In honor of Monday night’s Aero screening of Herbert Ross‘s The Last of Sheila (’73), here’s a nicely phrased appreciation from Trailers From Hell commentator Larry Karaszewksi.
I spoke a couple of times to Ross when I was a Cannon press-kit writer. It was in the fall of 1987 when his Mikhail Baryshnikov film, Dancers, was being prepared for release. During our second chat I was asking him about something I wanted to put into the Dancers press kit, and somehow I miscommunicated my intention and Ross got the idea I was trying to debate him. “Look, this isn’t that kind of conversation!,” he said sternly, almost shouting. I immediately backpedaled and grovelled. “No, no, Mr. Ross…I apologize, that’s not what I meant,” etc. I cooled him down but after I hung up, I said to myself, “Jesus God, that is one fierce hombre! He was ready to take my head off!”
Of course, any director who’s elbowed his or her way into mainstream Hollywood and maintained power in that realm over any period of time has to be tough as nails. That’s what I said when I wrote that July 2011 piece comparing Wes Anderson to John Ford and Nunnally Johnson. Here’s the opening graph:
“‘All strong directors are sons of bitches,’ John Ford allegedly said to screenwriter Nunnally Johnson sometime in the late ’40s or early ’50s. His point was that Johnson, in Ford’s view, was too much of a nice, thoughtful, fair-minded guy to cut it as a director. Directors basically can’t be too mellow or gentle or accommodating. They need to be tough, pugnacious and manipulative mo’fos in order to get what they want. And if they’re too deferential, they won’t last.”