You probably know Eric Stoltz as an actor — over his 34-year career he’s starred in everything from Some Kind of Wonderful to Pulp Fiction to Caprica. But the cast of Glee knows Eric Stoltz as something else: the guy who calls “Action!” Stoltz — who got his start in classic high school movies like SKoW and Fast Times at Ridgemont High — is one of the go-to directors for Fox’s hit teen comedy, and as a guest columnist in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, he explains what it’s like to direct the kids at McKinley high. Click through to read an excerpt of Stoltz’s column, and check out tonight’s episode of Glee — featuring the duet between Darren Criss and Matt Bomer — directed by the redheaded multitasker himself.
“When I first came to the Glee set last season, I could tell they’d been through a great deal — the actors were close-knit and a bit guarded, and rightly so. Who was this redheaded stranger coming into their world, asking questions and taking notes? Before I start directing a show, I try to spend a few weeks hanging around the set, getting to know the crew and talking to the actors about how they like to work. Who is fussy? Who is left-handed? Who wants to go home early, and who is the perfectionist? There is no “right” way to work, and familiarizing myself with everyone’s method is a respectful place to start. And it’s also a lot of fun stealing Jane Lynch’s journal and reading it in the bathroom…
To this day I overprepare. I draw storyboards for every scene — chicken scratches so crude that they amuse and horrify the crew. I send out shot lists, act out the scenes, and search for a theme that I can relate to. It’s my favorite time of the process. Then I get on set, and inevitably an actor says, “Wait, why would I do that?” and I realize they’re right. So all my prep gets tossed out, and I find myself improvising. Still, those are the moments that resonate — whether it’s Artie rolling himself into the pool or Brittany nudging a lonely meatball across a plate with her nose. These little moments of unscripted behavior stay with me.”
For more from Eric Stoltz about Glee and why he chose to try his hand at directing (hint: it involves a bad breakup and two orphaned dogs), pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands April 12.