Oliver Stone stole the show at CinemaCon‘s Filmmakers Forum today, making the most challenging comments on a panel with fellow directors Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro. Too many movies are made to please audiences, copy each other, and lack a compelling story, Stone said at a session moderated by film critic Elvis Mitchell. “I don’t see the difference between one action movie and another…It becomes a form of torture for the eyes. CIA torture: I’d make you watch GI Joe 3,000 times. Just kidding.” All of the directors said that they enjoy seeing their movies in theaters with audiences. “It’s almost like a theater actor who calibrates [his] performance,” del Toro said adding that being a director “is very lonely.” Raimi described himself as “definitely an audience filmmaker….We’re working to move that audience.” But Stone said it’s dangerous for filmmakers to “run after them like dogs” because difficult films “won’t get audiences slavering.” For example, he said that in “the good old days” he didn’t allow Warner Bros to have previews for his film JFK telling execs “you’re going to get mixed cards all over the place. We’ll never get out of here alive.” Del Toro agreed that directors must fulfill their own vision, something he has tried to do in his horror films. “You can’t make a cozy horror film.” If someone screen-tested The Exorcist today many would object “because it’s transgressive.”
The directors also had slightly different views about the impact of digital technology on filmmaking. Raimi’s a fan saying that “the bar is always raised. Once [audiences] see Ang Li’s Life Of Pi the expectation of what 3D should do has been raised.” Still, he says that directors are overwhelmed with formats for video and sound. “We could use a little more standardization. I don’t think it would hurt the creative process.” Del Toro says that while technology shouldn’t drive the discussion, “every project brings its own demands.…You want to have the option to choose.” But Stone says that some of these creative decisions become moot because too many theaters are indifferent about the quality of the experience. “We go out to the theaters in Arizona or San Diego or Palm Desert. The sound is terrible and there’s no manager….There’s no projectionist in the booth, or the owners are shaving money and they don’t use digital bulbs. If we can bring theaters back to being movie palaces, that audience would be loyal to you forever.”
Prior to the panel, Raimi received the “RealD Innovation in 3D Award” for directing Oz The Great And Powerful.