What would you rather have: a filmmaker who's aware of his experience and limitations, but doesn't want to take a risk? Or a director who seizes an opportunity despite what might be a lack of skill-set self-awareness? Is the former just a move by a wise and mature filmmaker? Is the latter simply having self-confidence? Both obviously have their drawbacks, but self-awareness is an unusually new and cognizant level of consideration that sometimes doesn't register in careerist Hollywood.
Perhaps this cautiousness and maturity is an English thing. Recently "X-Men: First Class" director Matthew Vaughn admitted that his last minute departure as the director of "X-Men: The Last Stand" (which Brett Ratner took over) was due in part to his fear, and the fact that he was unsure of his multi-million dollar tentpole-skills. Christopher Nolan recently admitted that Warner Bros. offered to buy his "Inception" pitch right after "Insomnia" was finished in 2002, but the director felt he hadn't accrued the experience yet to pull off a such a high-concept film and decided to take his time marinating on the picture's story before fully committing to the script.
More recently are candid comments from "Moon" director Duncan Jones (from ComingSoon) who's been doing a show-and-tell from his edit-bay with sci-fi-friendly fanboy sites about his new film, "Source Code." While Zack Snyder got the "Superman: The Man Of Steel" job, Jones was on the possible-directors shortlist picked by producer Christopher Nolan and his team, but by his own admission, he bowed out early, feeling he was still ill-equipped for such a massive venture.
"I was thrilled to be on that short list. For me, that was enough. I don't know if I would be ready for that leap yet. I did have a meeting with Chris and he's a fantastic guy and seemed to have really enjoyed 'Moon,' so there was some legitimate interest in me. I think, maybe, I'm not quite ready for that scale of project and that scale of expectation from an audience that is already existing and is waiting to see the next generation of 'Superman' film. I don't know. It's a hard one. I'm a huge Superman fan and Bizarro Superman fan. And also a big 'Judge Dredd' fan, which was another one that came my way. Those are two very different scales of projects. Superman was so big that I think I was a little intimidated by it and sort of backed out. 'Judge Dredd' I really thought about and it ended up not being right for me because I had such strong feelings and opinions on what I wanted that film to be. Although I really like what they're going to do with it, it's not the film that I was going to make. So that one wasn't going to work out."
American directors, for better or worse don't seem to have this issue. Marc Webb jumped right to "Spider-Man," in 3D no less after only one romantic-comedy feature ("500 Days Of Summer") under his belt (granted he has years of ambitious music-video work on his resume). Same goes for David Fincher who also stepped out of the music video and commercial world to make "Alien 3" his debut feature (which also gave him his first taste of dealing with meddling studio suits).
Jones' upcoming sci-fi picture "Source Code" will open the SXSW Film Festival on March 11 in Austin, Texas. Starring Jake Gyllenhall, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright, the picture, distributed by Summit Entertainment, hits theaters in regular release on April 1.