Darius Marder (‘Sound of Metal’) and Florian Zeller (‘The Father’) Describe Their Deeply Personal Directorial Debuts

As voting opens for the Directors Guild of America Awards, two top contenders include first-timers Darius Marder (Amazon Studios’ “Sound of Metal”) and Florian Zeller (Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Father”). This week’s episode of the “Variety Awards Circuit” podcast features the filmmakers and co-writers, who discuss the process of bringing their projects to the screen and assembling their stellar casts.

Also in this episode, Awards Circuit Podcast roundtable reacts to the WGA Awards nominations that had just four women among its 31 screenwriting nominees. On the positive side, the nomination high points included “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Palm Springs” in best original screenplay and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and “The White Tiger” in best adapted screenplay. What does this mean for their Oscar chances? Listen to the podcast below!

It’s been said that great filmmakers leave a piece of themselves in the art they create. For “Sound of Metal” director and co-writer Darius Marder, the film marked an entire chapter of his life. “From when my kids were tiny, they’re now grown,” he says. “It ushered the end of a very long relationship, the only of my life. To put that stuff on the page, the sense of acceptance that you have to walk away – that all came right from my life. I lived it. It’s truly the most joyful thing to make this movie and the most excruciating because when I see it, I feel it every day.”

In his conversation with the Awards Circuit Podcast, the 46-year-old opens up about the journey of writing “Sound of Metal,” including his early life, influences, and what the film symbolizes at this time in his life.

With his brother Abraham Marder, and a story credit by Derek Cianfrance, Marder co-wrote “Sound of Metal.” The film stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer whose life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing. Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci also star.

“I kind of dared the world to give me a cast that I ended up with,” Marder says. “Part of that journey was saying ‘no’ to a lot of versions of the movie that weren’t that.”

For “The Father” director and co-writer Florian Zeller, the dream of adapting his own play “Le Père” came as a result of the positive responses and conversations he had with audiences after the show. Writing the play in 2012 was his way of expressing his feelings regarding a painful process. Raised by his grandmother, who started to suffer from dementia when he was 15, Zeller wanted to find the humanity in a harrowing disease.

“It was not about trying to tell my own story,” he says. “It was about going through this painful process and to discover that sometimes you can love someone, but love is not enough.”

When Zeller first dreamed of making the film, it was always with Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins in mind. Thus, he partnered with Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (“Dangerous Liaisons”) and began writing the film in English to go out to Hopkins to pitch the movie. Still, when he signed on, he changed the lead character’s name to “Anthony” so he could have a deeper connection to the character.

It’s the final scene in the film where Hopkins performs a masterclass in acting. “It was a hard place to get to,” Zeller says. “I remember he decided to take more time for himself and go somewhere. He came back, and he told me he just reconnected to a lullaby that his mother would sing to him when he was very young. And suddenly, this lullaby destroyed him in front of us. I remember when I said “cut,” everyone was crying on set, including himself, and I took him in my arms.”

The film’s cast also includes Olivia Colman, who Zeller calls “the greatest,” Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, hosted by Clayton Davis, Jenelle Riley, Jazz Tangcay and Michael Schneider (who produces), is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.

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