‘Maleficent’ Director Robert Stromberg on Bringing Emotional Baggage to the Job
Robert Stromberg’s resumé reads like a dreamlist of fantastical worlds and stories. His previous credits include working as a production designer and visual effects designer on the likes of Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful and many more blockbuster films. Now Stromberg has taken on the director’s chair for the first time, sitting at the rein of Disney’s Maleficent.
“I feel like I’ve been ready to [direct] for a long time,” Stromberg tells Den of Geek. “The leap itself was — it wasn’t a leap of fear, it was sort of a relief in a way and something I was really looking forward to because I sort of conquered in my own mind the world building part of all these big films. The missing ingredient emotionally, or completing my own personal journey career wise, was this. And so I got the opportunity. I had over several years a trusting relationship with Joe Roth, a producer who produced Alice, Oz and also Maleficent. He gave me the opportunity and I seized it.”
Stromberg cites learning from the many different styles of the directors he’s worked with including Peter Weir, James Cameron and Tim Burton, but ultimately defines directing as “bringing your own emotional baggage” and learning how to “interpret emotion.”
“If you’ve paid attention in your own life, just observing human behavior and conversations and the outcomes of those conversations, you have a pretty good understanding of emotional tonality,” he says. “It’s a rhythm, like music is a rhythm or composition and art is a rhythm. Dialogue is a rhythm as well. If there’s a note that’s off and you recognize it and you can change that I think that’s what qualifies you to be able to direct.”