Summer movie highlights from the directors who made them
From LeBron James sharing the court with Bugs Bunny to Dom Toretto and the “Fast & Furious” crew going where no car has gone before, this summer has something for every kind of movie fan.
Some of the directors of the biggest films of the season, including “F9,” “The Suicide Squad” and “In the Heights,” share a few of their favorite stories from the making of their big screen spectacles.
Malcolm D. Lee on directing LeBron James in “Space Jam: A New Legacy”:
“The thing with LeBron is he’s very professional. I don’t think he realized the magnitude of what being number one on the call sheet meant. He found out. But that didn’t deter him. He had had an injury his first season with the Lakers and was back on the train getting back to greatness. So he made sure that he was up at like 2 or 3 in the morning every day before call getting his basketball workout in and doing what he needed to do to prepare himself to get ready for the season. And he was always ready to be on set and he never really left set. He would stay there all day and be ready for us whenever we needed him. He was a great professional, not just on camera, because he loves to be directed and loves to perform but also to be a motivating force for our extras that were there. He’s just a good example of a leader.”
“F9” director Justin Lin on never really leaving the “Fast & Furious” franchise:
“I thought I was done with it but even though I was gone, I actually now look back and I don’t think I ever was gone. I still remember I was in the cutting room on ‘Star Trek Beyond’ and Vin called me and he’s talking about Dom and the state of Dom for two hours. I’m sitting there going, like, what movie am I making? It’s just been a relationship, you know? It’s always been more than just a movie. So when I woke up with this idea I called Vin and the studio and they were like ‘OK, let’s go.’ I never felt like the door was closed.”
James Gunn on the many talents of “The Suicide Squad’s” Margot Robbie:
“She can do anything. Or I thought she could do anything. And then one day she had to sing and I said, ‘OK, well you can do everything but one thing.’ But she’s such a great actress. She embodies the character. She’s able to do the comedy. She’s able to do the drama. And physically, she is a pure athlete and is able to do these stunts in such a graceful, magnificent, beautiful way. And so I wrote the biggest action scene I’ve ever done all around (Robbie’s character) Harley, and it was so fun to create just on every level from working with the stunt guys all the way through to working with her. It’s probably my favorite four minutes of film I’ve ever shot before.”
David Lowery on the image that sold him on Dev Patel in “The Green Knight”:
“I was meeting with lots of actors for the lead role and Dev was recommended. His agent called me and asked if I’d thought about him. And I hadn’t for some strange reason, and so I went and re-watched ‘Lion’ and instantly thought he would look really cool on a horse. I thought, he’s going to look really cool carrying a sword, wearing armor and riding a horse. And I just was so taken with that image that I got hooked on the idea. He loved the script but he was like, you know, the character as written is pretty unlikable, which was true at that point. I’d written quite a cad. And he thought it was important to bring some likability to the part which I agreed with. But I also saw instantly that the sheer fact that he might be played by Dev would make him more likable. He is just one of the most easy-going, likable guys. I was like, if I cast him, I could have this character do anything and the audience will be on his side because they want him to succeed and want him to do the right thing and persevere because Dev himself is just that type of person.”
Jon M. Chu on a stealth “In the Heights” showstopper
“‘Paciencia y Fe’ is a showstopper in my mind. When (actor Olga Merediz) sang it at our table read, everyone was in tears. And yet at the same time that’s just the easiest number to cut in a studio meeting. It costs a lot of money to show the struggle of this woman. Like, oh that’s ‘Feed the Birds,’ that’s when everybody goes to the bathroom. When you talk about how your parents came over from another country, it’s like oh (no big deal) but that’s like the most rock star (expletive) ever. That deserves a giant musical number! That deserves the biggest painting. And yet we’re a few inches from her face the whole time. We rarely back away. We purposely did not make it about the dancers. It’s about her and the dancers all around her. Everybody understood: Don’t take it away from her, give it to her. We had to fight for that every inch of the way.”