Jack Sayles uses his earnings as a screenwriter for hire to finance his independent films. Here he is behind the camera on the 1983 film "Baby It's You," which he wrote and directed.

Jack Sayles uses his earnings as a screenwriter for hire to finance his independent films. Here he is behind the camera on the 1983 film "Baby It's You," which he wrote and directed.

The American Film Institute’s founding director George Stevens offers an inside look at the art and craft of making movies. His new book presents conversations between students and moviemakers from the 1950s to Hollywood today.

Guests

  • George Stevens, Jr. award-winning film and television writer, director, producer, and founder of the American Film Institute. He is also author of “Conversations With The Great Moviemakers Of Hollywood’s Golden Age At The American Film Institute.”

Photo Gallery: American Film Institute Through The Years

Read An Excerpt

Excerpted from “Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation” by George Stevens, Jr. Copyright © 2012 by the American Film Institute. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Transcript

  • 11:06:56

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Movie making is both an art and a craft. At the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills, master filmmakers pass their knowledge and experience to the next generation. AFI founding director, George Stevens, compiled seminars by Harold Lloyd, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and other pioneers of American film in a book titled "Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age." Now in a new volume, he discusses those who began their careers from the 1950s through today.

  • 11:07:43

    MS. DIANE REHMThe title of the new book is "The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation." George Stevens joins me in the studio. As always, you are welcome to be part of the conversation. I'm so glad to be back with you. Please join us on 800-433-8850, send us your email to drshow@wamu.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter. And this morning I would especially like to welcome WITF at 89.5 FM in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Good morning to you, George. It's good to have you here.

  • 11:08:30

    MR. GEORGE STEVENS JR.Well, it's nice to be here.

  • 11:08:31

    REHMThank you. George, the AFI was founded in 1969. Talk about how that came about.

  • 11:08:41

    STEVENS JR.Well, I had come to Washington to work with Edward R. Murrow at the United States Information Agency in 1962. That was a long time ago. And so I had the privilege of being part of the new frontier and the Kennedy administration, and it was during that time that legislation for the arts was working its way through Congress, and the National Endowment for the Arts was to be the product of that, but when the first bill came out, it mentioned all of the different arts, and it, you know, opera, dance, music, theater, and it didn't have film, and the country felt much differently about film then.

  • 11:09:26

    STEVENS JR.There was many people kind of proudly said, I don't go to the movies, if you can imagine it, and I wrote to Senator Humphrey, Hubert Humphrey, and made the case that film is really the -- an indigenous and American art form. Anyway, it was included. It lead to the creation of the Endowment, and the Endowment didn't know quite what to do about film, and we suggested an American Film Institute and it started actually in 1967. It was the school that started in 1969, the conservatory.

  • 11:10:05

    REHMAnd it's fascinating to sit here in 2012 and realize that film was not included in that initial discussion because people said they didn't go to the movies, I mean, when movies today are one of the primary art forms. But the question about the tutorial approach, how did that get started and can you remember the first?

  • 11:10:38

    STEVENS JR.Yes. It was my really notion that we needed a bridge between the university and filmmaking, and the Center for Advanced Film Studies that we call the Conservatory, was that place, and we started it in Beverly Hills, at that time in an old mansion, the Doheny Estate, and the first day of classes there were 17 fellows there, and the first night we had the first seminar. The idea of passing on the knowledge, and it was Harold Lloyd, the great silent film director and comedian, and he brought along his friend King Vidor, two men in their late '70s, talking to these 17 people who wanted to be filmmakers.

  • 11:11:31

    STEVENS JR.And included in that audience that night among the fellows was Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Paul Schrader, Caleb Deschanel, people who have gone on to have wonderful careers. But the idea was passing on the knowledge that all of this knowledge existed it, how do you transfer it?

  • 11:11:50

    REHMAnd of course, when you were coming up as a filmmaker, were there any such people guiding you?

  • 11:12:00

    STEVENS JR.Well, for the larger public there was not. There were -- when I was young, there were no film schools, there was nothing. But of course I lived in the same house with one of the great directors of all time.

  • 11:12:13

    REHMOne of the greats.

  • 11:12:15

    STEVENS JR.And I had the pleasure of working with him and -- which was a tutorial beyond imagination.

  • 11:12:27

    REHMWhen you say working with him, how did you and your father work together?

