Rare Photos Of Directors On The Set Of Their Iconic Films

The success or failure of a film is largely due to the people behind the scenes. It’s difficult to imagine what films such as The Godfather, Annie Hall, or Titanic would have looked like had other people been in charge of their creation. Here are rare photos of some of the most famous directors comfortably working in their environments.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo Is One Of His Most Iconic Films


Hitchcock filmed Vertigo on location in San Francisco, California, and at Paramount Studios in Hollywood in 1958. The film was revolutionary for the filmmaker’s use of the dolly zoom. The effect distorts perspective and was used to show John “Scottie” Ferguson’s (James Stewart) fear of heights. Above, Hitchcock is pictured directing actress Kim Novak. While the movie received mixed reviews upon its release, it’s now considered one of Hitchcock’s most career-defining films. In 2012, the British Film Institute named it the “best film ever made.” It centers on Scottie, who is hired by an acquaintance to follow his wife.

Stanley Kubrick With Jack Nicholson On The Set Of The Shining


Kubrick filmed most of the interior shots of The Shining on studio sets. The inside of the Overlook Hotel was largely modeled after the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park (it’s now known as Majestic Yosemite Hotel). The lobby was recreated at Elstree Studios in Britain. The 1980 film is based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel. Kubrick was famous for tiring out the cast and crew by doing numerous takes for each scene. He used a Steadicam to create an immersive feel in many parts of the film. The movie is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

Woody Allen & Gordon Willis Made An Unlikely Pair On The Set Of “Annie Hall” In 1977


Annie Hall is one of Woody Allen’s most famous films. Allen directed and starred in the film alongside Diane Keaton. The romantic comedy centers on Alvy “Max” Singer, who tries to figure out why his relationship with a woman named Annie Hall didn’t work out. The movie was filmed largely on the South Fork of Long Island. Allen worked with cinematographer Gordon Willis, which seemed like an odd match at the time because Willis was known for more dramatic work, such as The Godfather. It marked the beginning of a long and fortuitous partnership. Annie Hall won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress.

Steven Spielberg Shot E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial In Chronological Order


E.T. centers on a young boy named Elliott who becomes friends with an extraterrestrial who is stranded on Earth. The 1982 film was based on the imaginary friend Steven Spielberg made up following his parent’s divorce in 1960. The movie was mostly filmed in chronological order, which is very unusual. The process enabled the young actors to give more powerful and emotional performances. Most of the film was shot in Culver City, located outside of Los Angeles. Fans and critics loved the film, which was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Spielberg made the film after a string of hits, including Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Orson Welles & Rita Hayworth Divorced After The Lady From Shanghai Was Released


The Lady From Shanghai is a 1947 film noir based on the novel “If I Die Before I Wake” and was filmed in the studio and on location in San Francisco. Orson Welles cast his wife, Rita Hayworth, as Elsa. He created some controversy by having Hayworth cut her famous long hair and bleaching it blonde. Columbia Pictures President Harry Cohn was upset by the drastic change, feeling it ruined the actress’ iconic appearance. While the movie didn’t do well upon its release, the final scene featuring a hall of mirrors cemented it in the film noir genre. Welles and Hayworth divorced shortly after it was released.

Martin Scorsese & Robert DeNiro On The Set Of Taxi Driver In 1976


Neo-noir psychological thriller Taxi Driver starred Robert DeNiro and Jodie Foster. The 1976 movie, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, was filmed during a heat wave and sanitation strike in New York City. Scorsese’s aim was to make the moviegoer feel as if he or she was in between a state of sleeping and waking. It’s considered one of the greatest films of all time. Fellow filmmaker Brian DePalma introduced Scorsese to DeNiro. While Scorsese had made Mean Streets and a couple other films beforehand, Taxi Driver really cemented his status as a competent filmmaker. Unfortunately, his follow-up film, New York, New York, bombed at the box office.”

Roman Polanski Made Rosemary’s Baby A Decade Before He Fled The United States


The 1968 psychological horror film starred Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. The plot centers on a pregnant woman who believes an evil cult wants to take her baby and use the infant for their rituals. The movie put Polanski on the map. The following year, Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and four friends were killed by members of the Manson family. Ten years later, the director was arrested and charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He then fled the country before he was sentenced. However, he continued to make films, including 2002’s The Pianist for which he won Best Director.

Quentin Tarantino & Harvey Keitel On The Set Of 1994’s Pulp Fiction


Quentin Tarantino wrote the script of Pulp Fiction about criminals in Los Angeles, starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel. The movie was a box office smash hit and received rave reviews from critics. Pulp Fiction is considered to be Tarantino’s masterpiece as well as one of the best films of all time. He made the film after releasing the 1992 hit Reservoir Dogs, making him a sought-after filmmaker in the industry. The movie was also a big turning point for independent cinema and cemented Miramax’s role as an indie superpower. Tarantino later went on to make Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Was Mired In Problems

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Was Mired In Problems

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war epic had problems right from the start. Marlon Brando arrived on set overweight and unprepared for his role. Bad weather demolished the sets, and Charlie Sheen had a breakdown and nearly died during filming. Coppola also spent so much time editing the film that the release was delayed. Coppola moved his wife and three children to the Philippines to make the film. It’s considered one of history’s greatest movies. He made the movie following the huge success of The Godfather parts I and II. While he continued to make memorable films, he hasn’t matched the success of the films he made in the ’70s.

