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Hollywood blockbusters are a tricky thing. With giant budgets and A-list actors attached, the pressure is on for directors to deliver a satisfying final product, specifically one that can turn a profit for the studio. And when a beloved franchise name is also included, things can get especially intense. Case in point: Gary Ross' Ocean's 8. The upcoming heist film has a stacked cast of A-listers, and the pressure of to delivering for the beloved Ocean's property. I recently spoke to Ross about directing the film's big ensemble scenes, and he revealed why he got nervous before shooting Ocean's 8.
It was a little bit nerve wracking beforehand. Only because I respect all these actors so much. It really is an all-star team. You want to have your shit together. There's nothing a director hates more than shooting a dinner table, just because the various angles and coverage. I really did think out that blocking, and the structure of those scenes more than a lot of others. Just because I wanted it to feel fluid as we went.
You've got to hand it to Gary Ross, he seems to really value his actors' time on set. Given the intricate camerawork of the Ocean's franchise, Ross was sure to plan out each shot in order to optimize shooting time with the actors. But when you're balancing eight or so characters at once, there's a lot of coverage and angles to shoot.
The Ocean's 11 franchise is known for its long tracking shots, and signature editing style. All angles of the heist are explored at once, as well as the perspective of each member of the cast. If a director is unprepared, it's easy for these complicated sequences to be real time suckers. Luckily Gary Ross has plenty of experience with blockbusters like The Hunger Games, and he was ready to dive into Ocean's 8 as a director and writer.
In my same conversation with Gary Ross, he also explained how thrilling it was to actually shoot those scenes despite the early trepidation. Having the full cast together was energizing on set, as he tells it:
Having said that, they were very special days. Because the days when the whole cast came together I think were very thrilling for them. One of the things I learned on this movie very early on was when to sit back and watch that alchemy happen in front of them. And watch that dynamic between these eight women occur organically. And listen to it. And let it happen. And allow the happy surprise.
While Ocean's 8 was a complicated and expensive movie full of A-list extras, it seems like the set was still a fun place to be. So much so that Gary Ross knew when to let the likes of Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, and Mindy Kaling ride the momentum of the scenes.