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Category: Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

January 18, 2012 |  2:20 pm

George Clooney, Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Alexander Payne (from left) joined The Times' John Horn (in blue shirt) to talk about the art of moviemaking at the Envelope's Directors Roundtable

Given all the moving parts involved in making a motion picture, it's inevitable that things will go wrong and bad days will be had. When that happens, it's up to the director to get things back on track.

At this year's third annual Envelope Directors Roundtable, filmmakers Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March") and Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") shared some of their setbacks and off days with Times film reporter John Horn.

Payne groused about the logistical nightmare of shooting on the water: "For a nice little scene of a couple people spreading ashes," he said, "it's like we call out the damn National Guard."

Daldry recounted a time when David Kross, a young actor in his previous film "The Reader," broke his arm shooting a stunt that didn't even make the final cut of the movie. Fortunately, though Kross was initially expected to be out three months, "He was back the next day," Daldry said.

Some days, Scorsese said, "you don't have the spark. Something is lost." And, he added, "you know it."

To hear more about the directors' mishaps, and how they dealt with them, watch the video below. And check back for more clips from the Directors Roundtable throughout the week.

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— Oliver Gettell

Photo: George Clooney, left, Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Alexander Payne joined The Times' John Horn, third from left, to talk about the art of moviemaking. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

January 17, 2012 |  5:24 pm

Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry and George Clooney before the Envelope's Directors Roundtable
Even big-time filmmakers aren't immune to a bit of anxiety when it comes to the first day on set. One prominent director admits that all the apparatus of a Hollywood production puts him on edge: "I'm always fearing it's going to mar the intimacy of what I'm hoping to shoot."

Another finds himself grappling with self-doubt: "It's really scary for me. I think to myself, 'Why did I want that? Why did I ask all these people to make something?' "

At The Times' recent Directors Roundtable, filmmakers Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") talked about how nerve-racking it can be to start a new film, and how they deal with it.

Daldry and Scorsese said they often ease into a shoot with tests, rehearsals or single shots. On the other hand, Payne acknowledged that sometimes one has to dive right into a big scene, as logistical issues forced him to do on "The Descendants." And Clooney shared a crafty directing trick he borrowed from Sidney Lumet.

Hear more of what they had to say in the video below. Check back for more clips throughout the week.

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Michel Hazanavicius takes a gamble on silent film

George Clooney on directing: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry and George Clooney before the Envelope's Directors Roundtable. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


George Clooney on directing: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

January 16, 2012 |  4:30 pm

George Clooney and Martin Scorsese at The Envelope's directors roundtable
Every film begins with a decision — not whom to cast, where to shoot or how much to spend, but simply what to make. At The Times' third annual Directors Roundtable, five of the year's top filmmakers came together to discuss their current Oscar-contending films and their creative processes, which start with that first choice of what story to tell.

In this first excerpt from the roundtable, directors George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") talk to The Times' John Horn about how they decide which movies to bring to life.

"I've been lucky enough to experience different reasons for making pictures," Scorsese says. "Primarily the ones that I've always been very passionate about are the ones I've simply had to get made at one point or another, and I was pretty lucky to get them made over the years."

Hazanavicius adds, "There's a hunch, something that tells you there's a good movie to make, and there's a movie I can be comfortable with for two years or three years [while making it] and actually the rest of your life, because you have to live with it."

See all of what the directors had to say in the video below, and check back every day this week for a new clip from the roundtable.

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— Oliver Gettell

Photo: George Clooney and Martin Scorsese at the Envelope Directors Roundtable. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.


DGA to Fincher: Sorry about last year, can we make it up to you?

January 9, 2012 |  3:47 pm

Rooney Mara stars in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Now let us just say from the outset that it is possible that Directors Guild of America voters simply liked David Fincher's mesmerizing way with bleakness in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" more than Steven Spielberg's shout-outs to John Ford in "War Horse." Certainly, members didn't share Fincher's sentiments that "Dragon Tattoo" might be just a tad too dark for awards consideration.