Cecil B. DeMille On The Set Of His Last Film, The Ten Commandments


Cecil B. DeMille produced and directed the biblical epic The Ten Commandments in 1956. The movie was filmed on location in Egypt, Mount Sinai, and the Sinai Peninsula. It was the filmmaker’s final and most successful project. The movie had one of the largest sets ever created and at the time of its release was the most expensive film ever made. Adjusting for inflation, the movie is the seventh most successful film of all time. DeMille made an incredible 70 films during his career. He is considered the founding father of U.S. cinema, and the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award was named in his honor.

Mike Nichols & Dustin Hoffman On 1967’s The Graduate


Mike Nichols directed the romantic comedy-drama film The Graduate, which was based on the novel of the same name. It centers on a recent college graduate (Dustin Hoffman), who is seduced by an older woman and then falls in love with her daughter. Nichols won an Academy Award for the film. Prior to making films, Nichols was an accomplished director on Broadway. He was dubbed the “new Orson Welles” after directing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966. He went on to make several popular films, including Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), Silkwood (1983), and Working Girl (1988).

Ridley Scott Was A Relatively New Filmmaker When He Made Alien


Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien centered on an extraterrestrial creature that stalked and attacked the crew of a spaceship. It won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Like numerous films on this list, it’s considered one of the greatest films of all time. It’s also included in the National Film Registry. Scott had only directed one film before landing this project. His storyboard compelled movie execs to double the budget for the project. Most of the film was shot at a studio in London. Nichols later went on to make hit films such as Blade Runner, considered to be one of science fiction’s most influential films.

Sidney Lumet & Al Pacino On The Set Of Serpico


Sidney Lumet directed the neo-noir crime drama, Serpico. It centers on a patrolman (Al Pacino) who exposes corruption in the police force. The movie was filmed entirely in New York City. It was a huge box office success and received two Academy Award nominations. Lumet went on to make several more critically acclaimed films, including Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Network (1976). He made more than one movie a year since he started directing in 1957. He was known as an “actor’s director” and worked with many of the best stars during his career. He never won an individual Oscar but is considered one of the movie business’ greatest directors.

Star Wars Propelled George Lucas’ Career


George Lucas had only directed two films, including American Graffiti, before tackling Star Wars in 1977. Upon its release, it was the highest-grossing film of all time before being eclipsed by E.T. five years later. It was nominated for five Academy Awards. The movie launched Lucas’ career and resulted in several sequels. In the ’80s, he co-created and wrote the Indiana Jones films. Lucas also produced and wrote several movies through Lucasfilm in the ’80s and ’90s. He is considered one of U.S. cinema’s most financially successful filmmakers.

Dustin Hoffman & Sydney Pollack Famously Butted Heads On Tootsie


Sydney Pollack’s 1982 comedy Tootsie centers on a talented actor (Dustin Hoffman) whose difficult reputation makes it hard for him to find an acting job, so he dresses up as a woman to land a role. The movie was a critical and box office success and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. Pollack played Hoffman’s agent in the movie even though he hadn’t acted in years. The pair was known for their behind-the-scenes disputes, but their chemistry was palpable. Three years later the filmmaker made the critical smash Out of Africa. Over his career, he directed a dozen actors in Oscar-nominated performances.

Robert Redford’s Ordinary People Was His Directorial Debut


1980 drama Ordinary People was the first film Robert Redford directed. It centers on a family that must cope with the death of one of their own. It won four Academy Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. Up until that point, Redford was an actor, having launched his career in the ’60s. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made him a huge star in 1969. He continued to both act and direct. In 1985, he starred in the hit film Out of Africa but also directed films such as A River Runs Through It, Quiz Show and The Legend of Bagger Vance.

Clint Eastwood Had To Fight To Make Million Dollar Baby


Clint Eastwood’s 2004 sports drama Million Dollar Baby centers on a boxing trainer who helps a female amateur boxer follow her dreams. The movie won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, despite being in “development hell” for years. Few studios wanted to work with Eastwood and invest money into the project. Eastwood is a versatile Hollywood showman who is known as much for his acting as he is his directing. He starred in numerous westerns in the ’60s and is widely remembered as “Dirty Harry.” Eastwood has also directed many of the films he starred in.

Ron Howard & George Lucas Teamed Up On The Set Of Willow


Ron Howard starred in George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti and started a long working relationship with the filmmaker. In 1985 while Howard was filming Cocoon, Lucas approached him and asked him to direct the movie Willow, which he had written. Most of the movie was shot in England and New Zealand. The film has a cult fan following. Howard was a successful child star, appearing on programs such as The Andy Griffith Show. He made his directorial debut in 1977 in the action/comedy Grand Theft Auto. He has since directed numerous films, including A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code.

James Cameron In The Water With Kate Winslet On The Set Of Titanic


James Cameron’s epic romance-disaster film Titanic won 11 Academy Awards, tying with 1959’s Ben Hur for the most Oscars won by a single movie. Cameron built a full-scale RMS Titanic for filming. It was the highest-grossing movie of all time until 2010 when the director’s film Avatar topped it. Cameron put his name on the map after directing Terminator in 1984, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Other films include Rambo II: First Blood, Aliens, and The Abyss. Following Titanic, he created the short-lived TV series Dark Angel. He achieved huge success with Avatar and is in the midst of developing three sequels.

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing Was Controversial


Spike Lee produced, wrote and directed the 1989 dramedy Do The Right Thing. It’s set in an NYC neighborhood that’s brimming with racial tension and ends in tragedy. Considered one of the greatest films of all time, Lee received an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay, which took him just two weeks to write. It was shot entirely in Brooklyn and was Lee’s second feature film. It stirred up controversy because many feared it would encourage black audiences to riot. Lee went on to direct several other films, including Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X and the documentary 4 Little Girls.