The Max Factor

vlcsnap-199924From Ophuls’ DIVINE.

Here’s a good bit from the Max Ophuls interview featured at the back of Faber’s 1974 book Masterworks of the French Cinema. I figured not everybody can get their hands on this, and it may not be worth buying the book secondhand just for this bit. The screenplays which make up the bulk of the book (AN ITALIAN STRAW HAT, LA GRANDE ILLUSION, LA RONDE, THE WAGES OF FEAR), translated from French and printed in a non-traditional format, are not all that useful to most people in this age of DVDs, but the appendices have some nice stuff ~

“But I really became a producer by accident. One night I flopped so terribly in a dramatic part that the next day the Manager of the Dortmund Theatre summoned me to his office. As I was paid for playing both comic and dramatic roles, he told me, I would have to take a 50 per cent salary cut. To soothe my indignation he hesitantly suggested an alternative. I could stop playing altogether and become a Regisseur, a director, keeping my original salary. My actor’s pride was deeply insulted — but a few days later I accepted.”

To justify his acceptance to himself, he argued at the time that in his new position he would make actors play their parts exactly the way he himself would have played them. “So through the actor I’ll prove that really and truly I should have played the part myself and that I am a much better actor than anybody had thought…”

4 Responses to “The Max Factor”

  1. öphuls insights are illuminating when one considers the story of the eternal struggle between Directors and Actors: wonder if the hostilitu of some directors towards thespians come from these directors’ secret (and/or frustrated) longing to be on the other side of the camera.

    And, of course. it is also higly enlightening about those masters of evil (the actors) who trespass to their “other side”: “NO-ONE CAN DIRECT ME NOW! BWAH-HA-HA-HAAA!” (sound of thunder and mad howling strom in the background)

  2. Of course Ophuls is being tongue-in-cheek (Ustinov findly recalled his giggly side). But it’s often the case that the most prescriptive directors used to be actors themselves. Certainly Chaplin and Polanski both instructed their casts by acting out all the parts. I think Spielberg kind of does this, but he’s such a lousy actor that his players understand that his actions are only a rough guide. Whereas CC and RP are genius actors, and they want their stars to do it just as they do.

    Jack Nicholson famously said, “Fine, Roman, do you want me to do it in a Polish accent?”

  3. Lubitsch was famous for acting out whole scenes before his casts so that the actors would precisely render it. That helps explain the distinctive performance style in his films.

  4. But of course the actor brings his or her own persona. I love Lubitsch’s advice to David Niven: “Nobody can play comedy who does not have a circus going on in his head.”

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