Luca Guadagnino Says No Movie Should Have ‘90 Takes’ Per Scene: ‘Why Do You Have to Torture People?’

Many film directors, including the likes of David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick, openly believe in capturing endless takes of their actors as a way of giving space to the unexpected. But Luca Guadagnino is coming out against the philosophy. In a recent New York Times interview for “Challengers”, Guadagnino explained why he’s happy to walk away after one or two takes of a scene. “I hate pushing,” he said. “If it’s great, why do you have to torture people?”

“It’s exciting when you observe performance,” Guadagnino continued. “I will quit the moment in which I know that I’m going to be lazy or bored or I don’t have this energy of seeing performance happening — which, by the way, doesn’t need to take 90 takes. I think this movie is an average of one or two.”

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In the realm of filmmaking, this is a surprisingly unique perspective, as many directors have been prone to viewing their process as a quest for perfection. Guadagnino, however, believes too much perfection can distract from the narrative being told.

“Sometimes when I talk to my production designer and they show me something, I say, “’That’s something that belongs to ‘cinema,’; we shouldn’t do that. We should do something that belongs to the reality we’re describing,'” he said. “The lead aspect of cinema must be performance, it must be character. If you put your imagery in front of the performers, then the movie becomes kind of stilted and a bit rigid.”

To Guadagnino, allowing this level of trust on the “Challengers” set was a no-brainer, as he knew the talents he was collaborating with were capable of holding their own. Whether it was Josh O’Connor’s ability to pivot perspective to add nuance to a moment or Mike Faist’s revealing physical gestures, Guadagnino says that he didn’t want to mess too much with what was already working. Referencing Zendaya specifically, he said she has “an incredible capacity of observational reality.”

Guadagnino isn’t alone in noticing those capabilities, as Denis Villeneuve singled out Zendaya as the “Dune” cast member most likely to embrace directing. But the actress recently explained that, for now, she’s content to learn by observing on set.

“I’m still blown away when I watch people like Luca: There’s five people coming up to you, asking you, ‘This or that?’ or ‘What’s next?’ and he has to have an answer,” Zendaya said in a recent interview. “I’d find myself like, ‘I just want to make everybody happy, what do you need?’ Once I feel more confident in my assertiveness or decision-making, then I feel like then I’ll be able to take that step.”

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