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Here Are Sam Mendes' 25 Rules for Directors

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 13, 2014 at 11:56AM

Director Sam Mendes, who has "Bond 24" coming up next year, was recently feted at New York's Roundabout Theater Company's spring gala. In his acceptance of the honor, Mendes read aloud the 25 rules for "becoming a happier director" he's accrued over his career. Check those out, below.
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Sam Mendes
Sam Mendes

Director Sam Mendes, who has "Bond 24" coming up next year, was recently feted at New York's Roundabout Theater Company's spring gala. In his acceptance of the honor, Mendes read aloud the 25 rules for "becoming a happier director" he's accrued over his career. Check those out, below.

The rules run the gamut from wise ("Learn when to shut up") to humorous ("If you have the chance, please work with Dame Judi Dench"), to wise and humorous ("Please remember the Oscars are a TV show").

Hat tip: Vanity Fair.

1. Always choose good collaborators. It seems so obvious, but the best collaborators are the ones who disagree with you. It means they’re passionate, they have opinions, and they’ll only ever say yes if they mean it.

2. Try to learn how to make the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. Direct Shakespeare like it’s a new play, and treat every new play as if it’s Shakespeare.

3. If you have the chance, please work with Dame Judi Dench.

4. Learn to say, “I don’t know the answer.” It could be the beginning of a very good day’s rehearsal.

5. Go to the ancient amphitheater at Epidaurus, in Greece. It makes you realize what you are a part of, and it will change the way you look at the world. If you’re an artist, you will feel central, and you will never feel peripheral again.

6. Avoid, please, all metaphors of plays or films as “pinnacles” or “peaks”; treat with absolute scorn the word “definitive”; and if anyone uses the word “masterpiece,” they don’t know what they’re doing. The pursuit of perfection is a mug’s game.

7. If you are doing a play or a film, you have to have a secret way in if you are directing it. Sometimes it’s big things. American Beauty, for me, was about my adolescence. Road to Perdition was about my childhood. Skyfall was about middle-age and mortality. Sometimes it’s small things. Maybe it’s just a simple idea. What if we do the whole thing in the nightclub, for example. But it’s not enough just to admire a script, you have to have a way in that is yours, and yours alone.

8. Confidence is essential, but ego is not.

9. Theater is the writer’s medium and the actor’s medium; the director comes a distant third. If you want a proper ego trip, direct movies.

10. Buy a good set of blinkers. Do not read reviews. It’s enough to know whether they’re good or they’re bad. When I started, artists vastly outnumbered commentators, and now, there are a thousand published public opinions for every work of art. However strong you are, confidence is essential to what you do, and confidence is a fragile thing. Protect it. As T.S. Eliot says, teach us to care, and not to care.

This article is related to: News, Sam Mendes, News


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