Monday, 14 July 2014

william wyler directs laurence olivier

From Frank McLynn's review (Literary Review, April 2014) of Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, by Mark Harris:

The most attractive personality of the wartime directors was William Wyler, a slightly-built German Jew from Alsace who became one of Hollywood's legendary figures. Famous for his meticulous direction - he was known as 'ninety-take Wyler' - he struggled with communicating his wishes to his actors. The 'guidance' he gave them has been variously reported as 'Again', 'It stinks' and 'Be better'. When one actor painstakingly followed his directions to the letter, Wyler yelled, 'Don't do it the way I tell you. Do it the way I mean.' But he did teach Laurence Olivier the difficult art of acting for the camera (on Wuthering Heights). Every time Olivier played the scene, Wyler monotonously said, 'Again. Give me less.' Eventually an irritated Olivier expostulated, 'If I give you any less, I won't be doing anything at all.' Back came the reply, 'Now you're getting the idea.'