But there has to be something more to today's DGA Awards nominations that put Fincher in alongside Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), doesn't there? DGA voters clearly dig Fincher, handing him his third nomination in four years. Of course, they haven't liked him enough to actually give him the award in this category, even last year when most had Fincher winning for "The Social Network." Could this year's nomination be viewed as an attempt to put that whole giving it to Tom Hooper thing behind them? Or could it merely be another signal of a changing of the guard? (Spielberg hasn't been nominated since 2005's "Munich" -- not that he has given voters much reason or occasion to look his way.)

Fincher won't win this year, either. But, taken with the Producers Guild nomination for "Tattoo," it is possible that both he and the movie will now show up among the Oscar anointed. More often than not, four of the five DGA nominees go on to receive Oscar nods. Figuring that Scorsese, Hazanavicius and Payne are locks and that Allen seems increasingly likely to receive his first director's nomination since "Bullets Over Broadway," the question now is: Will the DGA slate sweep in clean with the motion picture academy, as has happened twice in the past decade? Or can Spielberg slip in, aided by the academy's older sentimentalists?

A third option and, admittedly, one that with today's news and previous snubs from the PGA, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild seems something of a pipe dream, is that academy voters will go the auteur route and nominate Terrence Malick. "The Tree of Life" has its hard-core disciples, but they are vastly outnumbered by those who hit the eject button once the dinosaurs showed up. Oscar prognosticators have long assumed that "Tree" had enough bedrock support to win nominations for picture (provided devotees slotted it No. 1 or No. 2 on their ballots), director and cinematography. Now only director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki seems a safe bet.

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 -- Glenn Whipp

Photo: Rooney Mara stars in David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Credit: Merrick Morton / Columbia TrStar


George Clooney on Alexander Payne: ‘He doesn’t work enough’

November 18, 2011 |  7:00 am

George Clooney and Alexander Payne on the set of 'The Descendants'

“The Descendants” star George Clooney has one criticism of Alexander Payne, the film’s writer-director-producer.

“He doesn’t work enough. He should work more,” Clooney quipped.

Indeed, the filmmaker’s fans have had to wait seven years since his previous feature directing effort, “Sideways,” which garnered five Oscar nominations. “He’s smart, and he’s talented,” Clooney told 24 Frames at the L.A. premiere of the film on Tuesday.

Other cast members of the Hawaii-set family drama also had praise for the director.

“I like how confident he is in his actors,” Judy Greer said. “He really directs us so subtlely that you end up feeling like it was all your idea. It’s manipulative -– I like it.”

Robert Forster, who plays Clooney’s father-in-law in the film, relished in the opportunity to work with Payne for the comedic elements that shine through the film’s somber drama.

“I have never worked with a director where I thought I had a shot at getting a laugh. This guy does dramas that also give you laughs, and I thought to myself, ‘Man if I get in this picture, I will hopefully get a laugh somewhere,' ” Forster said.

At the premiere’s screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater, the veteran actor got plenty of laughs, including for the scene where he punches 19-year-old costar Nick Krause’s character. “I knew I had a moment there that would be much fun,” Forster said.

Matthew Lillard said when an actor signs on to one of Payne's films, “you just know that you’re in for something fantastic.”

Payne doesn’t plan to wait quite so long again until the release of his next film. Though development stalled for his project “Downsizing,” which he worked on for three years with writing partner Jim Taylor, the director is prepping 2012 release “Nebraska,” about a father and son who hit the road to collect a sweepstakes prize.

“The Descendants” opened in Los Angeles and New York theaters Wednesday.

RELATED:

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Movie review: 'The Descendants,' an intimate family drama

'Descendants' clip: George Clooney learns the hard truth [video]

-- Emily Rome

Photo: George Clooney, left, and director Alexander Payne on the set of "The Descendants." Credit: Merie Wallace / Fox Searchlight


'Descendants' clip: George Clooney learns the hard truth [video]

November 16, 2011 |  7:36 am

In "The Descendants," George Clooney's new film from director Alexander Payne, the actor plays Matt King, a father grappling with two unruly daughters and the sudden knowledge that his comatose wife had been cheating on him.

