The Wonder Years

by admin January 23, 2009
The Peter Berg Interview

TWoP: Wonderland was the first example of your knack for bringing out the best in actors that audiences might not have previously appreciated - people like Ted Levine and Michelle Forbes. And then later on Friday Night Lights, you complete transformed how we think of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. How are you able to look at an actor and know that they have this potential within them when few others have seen it before?

PB: Well I don't know, that's a good question.... I think the key for me is that every time I've done good work -- or at least work that I'm proud of -- it's been because I've done a lot of research and I've taken my time and I'm very familiar with the subject material as a writer, and that then translates to a confidence as a director that I'm able to have, and that confidence translates to me being able to communicate and empower actors more clearly.

I think almost any actor's probably capable of really good work (or not) depending on the material and how comfortable they are in the role. I think Mickey Rourke is the most recent example of that. I mean, Mickey's struggled for the last 15 years to find good work, and suddenly Darren Aronofsky puts him in a role... You go and watch that film and you say, "My god, there's no one else that could have possibly played that role." It's so good. And I think for Mickey, it was the right role at the right time with a director who really knew his material and knew what he wanted to do, and I think that's the key to getting good work out of actors.

TWoP: Is the fact that you were an actor for the first phase of your career help you relate to actors more than a director who might not have that background?

PB: I think so. I think that directors who have never experienced acting or have never acted themselves probably get a bit more intimidated by the process than someone who has spent a lot of time in front of the cameras. You develop a sort of shorthand in learning how to read an actor and figure out what they need, and generally I feel pretty good about knowing how to give them what they need, and I think that comes from time spent acting.

TWoP: Speaking of actors, another person who's done really great work for you is Jason Bateman. I think he stole every scene he was in in both The Kingdom and Hancock. Are you interested in working with him on a third project at some point?

PB: Definitely. I love Jason, and one of the fun things about being able to work in this business is finding people that not only you respect professionally, but you really like. Jason and I are good friends, and our families are quite friendly, and to be able to go back and revisit with old friends and make movies and television shows with people that you've worked with, and to have that shorthand and comfort level, is something I'm very appreciative of.

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