  • 11:12:35

    STEVENS JR.Well, do you want to know about my first job?

  • 11:12:37

    REHMSure.

  • 11:12:38

    STEVENS JR.One summer, I think it was between going to high school and college, dad said, do you want to work with me, help me. And I had two jobs. One was to break down Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy." List every scene in part one and part two and all the characters, because he was embarking on the creation of a screenplay about -- based on that book, which ended up being called "A Place in the Sun," with Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.

  • 11:13:12

    REHMShelley Winters.

  • 11:13:13

    STEVENS JR.For which dad won an Oscar. And my other job was to read. Now, why a 17 year old's opinion on scripts would be valuable, maybe there was an element of make work in it. But anyway, I read these books that came from the studio and scripts, and they were not very appealing to me, but one afternoon I picked up a little book -- novel, and read it through in the afternoon, and that night I went to see my father and he was in bed reading, and I said, dad, I said, I think this is really a good story, this book, and I said, you ought to read it.

  • 11:13:54

    STEVENS JR.And he said, why don't you tell me the story? So I walked around his bedroom telling him the story of "Shane" to the best of my ability.

  • 11:14:04

    REHMAh. Which became this glorious film with Alan Ladd and who else was in "Shane"?

  • 11:14:12

    STEVENS JR.Van Heflin and Jean Arthur, and...

  • 11:14:14

    REHMOh my...

  • 11:14:15

    STEVENS JR....Jack Palance in one of his first roles. So that was the beginning of my working relationship, and I worked with him on the location of Shane up in Jackson Hole, and, you know, to be around that kind of imagination and creativity just, you know, was a gift.

  • 11:14:38

    REHMGeorge Stevens, Jr. We're talking not only about his brand new book, "The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, from the 1950s to Hollywood Today," but also about his father the legendary filmmaker George Stevens, Sr. He worked with his father on "Shane," "Giant," and "The Diary of Anne Frank." That must have been quite a film to work on.

  • 11:15:14

    STEVENS JR."The Diary of Anne Frank"?

  • 11:15:15

    REHMYes.

  • 11:15:18

    STEVENS JR.Dad and I -- it's 1957 I believe, went to the Cannes Film Festival. He was on the jury. Then we rented a car and drove to Germany, and the next morning drove to Munich and drove to this little town called Dachau, and this was the first time dad had been at Dachau since 1945 when his unit were the first people into the concentration camp, and then we went to Normandy and revisited his war, and then to Amsterdam. And in the morning in Amsterdam we went to a little part of town and there was this office, and we were going to see Otto Frank, Anne Frank's father.

  • 11:16:02

    STEVENS JR.And we went in and he gave us coffee, and he was with his wife -- a new wife. He lost his first wife in the concentration camps, and Fritzi, his current wife, was a survivor. And we sat and had coffee, and then he went to his filing cabinet and opened a drawer, came out with something wrapped in cloth, and carefully unfolded it, and before us was this little red plaid book which was Anne Frank's actual diary with the pictures pasted in it. And, you know, that was the beginning of an experience to retell that story for the screen, and it was really -- holocaust was not even a word used then.

  • 11:16:48

    STEVENS JR.I mean, this was very much at the beginning of our understanding of what took place, and the fact that dad had been there and recorded it, the actual events in the concentration camps, and then to make this film, which he made as an optimistic film, I mean, of a young woman who loved life and recorded it with, of course, the subtext of the great tragedy.

  • 11:17:16

    REHMDo you believe that he knew when he saw that diary that something magnificent would come from it, or did it take time?

  • 11:17:31

    STEVENS JR.My father?

  • 11:17:32

    REHMMm-hmm.

  • 11:17:33

    STEVENS JR.Well, yeah. He'd read the diary before, and this was just going -- and Otto Frank took us to the hiding place. We climbed up into this attic and just -- Otto Frank and my father and me, and it was painful for Otto Frank undoubtedly, but he wanted the film to be right, and he was willing to do that, and he was a dignified man, six foot two with white hair. He had been an officer in the German Army in the first war, and then after Hitler and the anti-Semitism, he went to Holland and continued his business in Holland.

  • 11:18:12

    STEVENS JR.But yes. I think that dad really saw the possibility wonderful -- and he cared about films lasting, and of course this film has lasted.

