Debut director has no ‘Trouble’
Director Rob Lorenz and Clint Eastwood in the baseball drama, "Trouble with the Curve."
Updated: September 20, 2012 9:31AM
Growing up in Park Ridge and Norridge — where he delivered the Pioneer Press and graduated from William Fremd High School in 1985 — Rob Lorenz loved movies and dreamed of becoming a director one day. Now, after moving to L.A. in 1989 after graduating from film school at the University of Iowa, and after more than 20 years of working in Hollywood as an assistant director and producer (mostly with Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso production company after signing on for “Bridges of Madison County”), that day is here.
Lorenz is making his directorial debut Friday with the baseball/family drama “Trouble with the Curve,” in which Eastwood plays an old-school scout (much like the ones seen in “Moneyball,” but with considerably more horse-sense). On what could be his final recruiting trip, the cantankerous old cuss is reluctantly accompanied by his semi-estranged daughter (Amy Adams), because he is rapidly losing his eyesight.
We caught up with Lorenz, who learned his trade on films such as “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima,” for a chat about favorite films, the up side of the grueling movie-production business and why he chose “Trouble with the Curve” for his directorial debut.
Question: How long have you known you wanted to be a filmmaker?
Rob Lorenz: I loved movies when I was a kid. Though it didn’t occur to me until high school to think of it as a career. Until then, I was into art and drawing and I thought I might end up as a graphic artist, which is what my mother did. Eventually I realized film was what I really loved and if I was going to have to do something for a living, that’s what I wanted to do.
Q: What did you imagine yourself doing?
RL: Directing. That’s really always been where I was headed, from the beginning. There have been a lot of twists and turns in my career, but I think they have all helped get me to this point.
Q: Where you by any chance a fan of Clint Eastwood movies as a kid?
RL: I did love the “Dirty Harry” movies. I also loved Steve McQueen around that time. Then my love for film expanded from there and I watched David Lean and Hitchcock and Spielberg and Coppola — a really wide range of directors. In college, I fell in love with independent films and foreign films. I tried to take it all in — all the cool stuff, so I could maybe steal from it someday. (Laughing)
Q: Film production has a reputation for being extremely demanding work. Did you ever have second thoughts after arriving in Hollywood?
RL: You’ve got to love it to stay at it. You’ll get weeded out very quickly otherwise. But I did love it. I saw early on that working in film would allow me to learn so many different things and go to so many places around the world and meet so many interesting people. Film for me has been a never-ending learning process. That’s been the greatest thing about it.
Q: How did you become involved with Eastwood?
RL: Like so many things out here, through a connection. A friend who had worked with Clint as an assistant director had to pass on “Bridges of Madison County,” so he recommended me. I became his first A.D. for several years, then he asked me to help produce “Blood Work” and “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby,” which I was also assistant director. I stopped doing that for “Flags of Our Fathers” because it was such a big logistical deal and, since then, I’ve overseen everything in production.
Q: Was “Trouble with the Curve” written for him?
RL: The writer, Randy Brown, says no. But when Randy came in for our first meeting, I told him I liked it a lot and I wanted Clint to really like it. So, instead of giving him the script right away, I asked Randy if we could work on it a little bit — to take out some of the stuff I knew wouldn’t appeal to Clint and build up some of the stuff I knew he would like. So, we purposely fashioned it to appeal to him.
Q: What appealed to you about the story?
RL: It seemed like a great project to begin with as a director. It’s a very straightforward story that could be told in a fairly simple way, without depending on tricks or visual effects. And I really liked what was going on in the script. I was attracted to the rich characters and the relationships they develop.
I’ve also always had a nostalgic fondness for baseball and I thought this film could capture that pure spirit, the enjoyment we had from playing the game when we were kids — just being out in the sun having fun playing. And contrast that pure spirit with the less appealing aspects of professional baseball: the commercialization, the endorsements and all that, represented in the character of Bo (a nasty minor-league slugger being scouted for the majors, ed.).
Q: Was “Trouble with the Curve” developed pre- or post-“Moneyball”?
RL: We got the script just before “Moneyball” came out. The whole idea of the old scout vs. the new technological approach to scouting was a popular topic of conversation in the baseball world even before “Moneyball” came out, but I knew that people would draw comparisons between “Moneyball” and our film. Which is fine. In many ways, “Trouble” is sort of the flip side of “Moneyball.” What I wanted to convey is that it’s all about balance — as it is with most things in life. You can explore new ways of getting the job done, but you shouldn’t lose sight of the wisdom that comes from experience.
Q: So, what’s it been like, finally fulfilling your dream?
RL: It’s been great, really great. I’m glad I was able to direct my first film at Malpaso. It helped that I knew everyone involved and had worked with them often. So it wasn’t necessary to deal with jockeying egos and all that stuff. We all work well together, so it’s easy to show up for the first day and just fall into the routine. If Clint hadn’t kept me giving me more and more responsibility and kept giving me all those great projects over the years, I would have moved on to direct long ago. But all that great experience made me feel very prepared to make the move now. I was able to slip into the new roll comfortably.
(Laughing) My only fear is that it will never be this much fun again.