'I am a gypsy at heart'

In a free-wheeling chat Andy Tennant talks about the difficulties of directing a Rom-Com and what inspires him

The 14th Mumbai Film Festival will see Hollywood director Andy Tennant conduct the Masterclass in Direction segment. Tennant made his way into films through acting, television directing and of course dancing. He studied theatre under John Houseman at the University of Southern California and began acting in such films as Grease (1978), which allowed him to make use of his training as a dancer. Tennant made his feature film directorial debut in 1995 with It Takes Two (1995), a children's film starring the Olsen twins. A USC alumnus who began his career by directing hit television shows such as The Wonder Years and Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and went on to strike gold at the box-office with films such as Hitch(2005), Fools Gold (2008), Anna and the King (1999) and The Bounty Hunter (2010). The director is also Jury President for the International Competition for the First Feature Films of Directors at MAMI

Excerpts from the interview:
How did you come into film making?
I love musicals and  I started out as a dancer in films like Grease. Even when I was writing, I wanted to try my hand in direction and that’s how with It Takes Two came about.

From dancing to acting to writing to directing, you have donned many hats. Which role was most exciting for you?
It is difficult to chose between writing and directing as both are equally exciting. Writing is more personal while directing is fun when you have to manage 100 people at the same time
What were the challenges when you decided to change gears and take up direction?
The biggest challenge for me was conquering my fear of having too much responsibility. And ofcourse dealing with lot of noise (laughs). But the biggest challenge was to keep my focus and not lose direction. Once I did that, everything fell into place.

After a successful stint in televisison, will it be right to say that you love doing TV?
Well, films are by far more exciting to me. Among my films, I loved directing Fool’s Gold. I loved working with Will Smith and going to stay in Malaysia for Anna and the King. I am a gypsy by nature. I love interacting with different cultures and meeting new people.

Romantic comedies always have to walk the fine line between too funny and too sappy. How do you keep a balance?
It is difficult because you have to make sure that the film is funny enough for men and romantic enough for women but fortunately, I have a female editor who is much more tougher on romcoms than I am. That’s how I keep a balance.

What can we look forward to during the Masterclass session at the Mumbai Film Festival?
Well, a lot of things. It is going to be a session on how to direct and what not to direct. Anecdotes and stories about the behind the scene action while filming etc.