  • 11:18:24

    REHMFor all this time. George Stevens, Jr. His new book "Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, from the 1950s to Hollywood Today." Short break and we'll be right back.

  • 11:20:02

    REHMAnd if you just joined us, George Stevens Jr. is with me. His new book "Conversations At The American Film Institute With The Great Moviemakers" passing on the wisdom, the talent, the technique, the understanding of what it takes to make a great film and, of course, George comes from a family where filmmaking was at the center of life. His father was legendary filmmaker George Stevens Jr. who produced for all of us "Giant," "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Shane" and others.

  • 11:20:53

    REHMGeorge, Gregory Peck was the first chair of the American Film Institute's board when it was founded. He talked with the fellows in 1989 and he talked about a film that was closest to his heart, "To Kill A Mockingbird," and here he is.

  • 11:21:28

    GREGORY PECKNow gentlemen, this country, our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all are created equal.

  • 11:21:43

    STEVENS JR.Woo.

  • 11:21:43

    REHMAnd that, of course, is the great Gregory Peck in a clip from "To Kill A Mockingbird." What a voice, what a presentation. How did he talk to the people there at the AFI?

  • 11:22:02

    STEVENS JR.Well, Greg did have a kind of formality about him that he had -- he was Irish -- he had some humor and he was wonderful. He talked about acting -- he said that he was an actor who worked more with his head than his heart, that was quite interesting. And he talked about the making of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and as I heard that voice, I realized the last time I saw that film was about a month ago in The White House. President Obama screened it on the 50th anniversary of the film and Mrs. Peck and Greg's grandchildren were there and many high school students from around the area.

  • 11:22:52

    STEVENS JR.And I had gotten to know Greg a little bit in Hollywood, but he was appointed by President Johnson to the National Endowment for the Arts Council as was my father. And when the American Film Institute was being considered, Greg took an interest. And I remember it was June of 1967 in the back garden of our house in Georgetown on a Sunday. Greg and I sat together and wrote a press release and the facts of what AFI was going to do for its announcement of its creation in June of 1967. And he was a wonderful colleague and Greg gave stature and visibility to our fledgling effort and he was a wonderful man.

  • 11:23:50

    REHMHe had such power, authority and integrity in that film and one always wonders, you say he felt he acted from his head not his heart yet he came through as a man with such extraordinary heart.

  • 11:24:20

    STEVENS JR.Mm-hmm, well, you know, in this book, "The Great Moviemakers," they talk directors and actors, Jack Lemmon, Meryl Streep, Arthur Penn directed "Bonnie and Clyde," Alan Pakula who directed "Sohie's Choice," Robert Altman, Sidney Pollack who directed "Out of Africa," a lot of the discussion is how do you work with actors, how do you -- I know remembering the Jack Lemmon said, you know, leadership is the most important quality of a director and he said if you trust the director then you can do it. He said if you don't trust the director you're closed up and you're afraid of making a mistake. You're afraid that he or she is not going to recognize the good take versus the bad take. So the idea, the idea surrounding working with actors is very much a part of this book and very much a part of making movies.

  • 11:25:25

    REHMWhat about your own role as director and earning the trust of those with whom you're working?

  • 11:25:36

    STEVENS JR.Well, it's critical. I had the good fortune to direct Sidney Poitier who is also in this book in a movie for television, a mini series called "Separate But Equal" which was about Brown versus The Board of Education and Sidney deciding to do it really enabled the making of this film and then we get down on location and he's playing Thurgood Marshall and we were doing a scene in the NAACP headquarters late at night when he's come back from South Carolina and decided that they're going to take this case.

  • 11:26:14

    STEVENS JR.And the guys are playing poker when he walks in and he sits down and he's playing poker with them and I had not seen these comedies that Sidney had made and Sidney was acting more elaborately than I'd ever seen him and I took him into the next room which was cluttered with cameras and lights and paraphernalia and I said Sidney, I'm not quite sure what you're doing here. And he looked at me in that princely way of his, with those dark eyes silently. And after a moment he said what do you want me to do and I don't where it came from, but I said I think of Thurgood Marshall as a man with secrets. And he looked at me and he said, when you want that, just say that word. And from then on, we had shorthand for, you know, and that is, you know, one little story and that's -- there are countless of those of how directors make actors comfortable and allow them to open themselves up and do their best work.

  • 11:27:22

    REHMWe have a clip of Sidney Poitier, the clip is a montage.

