6 Types Of Film Directors

By Margherita Pellegrino

The relationship between a director and his actors is crucial. Director and actors need to understand each other, be there for each other and work together because, essentially, they are working toward the same goal: the director wants a good film, and the actors want a good film to look good in.

The thing is: we are talking about professionals, yes, but also human beings, with their different quirks, habits and mannerisms, all of which come into play during those long months of shooting in deserts/jungles/foreign countries/islands (or those work-crammed stressful seven days, like is often the case of low-budget small productions).

Different directors handle their relationship with the actors – particularly with the lead ones -  in different ways.

Here’s 6 common types of directors:

Directing Actors1.The ‘Thank God I cast you’ type: 

Sometimes directors are lucky, like Peter Jackson when he was shooting Lord of the rings. During one scene, Viggo Mortensen was killing Orcs as Aragorn when one of them wacked him in the face with his sword.

‘Of course, every normal actor at that point would say 'Stop! Stop! Take me to my trailer. This is appalling. I've got to fix my tooth.' […] What Viggo did was he immediately snatched it up and said 'Get me some super glue! We've got to stick this back in and carry on’, says Peter.

Well, you’ve got to love Viggo Mortensen. Certainly even more directors will be very inclined to do so, after hearing about this episode.

2.The ‘You scare me when you shout’ type:

Some directors don’t know what to do if their lead actor acts like a bit of a diva. What would you do if your actor goes on a ranting rampage ‘a la Christian Bale on the set of Terminator Salvation?

Yes, he did apologise after and yes, the producer defended him (‘He was in the midst of a very emotional scene and you don’t want people walking into your set when you’re doing that’. Err, yes, sure.) But still, his rant went on for quite long and you can’t help but think, where was the director in the mean time? Why didn’t he step in, instead letting the incident be recorded for the amusement of youtube viewers around the world? Hm, good question.

3.The ‘yes you seem like a train wreck but I like a challenge’ type

Some directors look past crazy antics if they like an actor. For his well-thought-but-badly-executed colossal Alexander, Oliver Stone wanted Colin Farrell to play, well, Alexander. He asked him to meet for lunch to discuss the role and Colin turned up ‘drunk as a skunk’, even ‘breaking glasses in the restaurant’. Despite not liking him at first, Stone proved to be quite an understanding director – or at least, a very open minded one - and the Irish bad boy got the role.

4.The ‘I love you and I only want to work with you’ type

Some directors just love one particular actor, and pick him/her for (almost) all their films, sometimes even adapting the main role so that it can be taken on by their favourite. You don’t change a winning team – Ridley Scott realised this after the flop of Kingdom of Heaven which made him run straight back to his muse Russell Crowe. Other recurrent collaborations are, notably, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, and Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.

5.The ‘actually you’re not the one I want’ type

Sometimes directors change their mind about their cast. The more of a perfectionist they are, the higher the chances they will do so, for a variety of reasons. Peter Jackson (again) for example, initially cast Stuart Towsend for the role of Aragorn, only to realise he wanted ‘someone older’(well, this was the official reason) after Stuart had undergone two months of training for the role . The poor chap packed up and left without compensation.

6.The ‘I’m the director and I can make your life hell if I want’ type

Directors have a certain vision and work ethic and sometimes they are not very keen on compromising and exploring different points of view, and this doesn’t make the actors’ life easy. Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron, Michael Mann and Francis Ford Coppola amongst others all rank high on the list of the ‘most difficult directors to work with’. Kubrick famously had a love/hate relationship with his lead actors Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman on the set of his last movie Eyes Wide Shut, To be fair, Kubrick did live to finish the film, and perhaps he was angry with the final cut (as R. Lee Ermey recently  implied). However, he couldn't have known that the film would flop.

Your Comments Please


Umm - how do figure that Stanley Kubrick blamed Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman for the flopping of Eyes Wide Shut after it's release? He died in March 1999 and the film wasn't released till July...
Daniel Thwaites


I think the types on this list are not mutually exclusive.  Each of them may be expressed by a director at some point in their career based on the situation... Even type 6 (but not the way Kubrick did).  While type 2 is a deplorable scenario, the truth is sometimes an actor can benefit from venting.  I would never condone the use of crew members as canon fodder but I do recognize the need an actor may have to blow of some steam.  The trick is to ensure that this can happen without poisoning the set. 

I think we should caution ourselves from staking these "types" as static unmoving archetypes. Many directors can be sited for behavior that would land them in several of these types (even the types we don't like) yet they still emerge as successful directors because theres more to their methods that just what we see in this list.

The ultimate goal is to achieve the ends which you've envisioned.  There are certainly cases where a strong actor can make up the difference for a director with a limited, incomplete or even premature vision of the project.  There are also times that no matter what you do, you're unable to get the actor to share your vision.  And sometimes it's through making their lives hell that you're able to squeeze out the performance you need -- even when everything in them thrashes against it.  The trick is know when and what scenario would best benefit from which method or "type".

Thank you for writing the article.
Anthony McHie


Hello! Thank you for putting the newsletters up! They are always a good read and there are always goodies.

However just to point it out because not only it is laughable but it is very unprofessional.

This article was quite good! No really untill this last point: Kubrick famously had a love/hate relationship with his lead actors Tom
Cruise and Nicole Kidman on the set of his last movie Eyes Wide Shut,
and rumour has it that he proceeded to blame them for the flopping of
the film after the release. Fucking... unacceptable! Kubrik died 4 days after finishing the movie and having executive preview to the studio execs, family & Nickole Kidman & Tom Cruise! I don't think he was alive to see that his last movie flopped! Unless he was blaming them from the GRAVE ~ or is it a new type of communication?

Julia the friendly reader!


Interesting Director  prototypes. I enjoyed them. ...But worries me, as an actor relying on unregulated and often unimaginative casting directors to see them, is the Author of the prototypes, Margherita Pellegrin, says she wants to go into casting because she "has a sixth sense." Oh no. Please. There's enough rubbish casting directors out there also believing they have a sixth sense. My advice would be to not go into casting, and to do something less destructive to actors trying to make a living.


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About The Author

MArgheritaMargherita Pellegrino moved to the UK from Italy five years ago, studied Sociology and has now finished a Masters Degree in United States Studies.

She is obsessed with cinema and the United States (especially New York) and loves to write (and talk) incessantly about both.

She would like to work as a reviewer/film critic, or maybe in casting because she has a sixth sense about people.

Margherita is presently intening at Raindance.




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The 6 Types of Film Directors