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Alfred Hitchcock

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memorable lines from season 1 of Downton Abbey

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Directed By John Ford, 2006 (dir. Peter Bogdanovich)

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the man, the myth, the mitchum


Robert Mitchum ca. 1947

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Peter O’Toole Has a Few Words for Directors

Q: For this particular character [Eli Cross in The Stunt Man], did you draw upon your experiences with filmmakers who’d directed you?

A: Look, for me, a person, a character, a part is on the page. I don’t invent, I don’t copy anybody or think of anybody. Something happens, and I can’t explain it. I’ve tried to write about it. How the ink from the page comes up into my eyes and forms itself into a part that I want to play, and I’ve no idea how it happens. Intellectually, I can understand that I read it and enjoy it. But why this particular one, I don’t know.

Q: So the notion that Eli Cross was somehow a gloss on, say, David Lean-

A: “That’s Orson Welles?” “That’s John Huston?” No, no, no. It’s Eli Cross. He lives for me. I don’t want to be anybody else, thank you very much. He’s not copying anybody. He’s himself.

Q: Did you do any background research to learn how to play a director?

A: I don’t play directors. I play men. No, I don’t do any of that. Unobserved, uninhibited, private study of the script. I rehearse myself, l lock myself away for a month, before any film or play, and I absorb every word and every moment. And when it comes to the curtain going up or the action being started, I’m there. Ancient old pro speaking.

Q: With your past directors, in film or on stage –

A: Nobody on the stage. I don’t approve of theater directors. Do you know the history of it? The old word was getterup, to get a show up, and to get a show up you had to know everything on that stage that surrounds a production and make it work. Including lighting it, finding the costumes, everything. The last thing they need to do was talking to the actors. We can do our job, thank you very much indeed. Just get on with it and mount a production. On came a load of children from the university who’d had an enthusiasm for amateur drama. [laughs haughtily] Like these clowns, Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn and all this bunch of clowns. I won’t speak to them. When you’ve earned your living on the stage for 10, 15 years, then come and tell me how to earn mine. Go on the stage and earn your living for a dozen years, and get some humility.

Q: Have you ever had a film director manipulate you as Eli does to his performers, to make them think they are playing a certain kind of scene while he’s looking to capture them in a way they aren’t expecting?

A: Anybody who would do that to me would get a punch in the head. No, nobody ever bothers me with that. I can’t tolerate it. Oh yes, some people have tried, and they’ve had their reward. From then on, I don’t speak a word to them. From me, you get a mild expression of disgust, and then I walk off and have a beer.

A: You were, of course, nominated for an Academy Award for this performance. Did you think you might win that year?

A: We knew. I always ring the bookies immediately in Las Vegas. I’m the son of a racetrack bookie, and I’ve never known an odds-on favorite, in my 50 years, of not winning. If it’s a horse, it’s at least got a chance of falling down. And not once in 50 years have I ever been a favorite.

Q: They always say it’s an honor just to be nominated.

A: No, it’s not. It’s a bore. I’m fed up. [laughs] Second prize is no prize, thank you very much indeed.

Q: But you’ve got your honorary Oscar.

A: Yeah. Honorary. Yeah. I don’t want to be honorary anything. I don’t mind earning something.

Q: You don’t feel you earned it for your body of work? Isn’t it the Academy’s way of saying, we should have given you one already?

A: Yeah, and they’ll say it again the following year. Come on, it’s a joke. It’s the biggest joke. Eight times? It’s impossible.

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