  • 11:27:34

    SIDNEY POITIERYour county spends $179 per year for each white child and only $43 for each colored child. That's not equal and that means it's against the law, pure and simple. I'm asking these people to risk their jobs and their safety. That's asking a lot. To fight, to strike down segregation. If we don't push, who will? This is 1952, nearly 100 years. There will be hostility and probably reprisals, but the law is on our side. No state shall deny any person the equal protection of the law.

  • 11:28:19

    REHMSidney Poitier, he was on this program once and I had the honor of sitting with him and hearing that glorious voice and in that montage we heard that voice in so many different forms, thoughts, characters, it's extraordinary.

  • 11:28:46

    STEVENS JR.Yes Sidney is one of the dear people in this world and he's been a tremendous force. He really carried the burden of becoming the first African American movie star and there were times when he was criticized from one side or the other. But when you think that he grew up on an island in the Bahamas and when he was 14 or 15 hopped a freight train to New York speaking a kind of Bahamian accented English, and found a Jewish waiter where he was a dishwasher who helped him learn English by listening to the radio, you know, Sidney's a miracle, just -- and he's a man of such integrity and so you have me gushing about him, but he's quite something.

  • 11:29:36

    REHMWhat did you learn from him?

  • 11:29:42

    STEVENS JR.Oh gosh, I think basically I just learned, you know, I think Sidney enlarges the humanity of anyone he spends time with. I'd put it as simply as that.

  • 11:29:58

    REHMAnd, when you say enlarges the humanity, I wonder what that meant to you and means to you now?

  • 11:30:12

    STEVENS JR.Well, I think to have as a close friend and colleague somebody who has managed his path, you realize what human beings can achieve without advantages of which he had none, except perhaps a very tall, good looking, handsome man.

  • 11:30:37

    REHMHandsome man, indeed. George Stevens Jr., the book we're talking about is titled "Conversations At The American Film Institute With The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation" from the 1950s to Hollywood today. You can join us, 800-433-8850, send us your email to drshow@wamu.org. Of the 32 conversations in the book, only four are interviews of women. Shirley Clarke, whose name I did not know, tell me about Shirley Clarke.

  • 11:31:30

    STEVENS JR.Shirley Clarke was from New York, she was a dancer, danced with Martha Graham. She was a very determined woman. I knew her when I was making films for the USIA. She really, of the post-war era, was the first woman director and she did it kind of by the bootstraps. She made films independently, shot one in the Chelsea Hotel in New York and she really was a fighter for independent filmmaking which is a tough road and was an uphill journey for her and her seminar at AFI she expresses some of the frustration -- she, of course, did the seminar in Hollywood and she talks about how unlikely it was that anybody in Hollywood was going to hire her.

  • 11:32:28

    REHMAnd it took until 2010 for a woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow, and "The Hurt Locker." Why do you think it took so long? Why do you think that women have progressed as slowly as they have in the filmmaking process?

  • 11:32:54

    STEVENS JR.I think there was a perception, not entirely erased, that making movies is such a complex, difficult activity, from raising the money to getting the sets built, the hiring the crew, all of these things which are skills that women were not perceived to have. At the AFI in 1972 ,we started something called The Directing Workshop for Women where women would come and be able to make films and one byproduct of doing that and one reason for doing it was to help women think that there's no reason that they shouldn't be doing it.

  • 11:33:41

    STEVENS JR.And it's amazing. There were two directors, a woman called Dorothy Arzner from the silent end of the sound period and Ida Lupino, an actress, who became a director and did more of her directing in television than in film. They were the only two directors pre-war. So this was very ingrained and what I find interesting is, take Kathryn Bigelow, she's not making "ladies" pictures. She's making "The Hurt Locker." and now making the film about Osama Bin Laden and his extinction, proving that this idea that the requirements are not gender specific, that you can make an ambitious, difficult outdoor film and it can be directed by a woman.

  • 11:34:37

    REHMGeorge Stevens Jr. and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." But then you have someone like Nora Ephron using her own gender to her own advantage.

  • 11:34:55

    STEVENS JR.Yeah, Nora is, you know, a woman of diverse talents and basically she's a writer who then becomes a director and does it very well.

  • 11:35:06

    REHMAnd let's hear one of her first big screen successes.

  • 11:35:15

    BILLY CRYSTALMen and women can't be friends because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.

