With almost ridiculous ease, moderator Peter Bart proved himself able to turn a little love fest of directors on directing panel into an opportunity for the brilliant David O. Russell to prove that he was twice the crank most people supposed. After a bit of a fluff response to an audience question about keeping actors from making repeatable offenses (turns out, according to Tom Les Miserables Hooper, you need to remind them to face cameras), Bart tried to interject a little joke about how well behaved actors are on Russell’s set. Or else he’ll punch them, referring to a much-told anecdote about fracases on the set of Three Kings.
“That’s a cheap shot,” said Russell, who had just minutes before been quoting Homer Simpson on Clint Eastwood’s Paint Your Wagon to the delight of the room. “I can just say that George Clooney and I are friends now,” he said, perhaps protesting too much. “I obviously make the set a safe place for actors,” he said. “How else would four of my actors [in Silver Linings Playbook] be up for awards?”
Later Hooper marched up to Bart and bear-hugged him.
The rest of the show was mostly dominated by Hooper, who proved himself eloquent in defending his use of close-ups, which, he said, illustrate the songs sung better. Again playing naughty, Bart suggested that Russell Crowe can too sing. Hooper looked a little miffed but didn’t rise to the gibe.
But the most eloquent portion of the show came about after an audience question about story elicited strong responses from lesser-heard members of the panel, such as Benh (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Malik (Searching for Sugar Man) Bendjelloul; but also two animation directors, Rich Moore who made Wreck It Ralph and Pixar director Mark Andrews, who joked that most people think cartoon stories are easy, because they just make it up as they go along.
But Moore said that it was important that people realize a human truth about narrative and film. “People think that we rule with an iron fist and we do. But we’re not always right,” he said. “We have to find our stories.”