Sam Mendes: In Person

So when I tried to find tickets to three director conversations, I was only able to get one. However, two hours before Mendes’ talk, a ticket opened up and I found myself front seat for this talk with the director of American Beauty and Road to perdition.

The talk is about 45 minutes long and I’ve embedded the videos below. Highlights from the talk are as follows:

-Mendes hates watching the film monitors while on set because they’re so small in relation to what it will look like on screen. Spielberg recommended that he cut out 40 “audience members” to scale and post it on the bottom of the monitor screen to prevent him from zooming in too much while on set.

Away We Go is an answer to Revolutionary Road

-Mendes transitioned from seeing his stories unfold through the eyes of a child, to through the eyes of a parent. Mendes explained that his tumultuous childhood led to the first phase and when he became a father he felt his focus shift. Away We Go is a part of this latter viewpoint.

-On Revolutionary Road: Period pieces allow us to see people with clarity. We aren’t trying to figure out if a character is like you, if it has something to say about you.

-Though he’s a British director, most of his films have to do with American stories. This is due to the American films he watched as a child and what he called the vastness in which the characters and the audience can become lost.

-He would like to put out a director’s cut-director’s cut* of Jarhead since he felt the editing process was a rushed (*He has final say over what hits theatres, but due to the editing crunch it would just be a director’s cut of his director’s cut).

-Some films mentioned: Harry’s Here to Help, the original Departed, Paris Texas

*some notes on the audio*
i was in the front row and this was all my camera could pick up, so you’ll have to crank it; also, I ran out of space on my camera, so the last part are the major questions asked for the remainder of the talk.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7
Audience Question:
Are there any films you’d like to remake?

I’ve contemplated re-making a foreign language film. And then thought, the reason I like this film is because it was good the first time, so why am I thinking about re-making it? Harry’s Here to Help, that is a brilliant film and that should be re-made because very few people saw it. I asked Tom Cruise to play the part of the psychotic killer and he said he’s not sympathetic enough.

Audience Question:
How closely do you work with the screenwriter on the film and how much authority the screenwriter has and how that affects the making of the film?

I’ve worked very closely with the screenwriters on the two original screenplays I’ve written: Alan Ball on American Beauty and Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida on Away We Go. They were my collaborators. Alan was there everyday on set with me, he sat quietly with my most of the time but maybe once a day I went to him and said, “Any problems, any issues?” and those were the two most satisfying relationships I’ve had with screenwriters. I very much enjoyed my relationships with Justin Haythe, who adapted Revolutionary Road. Then the other two were so problematic partly because they were not available on set. I don’t think you have the same kind of control as a writer on a film as you do for the stage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s