  • 11:35:22

    MEG RYANSo you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive.

  • 11:35:26

    CRYSTALNo, you pretty much want to nail them, too.

  • 11:35:29

    REHMI love that film so much and it endures.

  • 11:35:33

    STEVENS JR.Yes, well, Nora talks in her seminar about the difficulty of becoming a director, including partly I think it took her some time to kind of convince herself that she should be a director. And there were -- she had friends in Hollywood who -- women had started becoming studio executives and Dawn Steele and Amy Pascal and others were anxious to push some women to the front. And Nora wrote a script and said I should direct this and they agreed.

  • 11:36:15

    REHMBut of course the money, the money part of it is so extraordinarily important and raising money in this day and age where so many films are geared to younger and younger kids as opposed to folks 40 and above.

  • 11:36:37

    STEVENS JR.Right. Just with Nora, Nora commented that in writing scripts, she said when I'm writing a script for a male director and he says, oh, that reminds me of my second divorce, I'll put that scene in right away because I have to find something that he can relate to. And she said men don't like to make films about women. But Nora is very clever and when you comment on the films today that the big money, the big investment in films today is "Men in Black" one, two, three and four and all of these films designed for teenagers. Those big investments used to go to the David Lean films "Doctor Zhivago" and "Lawrence of Arabia."

  • 11:37:31

    REHMAnd they will come again, I'm sure. George Stevens Jr., we're talking about the great moviemakers. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:05

    REHMAnd if you've just joined us, George Stevens, Jr. is with me. We're talking about a wonderful new book titled "Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers." This is a book talking with the great moviemakers from the 1950s to Hollywood today. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to drshow@wamu.org, join us on Facebook or send us a Tweet.

  • 11:40:50

    REHMHere's an email from Richard who says, "I so enjoyed the movie 'A Place in the Sun.' I saw the movie after having read it several times. I felt it stayed true to the ethos of the book and did indeed capture the great tragedy that occurred. Please comment on the career of the very handsome Montgomery Clift and why he did not ultimately achieve the greatness that had been forecast for him." When one see that movie, one realizes how very beautiful Elizabeth Taylor was in her youth.

  • 11:41:36

    STEVENS JR.Right. Monty Clift -- people should also see "Red River," which is a wonderful film with John Wayne and Monty in a western. And he was a fine actor. In "A Place in the Sun," he was so kinda beautiful to look at, a wonderful character.

  • 11:41:56

    REHMIntense.

  • 11:41:58

    STEVENS JR.Yeah, and his -- but he had a difficult life. He had little problems with -- big problems with drink and I think some drugs. And he just went off the track. And he had an auto accident driving down from Liz Taylor's house one night and it slightly disfigured himself. And there's no happier way to put it than he just got on a downhill path and never was able to get off it.

  • 11:42:31

    REHMHe and Elizabeth Taylor were very, very close personally, were they not?

  • 11:42:37

    STEVENS JR.They were. She was sort of a lifeline to him. I don't think it was a romance, but they were very close.

  • 11:42:49

    REHMHe was perhaps gay before it was okay for him to be gay...

  • 11:42:58

    STEVENS JR.Yes, and that was...

  • 11:43:00

    REHM...in that day and age.

  • 11:43:01

    STEVENS JR....and that I'm sure was some conflict for him trying to be a leading man. And the question was always, you know, that you -- they -- gay actors were asked -- I mean, Rock Hudson married -- and, you know, in part, too, because that was felt what was required for him to continue as a leading man.

  • 11:43:27

    REHMAnd yet succumb to AIDS...

  • 11:43:31

    STEVENS JR.Yeah.

  • 11:43:32

    REHM...as an active gay man. What a shame that that era enclosed so many people in their own minds and hearts.

  • 11:43:43

    STEVENS JR.Yeah, and Rock was a wonderful man. I mean, I got to know him very well in "Giant" and, you know, the end of his life was tragic.

  • 11:43:53

    REHMLet's take a call from St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Ann Marie, you're on the air.

  • 11:44:00

    ANN MARIEThank you, Diane. I enjoy your program so much every day.

  • 11:44:03

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:44:04

    STEVENS JR.I'd like to ask Mr. Stevens about Barbara Streisand. Why does he think she's not recognized? I believe she's a great female director. I think "The Prince of Tides," for example, is a beautiful movie. I notice that he himself did not mention her name when he was speaking of women directors. I'd like to hear him comment on that, please.

