An important tenet of auteurism is that the best films are always driven by an intimate connection between the director and the lead character. Alfred Hitchcock and James Stewart‘s Scotty Ferguson in Vertigo, Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel‘s Charlie in Mean Streets, etc. And it doesn’t really matter if the director admits to (or is even aware of) self-portraiture. Never trust the artist — trust the tale.
It hit me last night as I was preparing my questions for last night’s q & a with Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow that there’s a certain kinship between herself and Jeremy Renner‘s Sgt. James character — a guy who lives for the thrill of a super-intense job (i.e., bomb defusing) and who isn’t much good at day-to-day normality.
The “tell” is in a 6.25 interview with Bigelow by Movieline‘s Kyle Buchanan.
Renner’s character “thrives on the theater of war and outside it he feels like an incomplete person,” Buchanan notes. “That’s a personality type I could apply to a lot of directors. Only when they’re on set do they feel most themselves. Does that describe you at all?”
“Oh, good question,” Bigelow answers. “I suppose, personally, from my frame of reference, production is very intense and nothing else comes quite close to that. And yet, as a kind of more meta version of myself at that time…I don’t know. I’d probably have to be far more self-aware than I am to answer that accurately. I thrive on production. It feels very much like a natural environment for me. I don’t know if I thrive in normal life.”
Coward that I am, I didn’t put this question to Bigelow last night. I suppose I was thinking that her response to Buchanan (“I’d probably have to be far more self-aware than I am to answer that accurately”) told me that asking this would result in an awkward moment and that she’d probably sidestep it. This is what happens when you come to really like a director personally — you start to feel protective.
But as I sit here this morning I’m fairly convinced of the Bigelow/James connection. It’s arguably why The Hurt Locker plays as well as it does, and why everyone is calling it her best film ever. Bigelow has always “gotten” guys in her films. We hold this truth to be self-evident.