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David Lynch, Jordan Peele, Tiffany Haddish, and More Creators Tell IndieWire What Drove Them in 2017

The IndieWire staff spoke to some of film and television's brightest stars over the last 12 months, complete with insights on the creative process and a changing industry.

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Words have always had great power, but over the course of the last year — a one of massive change and upheaval in Hollywood and the rest of the world — that old chestnut has never seemed more prescient. 2017 saw the rise of believing those who speak out, even if it hurts to hear, and plenty of the industry’s biggest voices had plenty to say. We talk to a lot of Hollywood’s brightest talents, about the projects which have inspired them most and the industry which at times supports, and at times hinders, their efforts to make their best work.

As individuals, we’re often blown away by their insights; in gathering them together, we end up with a portrait of a community of artists and creators who love their art and their industry, for better and for worse, and refuse to keep quiet about it.

Here are some of the best things our favorite actors, directors, writers, producers, and more — including David Lynch, Dee Rees, Spike Lee, Jordan Peele, Brie Larson, Taika Waititi, Tiffany Haddish, and Rachel Bloom — have shared with us over the last 12 months.

The Creative Process

[On casting Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name”] “I felt that if I loved them and wanted them, they were going to want and love one another. It was a bet, but you always have to make a bet. Filmmakers are all charlatans, you have to pretend you know what you are doing and you have to pretend that you are doing something very deep, but sometimes you are just improvising.” — “Call Me by Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino

“I cannot tell you how much of our time was spent just trying to think of torture devices, which is a very fun game to play. But also, I feel like we keep coming back to penis things. It’s always like penis cores, penis peelers, penis flatteners, and they’re all funny, if I do say so myself. And it’s like butt-hole spiders, too, is in sort of the same world of like things going down, downtown. It is all of them are so fun to pitch, but it’s very hard, at least for me, to think of torture devices that are not some sort of genital mutilation at this point.” — “The Good Place” writer Megan Amram

[On screening a rough cut for his teacher Werner Herzog] “When [my short] was finished, he unclipped his glasses from the bridge of his nose, turned to me, grabbed my hand in an arm wrestling grip, and deadpanned: ‘Do not change a frame. If you change a frame you are a coward, and I will stab you in the back with a snow shovel.’” — Filmmaker Max Barbakow

Dee Rees directs Mary J. Blige on the set of "Mudbound"

Dee Rees directs Mary J. Blige on the set of “Mudbound”

Steve Dietl

“There’s a lot of power in saying no to big things that you don’t want to do in order to say yes to the kind of things that really inspire you. My agent got this meeting with this big studio, and it was like the day before I was supposed to have the call, and I canceled When I thought about the film, it really felt like, it took us so long to get ‘Pariah’ going, it was such a labor of love. It was literally made with blood, sweat, and tears, so it felt like, ‘Oh, if I do this movie next, it’s a slap in the face to everybody who believed in me. This can’t be the next thing.’ Who knows if I would have gotten it, but I canceled the meeting. That kind of moment was important to me, because it felt like it’s a choice: What kind of filmmaker are you going to be? Are you going to be an auteur? Are you going to do stuff that matters? Or are you going to do stuff just for money? Because it seems like once you start doing that, it’s going to be hard to not do that.” — “Mudbound” director Dee Rees

“Oh my god, you’re never prepared for what it feels like to go that fast around the corner and it was incredible… If you are making a car chase movie and you didn’t get to film any car chase stuff, what’s the point? If my only bit is sitting on a green screen shooting people reacting and steering wildly, what am I doing?” — “Baby Driver” director Edgar Wright on shooting “Baby Driver”

[On his interview style for “The Defiant Ones”] “But most importantly, I’m a fisherman. We go out in the Sea of Cortez and we’re looking for a 50-pound, 75-pound tuna. We’re good, man. Those are the questions. We want to get that 50 or 75 pound tuna and we’re focused on that. And we prepared for that. When we’re on the boat, we hooked into a 375-pound. Are you, for a second gonna fish for the 75-pound tuna? So now, you have to buckle your– This is like Oh shit! What is this! You can’t flinch. It’s a greater story, it’s a greater scenario, it’s a greater everything and you’re prepared for it, because it’s conversation. You have to have the presence of mind and not be so dogmatic. Some people get really rigid, as far as their questions. “This has to be answered.” It’s like, fuck that 75-pound tuna. We got a 350-pound tuna on the line and this bitch is getting to the boat. Once it gets here, somebody get the goddamn bat and hit in the head very quick. Cause I haven’t heard this one before.” — “The Defiant Ones” director Allen Hughes

Life as a Creator

Taika Waititi

“I feel like an indie director who managed to successfully not die making a studio film.” — “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi

“I have a lot of drive and yet at the same time I love being a father so intensely that my ambition is always mitigated. It’s a real push-pull for me. If I didn’t have a family, I don’t know that I would never not be in a hotel room working.” — “The Librarians” star/writer/director Noah Wyle

