Remembering Arthur Hiller

August 17th, 2016
Arthur Hiller

We’re sad to learn that director Arthur Hiller has passed away at the age of 92. A native of Canada, he began his career at the CBC before going on to direct “live” television anthologies in the United States, including NBC Matinee Theater and Playhouse 90. Hiller directed episodes of many classic television series of the 1950s and 1960s, from Perry Mason and Gunsmoke to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Route 66. In the 1970s and beyond, he found great success as a film director. His beloved movies include “The Out of Towners” and “Love Story.”

Below are some selections from his 2003 interview:

On directing early television in Canada versus the United States:

“The set up between Canada and the United States in terms of live TV was very much the same. … you had the same problems. How do you do continuity? How do you get somebody from here to here? How do you get a camera here? How do you light this? You had to be so aware of those. In Canada we had to do a little more work because there was no such thing as an assistant director. … but you did have a technical director, you did have lighting, you did have all those things.”

On preparing to direct a project: 

“My preparation for television episode or for film are very much the same. I think maybe it comes out of my sort of insecurity, but I’m very much into preparing. First I just read the script and read the script and read the script and it starts then to sort of form in my head and I start thinking more deeply about the characters or their relationships. … I would like to be able, I’d say two weeks before we film, wasn’t quite so long in television, but to be able to answer any question that anybody would ask me on the crew or the actors. And I find that the more prepared I am and the more I have it in my head, the more flexible I am on the set when things happen that are a little different or I get an idea or somebody makes a suggestion, I’m not in panic because I know I can fall back, I have my what shall I say? My sustainer is there. And so I work that way. A lot of other directors I know will do most of their work at the scene. They will research, I mean they will prepare, but not like I do.”

On advice to aspiring directors:

“It better be the only thing you want to do, because to become successful in television or film in directing is just so, so hard, you need so much luck… part of it is you got to hang in, hang in and one day a door will open. Keep knocking on those doors. But when it opens you better be good.”

On how he’d like people to remember him: 

“I’d like them to feel I cared about the world in general and about people. I think I haven’t expressed, how shall I say? A worthwhile comment in every film, but at least I reached for an affirmation of the human spirit. I can’t do those films that… break down the human spirit or dismember people in a sense, I just I feel at least I want that affirmation of the human spirit.”

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