My Gleanings

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Michel Simon teaches Claude Berri a lesson in directing

This anecdote is from Claude Berri’s memoir “Autoportrait”. It recounts an event on the first day of shooting for his first feature film which he directed Le Vieil Homme et l'Enfant (The Two of Us) in 1967. (from pages 52-54 and my translation)
“I could not believe my ears, Michel’s [Simon] voice had adopted a peculiar tone, not his own. It was artificial, it was not him. What was he trying to do to me? I felt that his acting was false. “Cut!”. I took him aside and softly, very gently, I asked him for another take, this time more natural, more himself. For me, Michel and the old man were one and the same, such as he was in life, that was perfect. He was the character. He only had to open his mouth without changing his voice. That is, I did not say it. I did not have to finish my sentence when, in front of everyone, he roared out, “Nobody directs Michel Simon.“ Magnificent! I will never forget this! In a few seconds, he had given me the best lesson in direction of actors that you could receive in your life. How much film directors should remember this. Me, I have never forgotten it. Several times, before La Reine Margot, I tried to get Patrice Chereau to take profit there. An actor is not directed - or very little - an actor is chosen. If one directs the actor, one has made a poor choice. Good actors know what they are doing in a role. They do their of the creation in the interpretation. The director is the first spectator. At the end of every take, the actor can see if they are good or not in his eyes.”

Speaking of his reaction to his viewing of the first day’s rushes, Berri commented, “Comme il avait eu raison de m’envoyer chier.“ (“As he was right to tell me to go shit in a hat.”)
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