“I Can’t Believe This Is My Job”: Top Directors On Directing

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There’s something so inspiring about listening to people at the top of their game discuss being at the top of their game. In this Empire feature, director Sam Mendes interviews about ten of his peers, including Ang Lee, Alfonso Cuaron, Stephen Spielberg, and Christopher Nolan, asking questions such as “Have you ever stormed off set?” and “Why didn’t you just become an accountant?”

The answers are priceless.

HOW MANY CUPS OF COFFEE A DAY?

Michell: Green tea or decaff.

Spielberg: I never had a cup of coffee in my life, but I have at least a dozen cups of mint tea a day.

Joe Wright: Way too many, hence the beta-blockers. I met my last assistant when she was working as a barista so we had an espresso machine in my office — that was dangerous.

Cuarón: No coffee. Green tea in the morning, white tea in the afternoon. Far too many.

Whedon: Only tea, ’til Age Of Ultron, where I got hooked. Even then, one or two. With tea in-between. Tea I can swill all day.

Bier: Two, maybe three. I drink loads of herbal tea, though, ten cups or so. A pretty unexciting habit, I know.

Greengrass: More than the most takes I’ve ever done!

Fincher: Three tops, or I become too caustic/vengeful.

Lee: Two.

Clooney: Three.

Marshall: One in the morning. One at ‘tea time’. But always iced.

Nolan: So many that I was forced to give it up and take up tea after Insomnia.

Considering how profane and curt Fincher is in even this interview, I quail to imagine what he’d be like if he were “too caustic/vengeful.”

Who would have guessed that so many American directors would be so into tea? Or that at least two of them would admit to having never drunk a cup of coffee in their lives? (Just like me!!) (I hate coffee and can’t understand what pleasure the rest of you derive from it.)

The directors are almost uniformly pleasant, too, which is fun to read. They express so much gratitude for being able to do the thing they love for money. Spielberg says his best day on set is every day and Alexander Payne agrees: “Sorry to sound corny, but even the worst day on
 set is the best day on set and heads-and-shoulders above
 not shooting.”

Edgar Wright makes me love him even more by replying that his best day on set is “Any time I think out loud, ‘I can’t believe this is my job,’ and remember I am a very lucky duck. Whether marshalling hundreds of zombies, doing crazy stunts or shooting big music numbers, I just feel fortunate to have made my passion my vocation.”

Also, in case you were curious, they didn’t become accountants because, almost to a one, they claim to be terrible at math. Except Fincher, of course, who instead rasps, “I’m not good enough with ‘people’ to do that kind of work.” Oh David. Never change.

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