I ran into an old editor I knew and we chatted a bit and he remarked to the friends I was with that he was always astonished at the very few takes I would do, usually two or three at most. When I was asked about that later, I thought and said, that if the script is right and the actor competent, there is rarely a need for more.
I’ve heard of directors doing hundreds of takes, Kubrick, for example. I don’t get it.
The only times I had to do many many takes were with Riney and that was because we used real people in most of the Henry’s commercials. One of the unpleasant memories was Sunshine Parker not being able to pronounce ‘almondine’ and Hal refusing to change the line. I finally had to shout out the reading, an insult to any actor.
Mamet once said, ‘Say the written words without inflection and everything will be okay.’ I sort of agree, but Mamet’s best writing has to do with Iambic Pentameter rather than interpretation. His plays are difficult to read and I once asked Ron Silver, one of Mamet’s troupe, how he dealt with the script. He said that Mamet beat the rhythm of the performance on the back of a theater seat and the actors said the words to that rhythm. Makes sense.
Of course, the scripts I worked with in most commercials weren’t of Mamet quality unless Chris or Bill wrote them, but I was always lucky enough to find actors and writers whose abilities dovetailed, and when I had to, I would rewrite stuff myself, to the chagrin of the original author. Some of them hate me to this day.
I once considered going back to Carnegie to study acting (to be a better director). I asked Francisco about that and he said not to, because the only important thing for an actor was to show up on time and know the lines.