In film making, the director is the central figure. He is involved in every stage of the film. In fact, it’s HIS vision of the story being told. He works with the producer and screenwriter. He also works with the cast, helping them to capture their roles and scenes. He’s even active after the filming has concluded, deciding which scenes make it onto the screen and which end up on the cutting room floor. He is THE man on set. And for Maleficent, that man is Robert Stromberg. While Maleficent is his directorial debut, his background is in special effects and he’s worked on major films like Avatar and Oz the Great and Powerful. He was part of last week’s press junket in Los Angeles and here is some of what he had to say:
On directing his first film:
I got sidetracked in the, by this pesky, you know, art direction stuff… it was part of the journey. I’m glad that I did all that stuff because it prepared me not only being around these big movies, but also meeting a lot of great directors. And, I met Peter Weir and we became close friends on a movie called Master and Commander. He taught me a lot about how to talk to actors and to get at an emotional level with them.
And then I spent four years with Jim Cameron and that was useful in how to be strong when you need to be…So I came into this with a lot of experience and not only that, you have to have emotion yourself. And you have to have spent your life studying human behavior and really, really paying attention to why people react a certain way when they’re told something. I think it’s all those little bits of information, plus all of the knowledge I got from just my experience with other directors. And then the confidence to be at the same level with somebody in finding the emotion of that character. That’s what made me feel comfortable in being a director.
On the challenges of bringing this story to the screen:
You know, it’s just getting through the film and, and, and still carrying a big, beating heart under your arm as you make it through this jungle is something…Someone once told me that directing is like painting in a hurricane. And it’s true. I can’t pick one thing that was challenging because just making a movie at this scale, you’re constantly juggling chainsaws and, and trying to draw pretty pictures at the same time. So I think the challenge is to make bring all these huge elements together and at the end of all that, have something with a heart and soul and emotion and something that means something. I’m always amazed at how movies get made at all, you know. There’s so many pieces that have to come together that it’s a fascinating process. I’m still fascinated even though I’ve been doing this for twenty-eight years, I’m still as, as fascinated today as I was when I was five years old.
On working with Angelina Jolie:
I went to her house the first day I met her and what was really great is we didn’t talk about the movie for the first hour, I think. I’ll never forget we just sat on some back steps in her backyard and watched her kids play out in the backyard. And we talked about life and, and being a parent and just normal stuff. I think that’s why we connected is because we had to find out that we were both human beings first before we tackled human being problems. And that was a special moment for me because I wasn’t necessarily intimidated by her, but I had never seen the human, motherly quality in there before.
The movie starts TOMORROW!!! Here’s a piece with the actors talking about the legacy of this story:
Disclosure: I was able to meet Robert as part of the Disney press junket for Maleficent in Los Angeles. Disney covered my travel, lodging, meals and activities. All of the opinions, however, are my own.