-media production—both derivative and original—compensation formulas would be meaningless. The tough part was developing fair compensation formulas for the use and reuse of our work on the Internet, whether it was originally created for other media platforms or expressly for online distribution. But because these talks were preceded by many months of informal discussions and more than two years of research beginning in 2006 by Guild staff and consultants, we went in knowing what we needed.

Q: In the most recent negotiations, new media and future technology payments were less of a priority than more immediate concerns such as health coverage. Why is that?

A: During the past decade or so, some people have been very comfortable projecting with great certainty what's going to happen in three or four years, even though there's no way to really know where the business is going to bounce. Clearly content is going to go from place A, wherever that is, to place B, which is in your house, but how it happens is not yet certain. The difficulty in negotiations is you really want to negotiate with a party that is tough and smart but not scared about the future. When someone is scared, they react in an emotional, non-constructive manner, since fear rather than logic is what's driving them. You can't negotiate with people who are scared about the future. Since they don't know the value of what they're giving you, they're not going to want to give you anything. On the other hand, you want to get involved philosophically with whatever is going to be important down the road which we achieved in the 2008 negotiations. For the 2011 round, we went in knowing full well that increasing employer contributions to our health plan would be our top priority. By the time we finished, we not only achieved a significant increase in contributions on our regular compensation, we also achieved contributions on completion of assignment pay and vacation pay for the first time ever. This is a tremendous new source of funding for the health plan and a wonderful, important gain for our members.

Q: What is the DGA's philosophy regarding negotiations?

A: We negotiate from the bottom up, not from the top down. Our councils tell us what they want, and each council is represented on the negotiating committee. The National Board selects a large committee from a broad group of members. As chairman, you hear everyone's position and then try to blend what you can get that will make everybody equally happy and unhappy. Many guilds and unions negotiate top down, and that's really tough, because then you've got to promise all of your members everything, and you go in trying to get everything. Then, when you don't get something you've told everyone you're going for, you breed a lot of discontent, which is unnecessary because you never could have gotten it anyway. Take the DVD market. During the last eight years, you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to realize sales were on the downside. It was heading downward two negotiations ago. So how do you go to the studios, when they're looking at a big reduction in their primary business, and say to them, 'You know that business of yours that's declining? Well, we want more of it.' It's just plain stupid.

Q: Has the negotiating process changed since you first started doing it?

A: When I started in the Guild, you negotiated across the table with Lew Wasserman and the heads of the studios. Then the labor relations people started sitting with the studio heads. The next iteration was the labor relations people without the studio chiefs. Who are they reporting to? The head of labor relations? Human resources? The president? They have become further away from the principals and it becomes harder, because none of them wants to go to their boss and say, 'We should give the unions something and make this deal.' Negotiating with someone four or five steps removed from the chief is tougher, because that person is usually afraid of losing his or her job. But try as the studios may, this system does not work for them or us. The negotiators on both sides must have the authority to make decisions, and if they don't, ultimately those who do must become involved.

Q: What do you think is the greatest political challenge facing the Guild today?

A: The thing that's really central to the DGA's mission in terms of telling stories, and this has an economic base of extraordinary proportions, is Internet theft. I don't even like to call it piracy. When you think about all the great art, most of it has been commissioned by people with money. Whether it's the Medicis or Rembrandt or 20th Century Fox, someone gave money for this person to do that. And if the investors can't get their money back somehow, they're not going to make that available in the future. So we're losing out on both ends. The first end that we lose on is when people can get a copy of [a movie] for a dollar, instead of $20. So that's the immediate loss in residuals, which is terrible. But then there's the secondary loss, which is that the studio that put in the $20 million to make the movie, and feeling that loss, is no longer going to put in the $20 million to make the movie. It gets you on both ends. So that's our big fight now. And that's the single most pressing economic concern the DGA has.

