There’s no set formula out there to make a successful film. But one of the most essential factors that make a great film is a trusting relationship between the director and the actors. Call it good luck, or an experiment that worked out well, there are directors who have used novel techniques to get great performances in their movies. Some of these techniques might seem questionable, even immoral, but have not caused serious harm to the actors and made the movie only better.
1. Steven Spielberg shot E.T. in a chronological order
Steven Spielberg is an absolute genius when it comes to working with child actors. While filming E.T., he came up with a master plan to bring out the maximum amount of believable emotion out of the performances of Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore. He shot the whole film sequentially in a girl logical order so that Henry and Drew could build their bond with the E.T. prop. And history is witness to how great his plan worked out.
2. Alfred Hitchcock told Joan Fontaine nobody liked her in Rebecca
It is no secret that Alfred Hitchcock had a reputation for being difficult to work with and putting his leading ladies through hell. While filming his 1940 classic thriller called Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock told her that nobody in the set liked her in order to achieve the twitchy paranoia of the naive new wife that was her character.
3. Bennett Miller channelized Steve Carell’s self-loathing in Foxcatcher
Steve Carell Is best known for his funny performances, but the man who won a Best Actor Oscar nomination when he played a murderous multimillionaire John DuPont in Foxcatcher. To help him reach that state of mind, Miller told Carell to write the worst thing about himself, something he wouldn’t even tell his wife, and put it in the pocket of his sweatpants.
4. Derek Cianfrance Made Michelle Williams And Ryan Gosling Live Together While Filming Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance insisted that Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams should develop a close personal relationship prior to and during the shoot of Blue Valentine. So the two rented a house, filled it with material possessions, bought groceries as per their character budgets, made home movies on the video cam, and even acted out arguments inside the house. And things have gone as far as Cianfrance encouraging Gosling to go up to Williams’s bedroom to sleep with her, but upon rejection, he spent the night on the couch. Blue Valentine ended up being a heart-wrenching and heartbreaking movie which showed the most authentic side of relationships and even earned Michelle Williams a best actress Oscar nomination.
5. William Friedman Refrigerated The Bedroom Set In The Exorcist To Make The Cast Uncomfortable
On the sets of The Exorcist, William Friedkin froze Reagan’s bedroom so that the cast members Jason Miller, Blair, and Max von Sydow look uncomfortable onscreen and their icy breaths are visible. Since a major part of the movie takes place in the bedroom, it was a smart choice to milk brilliantly believable performances from the cast.
6. Bryan Singer Secretly Told Everyone They Were Keyser SöZe In The Usual Suspects
And Bryan Singer messed with the heads of his entire cast and convinced everyone that they are all secretly Keyser Söze, Only for them to view a preview screening of the film and find out that Kevin Spacey’s Verbal King was the masked gangster all along. Gabriel Byrne was furious about the deception and had a heated conversation with Bryan Singer outside the screening room, which was all the more hilarious if we look at how everything panned out.
7. Stanley Kubrick Used ‘Practice’ Takes In Dr. Stranglove
Stanley Kubrick had asked George S Scott to perform Turgidson as larger than life in the rehearsal takes at the start of every setup. He ended up using these practice takes in the movie instead of the serious ones where Scott was actually trying to act. Eventually, the actor admitted that it was the right decision for the character.
8. The Directors Spooked The Cast In The Blair Witch Project
Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C Williams gave immensely authentic performances as three student filmmakers lost in the woods because they were actually lost while filming for The Blair Witch Project. The directors made them wander through the dense Maryland woods, stole their food at night, and blasted sounds of children wailing in the distance to spook them.
9. Ridley Scott Didn’t Reveal Anything About The Chest-Burster In Alien
While filming, the cast knew that the alien would reveal itself, but they were completely unaware of the spurting of blood that was to follow as it was deliberately kept out of the script. This was Ridley’s masterstroke to achieve the raw reactions of animal fear amongst the cast and indeed a successful one.
10. Werner Herzog Trolled Klaus Kinski In Aguirre, The Wrath Of God
This is the story of a smart director handling a hot-headed Klaus Kinski. Kinski wanted to play the character as larger than life, but Herzog needed the character to be tranquil and so he hatched a plan. Irritated Kinski in a fit of rage had a scene ready to shoot just as the actor would calm down. He used Kinski’s exhaustion to bring out the best in him.