With awards news and retrospective material still surfacing after this year’s Cannes Film Festival — which hosted a closing night gala on Sunday — we’ve had the chance to look back at a few of our favorite filmmakers throughout their careers.
Miramax recently posted a 1994 Charlie Rose interview with director Quentin Tarantino, fresh off his Palme d’Or win for Pulp Fiction, shortly before the film’s US theatrical release. At this point in his career, Tarantino had staked his claim with the impressive Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, but the way he stumbles over his words and exuberantly recounts the details of his younger years and passions is charming and electrifying to watch. As Miramax points out, it’s a snapshot of a “budding auteur” on the brink of greatness, whose life and artistry has evolved nearly 20 years later.
The video got us fired up and anxious to explore other early interviews with our favorite filmmakers to see what hopes and wisdom they had to impart. Visit our picks below, and let us know who fascinates you most.
This brief 1976/1977 interview footage featuring Star Wars director George Lucas shows a thoughtful and humble filmmaker, keenly focused on creating a “straightforward, wholesome, fun adventure.” He chats about his dog Indiana, the religious and robotic framework behind his intergalactic opus, and which guy is better for Princess Leia.
With the failure of Dune behind him, and Elephant Man and Eraserhead just completed, David Lynch’s 1986 Canadian TV interview highlights the disturbing physical and psychological grotesquerie running through his early body of work. The interviewer is clearly uncomfortable with this and claims to have found Blue Velvet — the film he was promoting at the time — very disturbing. “A lot of my life has been discovering this strange sickness,” Lynch tells her, responding to his ongoing obsession with exploring “uneasy interiors.” It’s a reminder that Lynch’s foray into cinema wasn’t widely accepted — interesting considering our current voracious appetite for his bizarre charms.
This rare and intimate interview with Francis Ford Coppola was conducted with Merv Griffin in 1979. The legendary filmmaker released Apocalypse Now that year and had completed part two of his Godfather series two years earlier. Coppola stresses the importance of quality and integrity in filmmaking to Griffin. He discusses some of his hopes and fears surrounding the making of Apocalypse Now and his relationship with George Lucas. Coppola speaks with a distinct confidence, but seems grateful for his success — and his vineyard. Griffin’s wide-eyed questioning makes it clear that audiences knew they had a true auteur on their hands.
In 2000, Sofia Coppola watched her first feature debut The Virgin Suicides make its premiere at Sundance. The festival caught up with the fidgety filmmaker who shared stories about growing up on film sets (thanks to her famous dad) and finding the inspiration to set out on her own. She shares tales about making home movies as a kid and feeling intimidated by filmmaking, but her excitement is clear. Although she worried parts of her dark drama were “boring,” she trusted audiences during early screenings. Coppola conveys a deep fascination for the craft, and her youthful energy reinforces her desire to quickly “try something else.” Also, juxtaposed with the interview of her father, it’s interesting to think about what Coppola Sr. was like at 28 years old, fresh behind the camera (at 33 years old, he would direct The Godfather).
Scorsese had already completed his biggest early films — like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, and Raging Bull — before working on pool hustling tale The Color of Money in 1986 with Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. At times the interviewer seems more interested in the hotness star quality of Scorsese’s actors — and she quotes Taxi Driver’s famous line with the twinkling excitement of a child — but Scorsese answers are revealing regardless. He admits a fascination with self-destructive characters throughout his body of work, shares his desire to work with Newman, and discusses shaping a character around an actor’s larger than life persona. It’s also amusing to hear him talk about a young and “enthusiastic” Tom Cruise, who had just completed Risky Business and wasn’t yet jumping the couch.
Orson Welles’ 1960 Paris hotel interview shows a reflective actor and filmmaker, opinionated and succinct — but fair — giving credit where it’s due. He cites his role as Harry Lime in Carol Reed’s famous noir The Third Man as his greatest acting achievement and even goes so far to say that he doesn’t think there’s been a part as good in any movie since the war. Welles reflects an inimitable talent, the depth of his legacy already evident early in his career.
Wes Anderson looks like he’s 12 years old (he’s 30) in this 1999 Charlie Rose interview, shot almost a year after his second feature Rushmore hit the screen. He shares his appreciation for those who trusted his abilities and tells Rose that he knows his work is better if he’s collaborating with Owen Wilson. Anderson also chats about Jason Schwartzman’s Max in Rushmore and states that the film is the one that would have changed him had he saw it at 15 years old. He finds Max “deeply disturbed,” but important in that he shows a way to be heroic and succeed in alternative ways. Anderson’s honesty, but protectiveness, about his characters shows a striking clarity and commitment in the young filmmaker.
This twenty-minute interview was shot the same year Jane Campion directed her first feature, Sweetie — just four years before she would make her grand Hollywood entrance with emotional drama, The Piano. She chats about her untraditional approach to film school, describing her peers — who formed a kind of “midnight club” (including fellow filmmaker Alex Proyas) — as the ones who really taught her all about movies. We like her gothic and self-described “guerrilla” attitude, which has continued to shine through her work — most recently in the surreal and fetishistic drama, Sleeping Beauty, which she helped guide.
This interview compilation finds Yo! MTV Raps catching up with Spike Lee and star Giancarlo Esposito at the 1989 Do the Right Thing premiere party chatting about Public Enemy, and in Brooklyn (1990) talking about 2 Live Crew. The thread throughout both brief, but blunt, conversations? Censorship and freedom of speech. Lee didn’t like Crew’s message, saying it wasn’t uplifting for black people. Even though he’s directed a broader range of films since those early days, Lee is still associated with the political/social/human causes he championed fiercely in his youth.
This 1983 interview shows Cronenberg doing press with his cast for mind-melding feature, The Dead Zone. The body horror auteur discusses the “illusion” of films, emphasizing that he treats all of the bizarre phenomena in his movies as though they were absolutely real — something he has skillfully perfected, even though he’s put more focus on stunning violence and psychological drama than stomach vaginas in recent years.
“We are challenging nature itself, and it hits back,” Herzog shared in this 1980’s-era interview while making the Amazonian, visionary epic Fitzcarraldo. He goes on to share stunning personal revelations about the obscenity of nature, themes he has focused on throughout his work whether they are fixed on the wilds of Alaska or the cells of death row.
In 1960, Jean-Luc Godard’s debut film Breathless was the buzz of Cannes, having hit theaters about six months prior. He was invited to join the festivities, but you’d never know the young, cocky, candid director was flattered by the attention. He shared that he hoped people would hate his next movie, having already fallen out of love with filmmaking since becoming popular. There’s a lovely and amusing tête à tête between Godard and the interviewer who challenges him on several occasions. It’s pure Godard — a burgeoning and often reluctant genius.