Film director/producer Jewison recalls what went into the making of his films.
Looking back over a career spent directing and sometimes producing films, Jewison writes with an unassuming, good-humored, yet often forceful voice. Those same qualities may explain Jewison’s strong track record—he helmed such award-winners as Moonstruck, Fiddler on the Roof and In the Heat of the Night. Jewison took to directing when he wrote and staged college musicals at the University of Toronto. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, he went on to call the shots for several Canadian, then US, television variety shows. A Judy Garland special gave him entrée to Hollywood, where he cut his teeth on Doris Day comedies, eventually getting a shot at something serious, with The Cincinnati Kid. Jewison’s extended account of directing that film is a primer on the collaborative art of filmmaking. He details drawing out a taciturn Steve McQueen, designing a color palette with cinematographer Philip Lathrop, spending long editing sessions with Hal Ashby and getting the kind of musical score he needed from Lalo Schifrin. Equally valuable accounts of work on The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, The Thomas Crown Affair, A Soldier’s Story, etc., follow. Throughout his career, it appears, Jewison was straight up, though not arrogant, about going for what he wanted; he could handle difficult talent (with the possible exception of Sylvester Stallone on F.I.S.T.); and he went after a film only if it was about something that mattered—rights for blacks, the American legal system, the union movement. In the wake of his concerns came skirmishes with the F.B.I., an uneasy dinner party with John Wayne—and a roster of worthy films.
Instructive, engaging, entertaining—enough to make a reader believe filmmaking really isn’t a terrible business.