Can you imagine walking onto a movie set and directing Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning?
That is exactly what Director Robert Stromberg did on the set of Maleficent.
The first time Director Stromberg met Angelina they sat on her back porch and watched her kids play. They wanted to get to know each other before diving into the movie.
They had to connect as parents and real people before they could tackle the story of Maleficent.
We asked Director Stromberg what it was like being a director for the first time. Prior to this movie he has been the art director on a lot of really amazing films.
I’ve always wanted to be a director. You know, I used to make movies when I was a little kid and, I just never, and I was a huge Disney fan. I had an art teacher who was an ex-Disney artist. I used to draw like crazy images, including Maleficent when I was five, six years old. And so I had always wanted to tell stories and be a director.
I got sidetracked in the, by this pesky, you know, art direction stuff. And it was part of the journey. I’m glad that I did all that stuff because it prepared me not only being around these big movies but also meeting a lot of great directors. And, you know I met, Peter Weir and we became close friends on a movie called Master and Commander. And he taught me a lot about how to talk to actors and to get at an emotional level with them.
And then I spent four years with Jim Cameron and that was useful in how to be strong when you need to be. And many, many situations, artistic, I worked with Tim Burton and how an, an artist can direct. So there, it’s all, these are all directors but they do it in different ways. So I was, I came into this with a lot of experience and and not only that, you have to have emotion yourself.
And you have to have spent your life studying human behavior and really, really paying attention to why people react a certain way when they’re told something. I think if, it’s all those little bits of information plus all of the knowledge I got from just my experience with other directors. And then the confidence to be at the same level with somebody in finding the emotion of that character. That’s what made me feel comfortable in being a director.
What was your favorite scene to direct?
I think there are many, many different, you know, special moments. But, I suppose the christening scene ’cause it was — in the film, we’re doing a retelling. So we’re not just doing a straight out of the box remake of that classic version. So it was very intentional that when you watch the movie you’ve learned a whole bunch of new material. When you get to that center point of the movie we, we shot that scene almost verbatim, word for word from the classic cartoon version.
And that was so that you now had all this new, fun information that you had learned and you understand why that character is doing what she’s doing. And then you get to see what happens after that. So I, I think, it wasn’t challenging but for me personally as a film, Hollywood moment, just standing there, with several hundred extras in this huge set, and she came into the room in that costume and I just, I was a, a big fan myself at that moment just in awe.
We were really curious about what the hardest part of the movie was to film.
It’s just getting through the film and still carrying a big, beating heart under your arm as you make it through this jungle. I’m very proud of the fact, just in general, you know, someone once told me, directing is, is like painting in a hurricane. And it’s true.
You know, the whole… I can’t pick one thing that was challenging because just making a movie at this scale, you’re juggling, you know, just constantly juggling chainsaws and, and trying to draw pretty pictures at the same time. And so I think the challenge is to make it, bring all these huge elements together and at the end of all that, have something with a heart and soul and emotion and something that means something.
I’m always amazed at how movies get made at all, you know. There’s so many pieces that have to come together that it’s really, a fascinating process. I still, I’m still fascinated even though I’ve been doing this for twenty-eight years, I’m still as, as fascinated today as I was when I was five years old.
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MALEFICENT is rated PG and releases in theaters everywhere on May 30th!
Disney flew me to LA to interview Angelina Jolie. All flight and hotel accommodations were covered.