DGA Interview Gil Cates Presidents Award
GOOD WORK: Among the many Guild honors
Cates has received, he was presented
with the Presidents Award in 2005.

Q: Let's shift from the art of negotiating to the art of directing. What do you recall about your early days in television?

A: Well, my brother was about 10 years my senior and he started during the late 1940s and early '50s. I didn't really come in until the late '50s, so there was a different alchemy at work but it was still a new medium and developments were being made every minute. You'd walk into a studio and feel the heat and the burning smell of the vacuum tubes. I remember directing a game show called Camouflage when we got the first zoom lens, a 3:1 zoom. Those were the days when you had a turret on the camera and you told the technical director what lenses you wanted on it. When the zoom lens came in, we couldn't wrap our heads around it, and wondered how it was even possible to make such a thing. It was such a novelty I'm amazed the viewers didn't get dizzy and nauseous in their homes because we'd do a two shot, then zoom into a single, pull back to the two shot, then zoom in again. You could throw up just watching it zoom in and out. Everyone wanted to use that new toy.

Q: As a television director for much of your early career, what types of creative rights challenges did you face and how did the Guild deal with them?

A: It's tough. Episodic television directors bring so much creativity to the table and yet are rarely recognized for their contribution. They frequently have their creative rights curtailed, instead of having the opportunity to make the show better and protect the producer's investment. One personal example: I directed a piece for the new Twilight Zone series. This particular piece was about Pope Gregory and changing the Gregorian calendar so that when we lost two hours there was a person whose job it was to keep that time, and when he died to find someone else to keep the lost hours. It was good piece of work and CBS loved it. After shooting, I was told, 'We're not going to score it now, we're going to score all [the episodes] together, and I'll let you know when we're going to score it.' A week before the show is ready to air, I can't get anyone on the phone. And I get the tape, the film that I shot, but, someone else scored it. I wasn't invited to the scoring or told about the scoring, which was in violation of my creative rights. I was really pissed off. But the Guild did the thing that I thought was appropriate. As there wasn't time to rescore it, they helped me take my name off of it and put on a pseudonym—Alan Smithee. CBS got fined for it and punitive actions were taken. But the bottom line is that my rights were violated—as happens far too often. When I was president of the Guild and was more directly involved with members on creative rights issues, it's amazing how many members would write and tell me that were it not for the Guild they would have been screwed with regard to this thing or that thing. And the battle continues. I'm proud of the work the television creative rights committee and guys like Rod Holcomb and Michael Zinberg put into fighting for our rights today.

Q: Your best-known film is probably I Never Sang for My Father, which you directed more than a decade after you first started in television. How did you move into features?

A: I'd made somewhat of a small name at Columbia because Don Ameche and I were partners in Rings Around the World, a documentary about circuses around the world. The budget was $300,000, but it came in at $320,000. So, being an honorable kid from the Bronx, and Don being a very straight shooter, we each put in $10,000 and actually handed Columbia a check for the $20,000. I must say now, looking back, I can imagine those guys must have been beside themselves laughing, 'Here's the first schmuck in the history of the movie business who went over budget and gave back the overage!' As time went on, a kind of small legend at Columbia grew out of that. Several years later, Columbia President Stanley Schneider agreed to make I Never Sang for My Father. I negotiated a salary of $75,000 to produce and direct, but when the contract came back, it was for $100,000. It seemed as if Schneider wanted to reimburse me for that earlier overage payment, which I always felt was very sweet.

Q: You mentioned Kazan earlier, and I know he was one of your early mentors. What are your strongest memories of him?

