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Stanley Donen interview


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Stanley Donen was interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz before the showing on Friday, April 13, 2012 of the digital restoration of *Two for the Road*. Donen seemed to be in good health and good spirits, and Ben did a fine job interviewing him.

Ben asked about co-directing, because Donen and Gene Kelly co-directed *Singin' in the Rain*. Donen described it as "trouble, anxiety, worry, conflict." If you have the same ideas, you don't need two directors. "What we have to offer is our own separateness." Donen said he was lucky to start directing at an early age and lucky to stop directing at an early age.

When asked about the change from directing musicals to other kinds of films, Donen said musicals started to cost too much, then paused to say, "They don't want to hear all this." "Yes, they do," Ben assured him. Musicals didn't do as well in foreign markets because they couldn't translate the songs into the language of the foreign country. He was nervous that he might not be able to find something else to do. Donen said, however, "If you're making another film, you're starting over." He loved many kinds of movies and mentioned the following directors: Fellini, Wyler, George Stevens, John Huston, and, to Ben's delight, Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

It was difficult to get *Two for the Road* made. He worked on the script with Frederic Raphael. Audrey Hepburn loved the script, and the part was always intended for her, but all the studios turned it down, saying the audience would never understand the back and forth time-switching. According to Donen, Dick Zanuck read the script on a plane from London to LA and loved it. Paul Newman was the first choice for the husband. Wiki has Newman turning down the part, but Donen remembers that as the schedule kept getting pushed back, Newman became unavailable. He doesn't recall Michael Caine being offered the part, as some sources say.

He and Ben M agreed that *Two for the Road* is not like any other movie. Ben told him that a scholar had determined that the average length of each shot is only 4.4 seconds. "I wasn't making it with a stopwatch," Donen replied. He said that if the film were in sequence, it would be banal. Donen spent a lot of effort letting you see what time it was; each sequence starts with something to clue you in. Everything that happens in the film happens on holiday; the settings would not have changed had an American actor like Paul Newman played the husband.

People often tell him how romantic the film is, but he thinks it's hellish. (By the way, two of my movie buddies declined to see the film at the festival because they find it too painful.) Both he and Audrey Hepburn were going through difficult times in their marriages when the film was being made. He thought the film was "fresh, surprising, cinematic." When asked about his career, he said, "I just do the next thing."

Late in his career, when he was living in London, he expressed a desire to meet Hitchcock. Cary Grant set up a lunch meeting at Hitchcock's cottage on the studio grounds. When Donen asked Hitchcock what his next film was about, Hitchcock said that you wouldn't ask Picasso what his next painting would be about. Hitchcock: "It doesn't matter what it's about, it's how I make it."

Edited by: kingrat on Apr 19, 2012 8:22 PM

Edited by: kingrat on Apr 19, 2012 8:23 PM
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Thanks for the info on the Stanley Donen interview! I love Two for the Road and it's one of my favorite movies. I hope TCM will run it (I know RO has already interviewed him but still.......) Wish I could've been there! I know Audrey was always linked to the movie, but the road to production was full of roadblocks. So glad it got made! Ironically Newman was also offered the role Sean Connery played in Robin and Marian. I'm glad Connery did it in the end...........So Paul lost out twice co-starring with Audrey.

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