Seven Quirky Lowbrow Favorite Films of Highbrow Directors

A night after many thought David Letterman let slip a major spoiler about “The Dark Knight Rises” during Anne Hathaway’s visit to the “Late Show,” the actress dropped a bigger bombshell about the film’s director Christopher Nolan on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” when she revealed the mere thought of “MacGruber” gave him the giggles. Although Nolan’s the one known for innovation, Hathaway can be heard saying between Fallon’s howls of disbelief that the director thought of a specific scene without saying which one and would say, “I can’t believe no one thought of that.” The “MacGruber” madness begins at 3:18 in this clip:

Even though Hathaway sheepishly admits, “He’s probably going to hate that I mentioned this,” Nolan’s hardly the first famed auteur to have his guilty or not-so-guilty pleasure revealed to the public. Although most directors like David Fincher and Akira Kurosawa can be relied upon to list widely accepted classics as their favorites, every once in awhile a filmmaker is outed as having a favorite film that would seem to be in direct contrast to the ones they make. Here are a handful who have more eclectic taste than most moviegoers would imagine:

Alfred Hitchcock – “Smokey and the Bandit”

It was after a screening of “Psycho” honoring the Master of Suspense at USC in November 2000 when Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia confirmed what some had heard offhand – that Hitch’s favorite movie was the massively popular but critically unbeloved 1977 Burt Reynolds backwoods chase flick. It wasn’t such a surprise for audience members aware of Hitchcock’s populist taste in general, his daughter saying in an interview before the screening, “He made his films for the audience and for entertainment – not for the critics or for self-pleasure.” To drive the point home, the other movie she namedropped as a favorite of the late director that night? “Benji.”

Stanley Kubrick – “White Men Can’t Jump”

When the “2001” director was first asked his opinion of his favorite films in 1963 by the periodical “Cinema,” Kubrick expressed his affection for a diverse group of films including foreign fare such as Fellini’s “I Vitelloni” and Antonioni’s “La Notte” as well as American flicks such as William Wellman’s “Roxie Hart” and John Huston’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” But decades later after he had passed, his daughter Katharina Kubrick Hobbs gave an update that may have provided some some minor surprises with mentions of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” but left many scratching heads with the inclusion of the 1992 Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson basketball comedy. No reason was given, though Kubrick Hobbs warned, “Don’t go analyzing yourself to death over this half-remembered list. He liked movies on their own terms.”

Martin Scorsese – “The Exorcist II: The Heretic”

Though there are some great movies on John Boorman’s resume, his follow-up to William Friedkin’s wildly successful adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s horror novel is generally considered not to be one of them, something Blatty and Friedkin could see coming since they backed away from the idea of a sequel. However, in Martin Scorsese’s extensive list of cinematic pleasures, both “guilty and unguilty” in the May/June 1998 issue of Film Comment, the director made the case for the Africa-bound sequel, writing “I like the first ‘Exorcist,’ because of the Catholic guilt I have, and because it scared the hell out of me; but The Heretic surpasses it. Maybe Boorman failed to execute the material, but the movie still deserved better than it got.”

Roman Polanski – “Rush Hour”

The director of “The Pianist” and “Chinatown” has never said as much himself, but when I asked Brett Ratner how he was able to get Polanski to play the role of a particularly handsy French police commissioner in “Rush Hour 3” on behalf of Premiere magazine, Ratner said it was Polanski’s minor obsession with the first installment of the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker franchise that led to their introduction: “When he saw the first ‘Rush Hour’ and he called me and I said, let’s meet. [When I started casting ‘Rush Hour 3’], it was so exciting because once he agreed to do it, he was so into the character, he called me up one day and said, ‘Can I see you?’ I was staying at the Plaza Athenee in Paris and he says, ‘Can we rehearse?’ And we’re in the lobby rehearsing and I’m reading the other lines with Roman and I’m saying to myself, ‘God, I wish someone could see me right now. I’m directing Roman Polanski.’”

Terrence Malick – “Zoolander”

Anyone fortunate enough to have seen the bawdy buddy comedy “The Dion Brothers” (a.k.a. “The Gravy Train”) that Malick co-wrote under an alias knows that the “Days of Heaven” director is capable not only of visually stunning imagery but also jaw-droppingly hysterical vulgarity. But since that number is sadly miniscule thanks to “The Dion Brothers” never seeing a release on home video, it came as a shock to many when Seth Rogen revealed in 2007 in The Guardian that Malick regularly quotes Ben Stiller’s 2001 satire about the modeling industry, his love for the film so deep that Stiller reportedly recorded a birthday wish for him in character.

Quentin Tarantino – “Anything Else”

As has been proven time and again, the “Inglourious Basterds” writer/director has extremely eclectic taste to begin with, which is the only explanation when his 2011 top 11 list had room for both Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” and Paul W.S. Anderson’s “The Three Musketeers” (though the latter did feature “Basterds”’ Christoph Waltz). That list, however, had “Midnight in Paris” at number one, which suggests a love of Woody Allen that would have to be the only explanation for how he named Allen’s amiable yet pedestrian 2003 comedy “Anything Else” to his list of the 20 best films he’d seen since breaking out with “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992.

Know of any other odd favorites of famous directors? Let us know in the comments below.

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