“I think you should demand to be called a queer filmmaker. It’s a badge. I think it’s kind of irresponsible when people are like — ‘I wanna be known as just a filmmaker.’ That insinuates you’re not proud.” — “Women Who Kill” director Ingrid Jungermann

“People been telling me that for years, like, ‘Your turn is coming, you’re about to blow up.’ But now that billboards are all over the city and stuff, it’s so funny because all those guys that I used to date that were like, ‘I don’t know why you’re wasting your time with this comedy stuff. It’s never going to pan out. You just need have a baby.’ Now they’re all like, ‘Hey girl. I’m so proud of you. I knew you would make it.’ I just laugh at them.” — “Girls Trip” star Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish

“I do remember at one point jumping on the ass, and Santino very painfully sitting on his balls. We all feel bad about that. Even as a woman, I don’t have balls, but when I see a guy hurt his balls it’s, ‘Whoa.’” — “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” co-creator/star Rachel Bloom

“I’ve been in this sort of strange sweet spot of making my living as an actor but not doing crazy big shows like this. I’ve died on a lot of ‘Law & Orders,’ I’ve worked on ‘Nurse Jackie,’ but I’ve auditioned for a lot of what’s out there, which is like squinty cops in tight outfits who aren’t taking any shit in the first scene and in the second scene they’re naked and blowing the captain of the police force. And I tried really hard to get those parts because I want my future children to go to school.” — “GLOW” star Betty Gilpin

“I don’t want to look like Dave Bautista there on screen, being the same guy in every role. I want to be different characters. I want to be a chameleon, which is not easy for me to do because I’m built like a fucking gorilla.” — “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Dave Bautista

[On how actor Mousa Kraish, who plays the Arabic god Jinn, wound up with a rather hefty prosthetic penis] “We got on the phone and said, our intention was to do a beautiful love scene between two men, and he was like, ‘OK, as long as it’s not exploitational, and as long as you give me a beautiful cock.’ The funny part was somehow the visual effects guy got it in his head that it’s an 11-inch cock… We sent this 11-inch cock to Mousa with a note – ‘How’s it hanging?’ – expecting him to be like, ‘Jesus Christ!’ But his only response was, ‘It looks good, but should be darker!’” — “American Gods” co-creator Bryan Fuller

Gender Issues

Kate Winslet in "Wonder Wheel"

“That word ‘strong,’ I think it means prominent, dominating, female-driven. I think it means that we are taken through the thrust of a story by a woman, as opposed to a man. To be ‘strong’ sometimes isn’t the most interesting thing. It is more interesting to be complicated, and vulnerable, and real, and terrified, and hopeful, and full of regret.” — “Wonder Wheel” star Kate Winslet

“Because I had only made one feature and I was a woman, I didn’t have the best opportunities. It’s crazy when I think of men who premiere a first film at Sundance and then get offered franchises. That was not happening to me, I was not being offered anything of that ilk. Myself and my contemporaries were not having the Colin Trevorrow moment.” — “Appropriate Behavior” filmmaker Desiree Akhavan

“The fact that I would have eyelashes and makeup and pretty hair and a manicure — I’d never been considered in that way — to tell you what that meant to me. I’m always thinking, ‘You gotta lose 50 pounds, no one’s going to consider you for this or that.’ And then this role came along, and on top of it all, she’s funny.” — “Good Behavior” star Ann Dowd

“It’s no secret that the ‘Wonder Woman’ success is a massive, massive gamechanger. I’ve always felt that to make movies for women with female filmmakers and female creators is just good business. The fact that there’s all this tremendous success with ‘Wonder Woman’ just makes me go, ‘Finally, yeah, duh, like no shit.’” — “I Do… Until I Don’t” filmmaker Lake Bell

“The way that [‘Alias Grace’] was made, how it was made, who was in charge, who had the decision-making power — I’ve never been a part of a project where at every point of collaboration there was a woman making the decision. From Margaret [Atwood], the source material; Sarah [Polley], who wrote and produced it; Mary [Harron], who directed it… I think that we have to hold on to these examples of female power and female expression in the most beautiful capacity. Especially when the news cycle is surrounding some of the darkest and hardest aspects of this industry. But, it’s a spectrum, and this example does exist. And I feel very proud that I was able to be a part of this show because of that, or, if you will, in light of that.” — “Alias Grace” star Sarah Gadon

The Power of Storytelling

Jordan Peele photographed at the Variety Studio for the Playback PodcastJordan Peele photo shoot, Variety Studio, Los Angeles, USA - 23 Feb 2017

“The major point to identify here is that we don’t want our truth trivialized. The label of comedy is often a trivial thing. The real question is, what are you laughing at? Are you laughing at the horror, the suffering? Are you disregarding what’s real about this project? That’s why I said, ‘yeah — it’s a documentary.'” — “Get Out” writer/director Jordan Peele