  • 11:44:29

    STEVENS JR.Well, Barbara's accomplished in so many areas and I -- by -- in an effort at small justification, I would say that another of my incarnations is writing and producing the Kennedy Center Honors and we honored Barbara several years ago. I have great respect for her. And she is a good director. And that it might take our little analysis a little further is that Barbara is not regularly directing films. And, you know, I'm not sure what the answer to that is. Obviously, part of it is that it's harder for women to get films together. But she hasn't chosen that as her main thrust...

  • 11:45:16

    REHMPrimary, yeah.

  • 11:45:17

    STEVENS JR....of her career.

  • 11:45:18

    REHMWith her own voice and her appearances, she is a very busy woman. Another very busy woman, Meryl Streep. And you call her the premier actress of the day.

  • 11:45:39

    STEVENS JR.Yes, and it's -- it would be -- it's difficult to make that categorical thing without fear of a lot of backlash, but I think Meryl has really established herself. When you think -- I think -- and she's now 63 and she's still playing leading roles. She talks in her seminar about when she did "Postcards from the Edge." She was 41. And she came home and told her husband, I am now as old as Betty Davis when she did "All About Eve."

  • 11:46:08

    REHMWow.

  • 11:46:09

    STEVENS JR.I think this is the end. You know, you just can't -- she couldn't believe that those parts would keep coming. And now this is 20 years later and she's still playing leading roles. And she's just an extraordinary actress and a wonderful person and a wonderful mother. I mean, she has balanced this very difficult and topic of the day in some quarters of women can't have it all. Meryl has managed a career and professional life very well.

  • 11:46:44

    REHMAnd let's hear Meryl Streep in a clip from "Sophie's Choice."

  • 11:46:53

    MERYL STREEPI was a grown woman. I was wholly come of age. I was married woman when I realized that I hate my father beyond all words to tell it. It was winter of 1938 and my father is working for weeks on the speech he calls Poland Jewish Problem. Ordinarily, I typed those speeches and I don't hear to the words to their meaning. But this time, I came upon a word repeat several times that I have never heard before.

  • 11:47:50

    MERYL STREEPThe solution for Poland Jewish problem, he concludes, is vernichtung, extermination.

  • 11:48:03

    REHMThose extraordinary accents that Meryl Streep has been able to bring to her extraordinary acting.

  • 11:48:15

    STEVENS JR.Yeah, and when people raise the accent in her seminar that fellows asked questions she said, I don't want to talk about that. That's just technicality. She really likes to feel that it comes from inside and when you think that this woman now recently played Margaret Thatcher with such skill. She talked, I thought, rather touchingly about "Sophie's Choice," which this is from, that she, of course, knew the story and she said, I read the script and just glanced at the last two pages. She said, because Sophie is a character with two men who are in love with her and I wanted her to be this alive woman with dreams.

  • 11:49:05

    STEVENS JR.And so she said, right up until the night before we shot the scene, she said, Sophie hadn't read the last pages of her life and I didn't want to read them. And so the night before I read the scene and, you know, it's so interesting the process of fine actors. And that's just one example that Meryl gives in the book.

  • 11:49:31

    REHMShe also talked about coming to every project "thinking I don't know anything. It serves me to begin blank and to try to forget the 900 other movies and my reputation and the training or whatever horrible obstruction there is to creating a new character. I put myself in a panic of anxiety to become blank and to start by starting." That really is something.

  • 11:50:12

    STEVENS JR.Isn't it? I mean, to understand her process so well.

  • 11:50:23

    REHMAnd to be able to carry it through. Let's go to Fulton, Ky. Good morning, Tracy, you're on the air.

  • 11:50:31

    TRACYGood morning. I'd like to ask Mr. Stevens his thought on the Cohen Brothers, their movies and the extraordinary performances they get out of actors who haven't necessarily shown that range of talent in the past.

  • 11:50:50

    STEVENS JR.Fascinating, isn't it? I mean, here are these two brothers and they have found their own path. And it is so difficult 'cause they make films that are sort of out there on the edge and they manage to do it in a way that they are sufficiently successful financially that they can make the next one.. And yes, they attract really interesting actors and use them in ways that they perhaps have not been used before.

