At the annual pre-DGA Awards nominees symposium Saturday morning, “Top Gun: Maverick” nabbed the most enthusiastic applause (after a breathtaking clip of Tom Cruise soaring in an F-14). And as usual for these panels, the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” directing duo Daniels scored the most laughs. They even had the packed audience at the DGA participate in one of their daily warm-up exercises, waving their hands and feet.
After an extended season of prolonged PR exposure, there might not seem to be anything new to learn from these accomplished filmmakers, but here are some nuggets wrested from them by DGA moderator Jeremy Kagan.
1. During rehearsals for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Brendan Gleeson figured that his character had been suicidal during the period before the movie begins. Going forward, breaking off his friendship with Colin Farrell’s character was an essential strategy for survival, so he could be harsh about it.
2. When the costume designer first presented Spielberg with the actors in full costume as his mother (Michelle Williams), father (Paul Dano), and his younger self (Gabriel Labelle), the director instantly burst into tears. The filmmaker doesn’t rehearse or storyboard on a small-scale film like this: he takes notes from his actors in the morning in the makeup chair, argues with his cowriter Tony Kushner about using them, and figures out camera positions and blocking when he arrives on set.
3. During casting of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” when Awkwafina had scheduling difficulties, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert remembered the chops of her theater-trained costar Stephanie Hsu, who can sing and dance, who they directed on the TV series ”Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens.” They realized that Hsu could nail any tone or note they threw at her.
They had more trouble casting the part of Michelle Yeoh’s husband, who had to be able to do martial arts, because the actors who could do that were tough guys. The directors were thrilled when they learned that martial artist and actor Ke Huy Quan was looking for acting gigs again, inspired by the success of “Crazy Rich Asians,” because he was genuinely sweet to begin with: he had to act being a tough guy.
4. Todd Field had an extra nine months on “TAR,” thanks to pandemic delays, to talk things through with Cate Blanchett. Even as she worked on other projects, she hired a conducting coach to work on her athletic conducting style so that the first time she appeared before the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, they completely accepted her.
5. When it was time to shoot “Top Gun: Maverick” Joseph Kosinski structured the on-the-ground shooting schedule around early morning and early evening magic hour light, because he had to match the aesthetic style of the first film. And thanks to Cruise, there was a high-end coffee truck on the set every morning. For one pivotal scene, the director skipped a rehearsal in order to capture the full charge of the first meeting of Cruise and Val Kilmer since the original “Top Gun.”