“I feel like people’s sensibilities have gotten a little bit crazier in the last couple of years in America, but I also think that black people in general, we don’t get the chance to kind of see that side in TV,” Stephen Glover told IndieWire. “We don’t always get the most interesting shows. You’re going to get a show about slavery or a show about the Central Park Five. You’re not going to get ‘Seinfeld.’” — “Atlanta” writer/producer Stephen Glover

“It remains shocking. I don’t care how many times you see it. It’s unbearable to look at, but if you want to understand the Vietnam War, you should have to look at it.” — “The Vietnam War” co-director Lynn Novick

“One of the primary reasons I became a producer is because I wanted to create the world that I wanted to see on TV. So often as actors, we’re subject to the roles that we’re offered or auditioning for, but one role in one show is a small piece of a larger puzzle. It’s satisfying to me to be able to create worlds from the ground up. I can tell the stories I want to tell, I can populate them with the kind of people I would like to be telling them, and thematically it’s nice to be able to choose those stories. It’s also nice to be a job creator.” — “The Good Doctor” executive producer Daniel Dae Kim

Daniel Dae Kim

“If something’s not representing you, you just have to change it. Because no one else is going to care enough to do it for you.” — “Transparent” director Silas Howard

“That is ‘Star Trek’s’ job. To ask not-easy questions to answer, and not necessarily to answer them. That’s probably the most important thing for ‘Star Trek’ to do, for me. Even more important than having Klingons that speak well.” — Klingon language consultant Robyn Stewart

“Wouldn’t it be great to have a scene where a character who claimed to be God was in the episode, but [a man of the cloth named] Matt is like, ‘You’re in my story. God is in my story.’ And God is basically like, ‘No, no, no. Everybody’s in my story.’ Meanwhile, there’s an orgy going on.” — “The Leftovers” co-creator Damon Lindelof

“If you go an extended period of time without seeing a reflection of yourself, it’s easier to believe you’re invisible and of minimal value. I want everyone to know that they are seen, appreciated, and their story is being told.” — “This Is Us” star Sterling K. Brown

“There are so many images of the opposite of us — black people that are underserved, marginalized, having issues. All that stuff is real, but I think there is a big vacuum around the beauty of our lives. I feel like, it’s almost a service to overdo that. Because there’s so little of it in cinema.” — “195 Lewis” screenwriter Rae Leone Allen

“I think that the most jarring impact of this last year — on storytelling in general but certainly on this season of ‘Fargo’ — is the sense that our sense of reality is fractured and that what you think is real and true can be completely opposite from what someone next to you thinks is real and true.” — “Fargo” showrunner Noah Hawley

Brie Larson

“I know that the film isn’t for every person. But I hope that for the people that I did make it for, it resonates with them as a way of saying, ‘We need these voices that are unique and different.’ My hope was, whether the movie is good or not, it’s another piece on the board. People can look at and either go, ‘This movie is amazing, I want to do that,’ or you can go, ‘This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, if she can do this, then I can definitely make a movie.’ Through that, my hope is that we have more women, more people of color, people of different sexual orientations telling their stories, because that’s what we need. We need just more. We need more of different. We should all be allowed to have our dreams, even if they make us look a little crazy.” — “Unicorn Store” director Brie Larson

A Few Additional Thoughts

“I like deer. I like pigs. I like little pigs, and I like some dogs. You have a cat there? Okay, you know I’m sure your cat’s real great, too.” — “Twin Peaks” co-creator David Lynch

[On tribbles] “I wasn’t a fan of the silliest episodes of [‘Star Trek: The Original Series’], just because Shatner, particularly — well both of them, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — managed to make the most absurd things seem epic, and serious, and high stakes. But even they, with their gargantuan skill set, couldn’t make a bunch of merkins into something that felt dangerous.” — “Star Trek: Discovery” star Jason Isaacs

“Everybody is saying ‘get woke.’ I’ve been saying ‘wake up’ since ’88. So all this stuff that’s happening does not surprise me. And the reason why it doesn’t is because racism is the very fabric, the DNA of these United States of America. Why should it surprise me? It doesn’t.” — “She’s Gotta Have It” director Spike Lee

“It’s a very strange thing because when I started, UCB was this tiny little theater on 22nd St next to this bathroom tile shop. Now, when I watch a big commercial comedy, it’s people I know. It’s kind of like if you were playing theremin in a contemporary classical music group or something and then before you knew it, Top 40 stations were playing your weird dissonant theremin music and you’re like, ‘What the fuck happened?’” — “Silicon Valley” star Zach Woods

“Real magic is, you meet thousands of people every day and you don’t ever want to talk to them again — the magic is when you connect with somebody and you don’t know why, but you want to see them again. You can’t curate that.” — “American Gods” star Orlando Jones

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