We are inching closer and closer to Oscar season, though somewhat annoyingly it seems like more than in years past, the majority of major Academy Award contenders are not being released until late November or December. While I wait anxiously at the thought of new films from venerated directors like Steven Spielberg, P.T. Anderson, Guillermo Del Toro, and Martin McDonagh, I have been thinking about which directors should be next in line to helm a law-related film who have not done so before. Here are some ideas.
Just like when I recently engaged in a similar exercise with actors, I have a few caveats. First, while I have done research for this piece, it is possible that I screwed up and one of the below directors has indeed directed a legal film. Sorry in advance. Second, if a director helms a non-legal movie that happens to contain a lawyer, that is not a legal movie. Third, I am only counting full-length films that show up on IMDB. If one of the below directed an NYU student film in his or her dorm room that happens to be about the law, I am not counting it.
P.T. Anderson – P.T. Anderson is one of those directors whose films are event viewing. Not only does he work with less frequency than some of his peers, having only made eight full-length films in 21 years (by comparison, Spielberg is on track to release films in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018), but all of his films are at least very very good, with some, like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood, all time classics. Anderson has explored many different professions, such as pornographers, motivational speakers, cult leaders, oil tycoons, private detectives, and with his new film Phantom Thread, dress-making (not pod-racing). But he has never tackled lawyers. To call Anderson’s films dense is an understatement; a P.T. Anderson legal film is not going to be a Suits-esque romp. But who better than P.T. Anderson to chronicle the rise and fall of a morally bankrupt attorney as he gains notoriety defending Wall Street crooks?
Damien Chazelle – The 32-year-old Chazelle directed Whiplash, my favorite film of 2014, which expertly examined the sacrifices required to succeed in a field like jazz drumming. Chazelle followed that up with none other than La La Land, which I did not love, but for which Chazelle won an Academy Award for best director. Given Chazelle’s love for music, I think Chazelle is the perfect director of a law-related musical. Perhaps it could be about a group of law students who dream of saving the world by becoming a lawyer only to see those dreams dashed by a maniacal law professor who points out every fallacy in their reasoning and repeatedly points out the monotony of many aspects of the law. Through song!
Jordan Peele – After the success of Get Out (which grossed $253 million worldwide on a $4.5 million budget), I would imagine Peele is one of the most in-demand directors in Hollywood. At this point, he could probably get a film about a talking potato green-lit. Part of Peele’s brilliance lies in his ability to blend genres. Get Out was a biting satire, but it also was an engrossing horror film. Although he did not direct Keanu (he co-wrote and stars in the 2016) film, that movie expertly blended comedy and action. I can think of no one better than Peele to direct a cross between a legal drama and a comedy. Maybe about two bumbling small-town buffoon lawyers who somehow fake their way into arguing a major case before the Supreme Court
Denis Villenueve – The French-Canadian director is on quite a run right now. Since 2013, he has directed Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival, and the recent Blade Runner 2049. His recent films — particularly Blade Runner 2049 — have been visually stunning, but I think that Prisoners provides the better precedent for what Villenueve could do with a legal film. Prisoners — about parallel investigations into the abduction of two children by the police and by one of the children’s fathers — is a taut, intense, brilliantly acted film that does not rely on any special effects (the kind of film rarely made today). Villenueve can definitely use that skill in directing a legal drama. Just like Prisoners, Villenueve’s legal film should take place in a small town. It should depict a small-town lawyer as he is hired to represent a defendant accused of murder, and the attorney begins to worry how dangerous a successful representation of the defendant might be.
Michelle MacLaren – I am cheating a bit here, as MacLaren has directed one episode of “Better Call Saul.” But that is obviously a television show; MacLaren has never directed a legal film; in fact she has inexplicably never directed any film given a wide release, despite being one of the most acclaimed television directors, probably best known for helming some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, including “Four Days Out,” “One Minute,” and “Salud.” It’s time to give MacLaren her shot. She has proven adept in different genres; in addition to Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, she has directed episodes of Game of Thrones, The Deuce, Westworld, and The Walking Dead. So why not law? At the very least, given that she directed the classic “Crystal Blue Persuasion” scene from the Breaking Bad episode “Gliding Over All,” I would be content if she directed a legal movie solely consisting of a montage.
Harry Graff is a litigation associate at a firm, but he spends days wishing that he was writing about film, television, literature, and pop culture instead of writing briefs. If there is a law-related movie, television show, book, or any other form of media that you would like Harry Graff to discuss, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to follow Harry Graff on Twitter at @harrygraff19.Be Sociable, Share!