While everyone is quite reasonably celebrating the birth of Jean Renoir today, there are a few other directors worth acknowledging. Though not having an especially deep or well-celebrated filmography, Italian filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli has an interesting career driven by adaptation, including plays, operas and other films. He is still best known for his back-to-back Shakespeare hits: 1967’s The Taming of the Shrew (starring Elizabeth Taylor) and 1968’s Romeo and Juliet (starring Olivia Hussey). The latter earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. He also earned a Palme d’Or nomination for 1986’s Otello, which followed a warm critical reception for 1982’s adaptation of Verdi’s La traviata.
In this archival interview with Jim Verniere from 1983, Zeffirelli talks about getting involved with cinema, the theatrical production that lead to his meeting Richard Burton, his thoughts on art direction v. realism, the making of Romeo and Juliet, popular v. critical acclaim, the reception of his remake of The Champ, Woody Allen, Italian neorealism and his admiration of Vittorio De Sica, working with Luchino Visconti, the Russian reception of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and much more.
BONUS: A clip of Zeffirelli on Charlie Rose in 1996 discussing his Jane Eyre adaptation, as well as Mary Wood delivering a paper on Zeffirelli, entitled “Auteur or Celebrity?”, in the conference ‘Age Spots and Spotlights: Celebrity, Ageing and Performance’.