John Huston. Prizzi’s Honor. June 14, 1985
  • Golden Globe Awards

Oral History: John Huston Trusts His Actors

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind – over 10,000  items – is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.  In another excerpt from our 1985 –the year of Prizzi’s Honorconversation with Hollywood titan John Huston, he talks about his relationship with actors.

“I have worked with of the top stars like Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Burton, Humphrey Bogart. Marilyn Monroe was the very part that she played, she was all that. She was the embodiment of what she played in the first picture that I did with her and in the last picture, for sure. So when I cast the artist, it’s for their ability to play a certain role. I give them as much freedom and encouragement to be themselves as possible. My job as a director is not to say, ‘Look, say the line this way and not like that. And when you sit down in the chair, don’t slump, sit up straight. I get two or three of them together or more and say, work this scene out between yourselves. And I’d send the crew away and I would turn away from the set. Send for me when you’re ready. And either they’d send for me or I’d wander back in half of an hour, sometimes longer. And they would have put a scene together and have something to show me.

And very often it was ideal and I wouldn’t have to do any directing at all. Being a director is knowing when not to direct. Someone asked a question a moment ago about having conflicts on the set. Well, that’s absurd, you don’t have conflicts on the set, you don’t have conflicts with actors. You’re getting as much out of them as you can through encouragement. You’re giving them heart and boldness and freedom to exercise their artistry.”