A: I knew him very, very well and adored him. He represented everything that I thought a director should be. I had an office in the same building that he did at 850 Seventh Avenue, right above the Carnegie Deli. One thing I remember was that I had directed [Arthur Miller's] After the Fall as an NBC television special with Faye Dunaway and Christopher Plummer in 1974. Kazan had directed the first production of the play downtown 10 years earlier in what was then the temporary quarters of Lincoln Center. When I did the NBC version, I saw him in the elevator and asked him to watch it because I was so proud of my work. Then, the week after it was on, I asked him if he had seen it. He said no, and my feelings were a little hurt so I asked him why not. He said, 'I think you'll understand this more in years to come, but I put so much time and effort into directing it. I put my life into that and I can't bear seeing it again. It's nothing personal.' I thought, 'OK, I get it.' And, of course, now I understand exactly what he meant.

Q: You've directed more than two dozen theatrical films and TV movies, many dealing with social issues, covering a broad range of genres. Is there a prevailing theme that carries throughout all your work?

A: There are certain things I clearly have never done, such as a science fiction movie or a conventional action picture. I was always more interested in the battlefield of human relationships. The relationship between people and their families is probably a connecting thread between all my movies, the television ones as well. Oddly enough, for a long time, including up through the present, this type of movie has kind of fallen out of favor. I remember how John Veitch, head of production at Columbia Pictures, sat me down when I first came to California and gave me a 'philosophy' lesson. He asked me, 'Why is it you want to do movies that, even if you do them 100 percent right, only 20 percent of people want to see? Wouldn't you rather do a movie 20 percent right that 100 percent of people want to see?' What he was telling me, I suppose, was that much of the subject matter that I found most interesting was just not very sensational.

Q: I suppose no interview would be complete without mentioning the Oscars, since you produced 14 Academy Awards shows and introduced elements such as the "In Memoriam" segment. How do you work with the director on something that large and sprawling?

A: I've worked well with both directors, first with Jeff Margolis and more recently with Louis J. Horvitz. I try to treat them as I'd like to be treated if I were directing the show: I give them great respect, the tools necessary to do the job, and enough room to work as best they can. As a director myself, I think I have a greater understanding of the problems and challenges they face. It goes into things like knowing how much advance time they need to do their work, and not making any big changes toward the end. There are lots of little technical things. And there are profiles loaded with film and digital material, and most directors want them ready several days before the show, so I'm careful we're on schedule with that. Other producers might try to jam in something on the very last day, but I'd only do that if it were a life or death situation.

Q: You've been a DGA member for more than half a century. So it's probably difficult to pinpoint a single thing, but does any particular moment stand out for you?

A: While I was president in 1984, the Guild decided to give Orson Welles its big honor, the Life Achievement Award. As it turned out, Orson gave a wonderful acceptance speech about the joy of storytelling and making movies. Our former president Bob Wise was in the audience, and Bob had edited both Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. After The Magnificent Ambersons was shot, Orson had supervised its initial editing and suddenly left for South America. Following a couple of mixed previews, the studio insisted on cutting an additional 40 minutes. Bob refused but the studio said, 'Look, if you don't cut it, we're going to do it.' Bob was caught between a rock and a hard place. He couldn't get hold of Orson so he agreed to make the cuts. When Orson found out, he was pissed, and the two men hadn't spoken since.

So here we are some 40 years later at this dinner with Orson Welles giving a beautiful speech. And Bob, as a prior president of the Guild, was seated just 15 feet away from the dais. After the speech ended, I went on stage and, just instinctively, I said, 'Orson, do me a favor and stay a minute.' Then I said, 'Bob, could you come on up here, please?' Maybe a few dozen people in the audience knew their history at the time. I was standing between the two of them, and I turned away from the microphone and said, 'Come on, isn't it about time you guys shook hands and started talking again?' And so, in front of a thousand people, they shook hands. A pocket of maybe 50 people erupted into joyous applause, and then the rest of the folks probably thought, 'Gee, these two titans Bob Wise and Orson Welles are shaking hands, it's a big thing.' So everyone else stood up and gave them a thunderous ovation. It was one of the happiest moments I've ever had.

DGA Interviews

Prominent directors reflecting on their body of
work through an extended and in-depth Q&A.

More from this issue