Post Magazine

March 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 13 of 43

DIRECTOR'S CHAIR 12 POST MARCH 2017 scar-winning director/producer Taylor Hackford made his feature directorial debut in 1980 with The Idolmaker and followed that up with the hit, An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger, which re- ceived five Academy Award nominations and won two Oscars. Since then, Hackford has made a diverse slate of films, often with a musical subject, including Ray, a dramatic portrait of American icon Ray Charles, starring Jamie Foxx, which was nominated for six Oscars (winning Best Actor for Foxx), the acclaimed docu- mentary Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, and La Bamba, the Richie Valens biography, which he produced. Other credits include Against All Odds, White Nights, Everybody's All-American, Dolores Claiborne, The Devil's Advocate and When We Were Kings, winner of the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary, which he produced. Hackford most recently directed the dramatic comedy The Comedian, starring Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Edie Falco, Harvey Keitel, Patti LuPone, Charles Grodin and Cloris Leachman. De Niro plays Jackie Burke, a caustic, potty-mouthed, aging comic icon who's seen better days. Despite his efforts to reinvent himself and his comic genius, the audience only wants to know him as the former television character he once played. Already a financial strain on his younger brother (DeVito) and his wife (LuPone), Jackie is forced to serve out a jail sentence and then do community service for attacking a heckler at his show. When he meets Harmony (Mann), the daughter of a sleazy Florida real estate mogul (Keitel), Jackie is forced to reassess his life and career. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Hackford talks about working with De Niro, making the film, the challenges involved and his love of post. You've never worked with De Niro before. Was that part of the appeal of this project? "Absolutely. I develop most of my films myself, and one I'd prepared suddenly lost its financing, so when they sent me this with Bobby already involved and I read it, I loved it. This character is a classic De Niro role, one of those misanthropes that he totally disappears into, and it was written for him by Art Linson, who pro- duced this with Bob. It was Bob's passion project, and they invited me on." Any surprises with De Niro? "The biggest one was that he was so open to any ideas, even though it was his baby. He loves directors, and told me, 'Make it your own,' and we collaborated on it very intensely, every step of the way. But he let me cast the movie, and let me bring on a couple of new writers who reworked the material, and was totally supportive." He's well known as a huge comedy fan, and as a very accomplished comedic actor, but he's not a stand up. How did you guys deal with that? "You're right, comedy acting and stand up are two very different things, so every week Bob and I'd go to comedy clubs and study how they did it, the delivery, the material, the attitude and so on, and I told him, 'You have to choose a stand up persona, a style, that is comfortable for you.' He worked for a long time on all that until he finally settled on one for Jackie, and then he totally submerged himself in the character. It also helped a lot that he's such a big stand up fan. He was very close to Robin Williams, he's close friends with Bill Crystal, who's in the film, along with a lot of other real-life comics and real comedy clubs, so he was very motivated to get it right and know what it's like to get up on stage and do it. He was proper- ly terrified of the role — meaning that he wanted to really deliver the goods, which he did brilliantly." How tough was the shoot? I heard you only had 27 days? "Very tough, given the schedule. I shot it all on-location, all over New York and Long Island, so you're spending a lot of time just on the road. It's not like shooting in a studio for 27 days. You're constantly moving, and we shot in winter with snow and rain. So it was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants shoot, and as I don't ever rehearse, I made sure I got all the actors to the locations in advance, so they could walk around and get a sense of how it'd work. And that whole process was a rediscovery for me. Although it was tough, as we were basically a low-budget indie, I have the experience now to cope — even though we had fewer days than I had on my very first feature. I'm more armed now, and able to go for the spontaneous mo- ment, and it was fun." TAYLOR HACKFORD: THE COMEDIAN BY IAIN BLAIR O Hackford describes post as the key part of filmmaking. COLLABORAT- ING WITH DE NIRO ON A DRAMATIC COMEDY

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - March 2017