LOOKING BACK
HFPA

John Huston

I was born in Nevada, Missouri. My grandfather won the town in a poker game.

Every time someone in town died, the owner of the silent movie theatre shut it down
for the day. Everyone thought he was showing respect. Actually he rented the seats
to the funeral parlor.

Walter Huston, my father, was an actor who traveled the West with a theatre troop.
For a brief period, he did a vaudeville act with a chicken that danced on one leg.

Times got hard. Other vaudevillians said Walter ate the chicken. He said that was a
bold lie! He ate only the leg the chicken didn't dance on.

My mother and I traveled the West with him. I got a taste for colorful people. Making a movie, I like casting best. No question, my films are successful because of my casting. I choose charismatic actors with the ability to play a certain role.

I directed Marilyn Monroe in her first movie, Asphalt Jungle, and last, The Misfits.
She was the embodiment of the characters she played. I give artists as much freedom and encouragement as I can to be themselves.

Very often, as in Prizzi's Honor. I get the artists together and say, "Look, work this scene out between yourselves."
I'd send the crew away and tell the actors, "Send for me when you're ready." Half or three quarters of an hour later they would have put a scene together. Usually it was ideal, and I wouldn't have to do any directing at all.

That is what being a director is -- knowing when not to direct. Someone asked me a question about having conflicts on the set. You don't have conflicts with an actor. You get as much out of him as you can through encouragement. You give him heart and boldness and freedom to exercise his artistry.

Jack Tewksbury