Although the movie is set in Hawaii, it doesn't depict the exotic island in its usual vacation-brochure glory; Clooney also plays things a little downscale. Matt's a middle-age man who's battling his way through ordinary life when he learns that his wife, who suffers a traumatic brain injury in a waterskiing accident at the film's outset, had been unfaithful. "This is a character who loses almost every argument," Clooney told The Times on the set of the film. 

In the clip below — which contains some PG-13-rated language — Matt's wayward daughter Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) breaks the news of her mother's unfaithfulness to her dad.

"The Descendants" opens in theaters Wednesday.

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Movie Review: 'The Descendants'

'The Descendants': George Clooney on why he took the role of Matt

'The Descendants': George Clooney on the first day of filming

— Gina McIntyre

Photo: George Clooney in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight.


'The Descendants': Judy Greer, George Clooney on Alexander Payne

November 4, 2011 | 11:05 am

The Descendants
Alexander Payne asks for a lot from his actors, and what he needed from his "Descendants" cast was not insignificant. Matt King (George Clooney) must wrestle with parenthood, infidelity and a dying wife.

His children (his older daughter is played by Shailene Woodley)have to figure out how to reconnect with their absent father. And Julie Speer (Judy Greer) has to determine not only why King is paying her husband a surprise visit, but also what she needs to say to his comatose spouse.

In this video excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, the cast of "The Descendants" talk about how Payne works with actors, and how he makes them feel safe, even when working on emotionally dangerous scenes.

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'The Descendants': George Clooney on the first day of filming

'The Descendants': Alexander Payne on adapting the book to film

'The Descendants': George Clooney on why he took the role of Matt

--John Horn    

George Clooney and Shailene Woodley in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight


'The Descendants': Alexander Payne, cast on filming in Hawaii

November 3, 2011 |  9:43 am

The Descendants

The biggest star of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" is clearly George Clooney. But there's another major player with a prominent role in the director's new film: the state of Hawaii.

Adapted from Kaui Hart Hemmings novel of the same name, "The Descendants" is primarily a movie about Matt King (Clooney), a disengaged father of two young girls. But King has another issue: He's the trustee for a huge tract of land that his relatives want him to sell, cashing out on their inheritance so a resort can be built on the pristine plot (above).

Payne said he traveled around Hawaii with Hemmings before filming commenced, determined to depict the 50th state not as it is typically shown in touristy tones but as the state really is. In this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, the filmmaker behind "Sideways" discusses how he wanted Hawaii to be seen.

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-- John Horn

Photo: Shailene Woodley, left, George Clooney and Amara Miller in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight


'The Descendants': George Clooney on why he took the role of Matt

November 2, 2011 | 11:23 am

The Descendants

When George Clooney read the script for "The Descendants," he was struck by the kind of vulnerability exhibited by Matt King, the father of two girls who suddenly has to learn how to become a parent when his wife suffers a traumatic brain injury. "He loses to everybody," Clooney said of the part.

In this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, the Oscar-winning star of "Syriana" discusses why he was drawn to the movie, and the kind of challenges playing Matt presented.

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Telluride Film Festival: Movies get in touch with the land

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-- John Horn

Photo: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight

 


'The Descendants': Alexander Payne on adapting the book to film

November 1, 2011 | 10:17 am

Director Alexander Payne discusses adapting "The Descendants," starring George Clooney
Alexander Payne, who hasn't directed a movie since 2004's "Sideways," wasn't originally going to go behind the cameras on "The Descendants." Instead, his company was going to produce the film, with Stephen Frears and Jason Reitman interested in directing the adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings' book.

When Payne decided to direct, he first revised the screenplay, written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, to emphasize the part of the novel's older daughter.

In this video from the Envelope Screening Series, Payne discusses the adaptation.

RELATED:

Telluride Film Festival: Movies get in touch with the land

Critic's Notebook: Antiheroes rule the screen at Toronto

Telluride Film Festival: George Clooney's "The Descendants" makes waves

-- John Horn

Photo: Shailene Woodley, left, George Clooney, Amara Miller and Nick Kraus in "The Descendants." Credit: Fox Searchlight


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