The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Greg Mottola (“Clear History”)

Greg Mottola first came to prominence as the director of the indie comedy “The Daytrippers,” but he began a much quicker rise in mainstream recognition when he helmed the comedies “Superbad” and “Adventureland.” Currently, Mottola is making the rounds to support his work as the director of Larry David’s new HBO movie, “Clear History,” but he’s not entirely confident if the word “director” really sums up his efforts on the film. Bullz-Eye chatted with Mottola during the TCA press tour, and we talked about how surprisingly easy David is to work with, how he came to appear in a couple of Woody Allen films as an actor, and what a hassle – and what fun – it was to make “Paul.”

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Bullz-Eye: So directing Larry David has got to be at least somewhat of a challenge.

Greg Mottola: Um…

BE: I’m not saying good or bad, just…challenging.

GM: It’s… Well, I mean, the process was so specific. I don’t even know if my job title should be called “director” on this movie. [Laughs.] “Associate collaborator” is probably closer to it. But that’s the way it should be. I’m not sure if, in the press notes, they talk so much about how we made it, but essentially it’s the same way Larry does “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” with some key differences. But Larry writes a script-ment, they call it, so this was about 35 pages of paragraphs of what happens in this scene, with an occasional line of dialogue or joke that Larry or his co-writers thought, “Oh, we should definitely get that in.” So they write that in, but, really, no other dialogue.

And we get to the set, we walk through the scene, and we’ll just sort of block it very generally. Like, “You’re gonna enter from that door, you’re gonna be sitting here, you’re gonna come over here, talk about this, you’re gonna leave.” Y’know, just sort of walk through all the little bits of blocking, but never rehearse it at all. So the first time anyone is acting, the cameras are rolling. And it’s usually two cameras, sometimes three if we can squeeze another one in there. And Larry by and large never does the same thing twice. [Laughs.] So as a director, you’re constantly strategizing, “Okay, we did that one time, I’d like to try and get something like that line, maybe in a tighter size, so…let’s switch lenses right now while we’re in the zone, and we’ll swap back and do wide shots again.” So you’re constantly just sort of improvising the directing style as everyone’s improvising the lines.

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So directing Larry is just sort of endless conferences between takes about, “We’d like this from that, we didn’t like that,” just sort of honing in on what worked, sometimes stopping entirely and saying, “This doesn’t work at all, let’s start from scratch and just approach it completely differently and do a different version of the scene.” And that happened a few times. We’d have two completely different versions of the same scene…and usually the one that ends up in the movie is the second one. You know, the one thing about Larry is that he’s an absolute pleasure to work with. Despite his sort of screen persona and his point of view about human nature, which—between “Seinfeld” and “Curb”—is pretty clear… [Laughs.] He’s a really happy guy! He’s a guy who walks around whistling and practicing his golf swing. He’s, like, in a good mood 99% of the time. So it’s great to work with him.

BE: I…can’t really wrap my head around that.

GM: [Laughs.] It is hard to believe.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Julian Jarrold (HBO’s “The Girl”)

Given how much media attention has been drawn by the upcoming Alfred Hitchcock biopic starring Anthony Hopkins, it’s no wonder that some may see HBO’s upcoming movie, “The Girl,” which debuts on Oct. 20, to be a pretender to the throne. In fact, they’re both perfectly viable entities in their own right, each covering a different aspect of the director’s career. Hopkins will be playing Hitchcock as he’s in the throes of making “Psycho,” whereas “The Girl” finds Toby Jones’s version of Hitch as he’s obsessing over Tippi Hedren (played by Sienna Miller) during the filming of “The Birds” and “Marnie.” Bullz-Eye caught up with Julian Jarrold, director of “The Girl,” just before a panel for the film at the summer Television Critics Association press tour, during which time he chatted not only about his look into the darker side of Hitchcock but also some of the other films and television efforts he’s tackled in his career to date.

Bullz-Eye: How did “The Girl” land in your lap? Or did you go looking for “The Girl”?

Julian Jarrold: No, it was sent to me ages ago, and…it was a little bit more based around the making “The Birds” and “Marnie,” but obviously it was still an exploration of this relationship. The writer (Gwyneth Hughes) had done quite a lot of research and come over here and met Jim Brown, the assistant director, and Rita Riggs (wardrobe supervisor), and Tippi, obviously. So he’d kind of pieced together this sort of fascinating script, and I loved Hitchcock, but I didn’t know this at all, so it was a bit of a shock, actually, to read it. [Laughs.] I knew he was odd, but I didn’t know he was that odd. Yeah, it totally changed my view of Hitchcock. Actually, what was fascinating was…I knew “The Birds” and “Marnie” and “Vertigo,” and they’re strange films. You kind of wonder where they’re coming from. And then finding out about this story, you certainly go, “Ah, I see where he was coming from…and where his personal obsessions are and his attitude to women and everything.” So it sort of illuminated all that. Which was very interesting.

BE: Tippi Hedren is here at the TCA tour, so presumably she’s supportive of the film, but how interactive was she you were making it? Did you speak with her in advance?

JJ: Well, no. I mean, she obviously spoke at length with the writer, and Sienna met her. But she didn’t come on set. I think she read the script. It’s obviously difficult when someone’s making a film like this. How do you compute that? Because it’s 90 minutes revolving around her life. But she said she saw it recently, and she seemed to love it. She saw it with her kids, Melanie (Griffith) and everybody, and it seemed to go down okay. But it’s difficult. It must be a painful, difficult thing to look at. You know, she had such a complex relationship with Hitchcock. It was daunting, because you mustn’t judge that. I wanted to show the sunny side of the relationship, where there was a sort of optimism at the beginning and he was such a fantastic teacher, but then how it changed and darkened and was abusive, really.

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