  • 11:51:22

    REHMThanks for calling, Tracy. To Carrboro, N.C. Good morning, Janet.

  • 11:51:28

    JANETGood morning, Diane. This is a real pleasure and honor to speak with you. I've been listening to you for years.

  • 11:51:31

    REHMThank you. Thank you.

  • 11:51:35

    JANETI myself am a contemporary of some of your friends, Emmy Lou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I'm a singer/songwriter. But my grandfather, Sam Bradder (sp?) and his brother-in-law Mr. Pollack were among the first people to found the movie industry up in New Jersey. And my father was one of his managers and -- with Warner Brothers.

  • 11:51:58

    JANETIt's my understanding, as a writer myself and a singer/songwriter that women in the silent era -- or quite a number of women in the silent era were directors as well as being powerful actors. And when that dropped off and when the sound era came along things changed and women, it seems, were relegated back to being eye candy. But when Bradder and Pollack -- if you look them up on the internet -- when they were actually involved in buying up theater chains and nickelodeons and turning them into silent movie theaters and then eventually sound theaters and Warner Brothers got hold of them and Mr. Fox got hold of them, they -- pretty much my grandfather retired.

  • 11:52:42

    JANETBut they managed to create an industry there and where Edison developed cinemas and managed to expand that whole concept of entertainment as being a rather secular church, if you will. And I find it very interesting that things kind of come and go in waves whereas, you know, with the suffragette movement women were moving into the directing and the controlling and the creation of the art and the cinema, which is our contemporary art form. But as time kind of revolves around itself and the second wave comes along, women are pushed back again into merely being eye candy.

  • 11:53:27

    REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Do you think women have been pushed back into a place of being eye candy?

  • 11:53:39

    STEVENS JR.Well, I would comment mainly on the silent era, she may have information that I don't but I'm not conscious of a lot of women who were directors in the silent era. But I did have two grandmothers who were actresses. My mother's mother was a silent film comedian, worked with Chaplin, had her own star career.

  • 11:54:04

    REHMWhat was her name?

  • 11:54:06

    STEVENS JR.Her name was Alice Howell and my other grandmother, Georgia Woodthorpe - oh no, that was my great grandmother who was an actress and my other grandmother was Georgie Cooper whose career was mainly on the stage and she was George Stevens' father (sic) .

  • 11:54:23

    REHMSo you clearly come from -- it's in your genes, George, that's all there is to it. Steven Spielberg, the summer blockbuster.

  • 11:54:35

    STEVENS JR.Yeah.

  • 11:54:36

    REHMHe really has opened films in a new way at the imagination that we use when we see his films. Here's a clip from the first film to gross $100 million and create the concept of the summer blockbuster.

  • 11:55:04

    JOHN WILLIAMSThere is a creature alive today who has survived millions of years of evolution without change, without passion and without logic that lives to kill. The mindless eating machine, it will attack and devour anything. It is as if God created the devil and gave him Jaws. Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss.

  • 11:55:46

    ROY SCHEIDERYou're gonna need a bigger boat.

  • 11:55:48

    WILLIAMSFrom the bestselling novel "Jaws "rated PG, may be too intense for younger children.

  • 11:55:53

    REHMAnd indeed, I saw that film first with my daughter. She had to hold my hand, George. You know, it was a summer blockbuster. Has it become more difficult, more expensive to create that kind of film that really engages all of us?

  • 11:56:18

    STEVENS JR.Well, that’s interesting that "Jaws" really did engage all of us. And the summer blockbuster has evolved, for the most part, into kinds of films that don't engage all of us that are really targeted. One studio had said I'm really in the toy business making these films that can become theme parks and video games and merchandise. But just hearing that trailer, I guess it is...

  • 11:56:45

    REHMYes.

  • 11:56:45

    STEVENS JR....that one of the signature -- part of the signature artistry of "Jaws" is John Williams' score.

  • 11:56:53

    REHMExtraordinary.

  • 11:56:54

    STEVENS JR.And Steven is so complimentary of John for what he brought to the picture.

  • 11:56:58

    REHMGeorge Stevens, Jr. The book we've been talking about "Conversations At The American Film Institute With The Great Moviemakers." Thank you so much for being here.

  • 11:57:12

    STEVENS JR.Oh, Diane, it's always such a great pleasure to be with you.

  • 11:57:15

    REHMI enjoyed it. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

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