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60 Seconds with Director and Acting Coach Michelle Danner

Exclusive interview by Karen Beishuizen

Michelle Danner is a film and stage director, author and acting coach who teaches the Golden Box Acting Workshops. She has taught acting for more than 25 years and worked with people like Gerard Butler, Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, James Franco and Christian Slater. Her new book “The Golden Box” will be released later this year.

KB: Your dad Alexander Valdez opened the very first William Morris Agency in Paris? When was this and who did he have as clients?

In 1968, my dad opened the very first William Morris agency in Paris. Throughout the course of his tenure, he brought on a lot of major stars. Including Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Julio Iglesias, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr, Bill Haley and the list goes on and on and on. It was the perfect time in history. I grew up with a life full of entertainment, museums, literature, theatre. I have very vivid memories of hiding under his desk and watching him have fascinating conversations with extraordinary artists.

KB: You have been teaching acting for more than 25 years in your own acting school or private acting class? Who were your pupils?

I have been so lucky to be able to teach a wonderful craft, the craft of acting. both to actors that are well known and actors that are starting out. I don’t like to name drop, but my client list is in my bio. I never want to feel that I am exploiting my clients

KB: You trained in New York with Stella Adler? At Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio?

When I was a teenager in New York City, I was lucky enough to study with the greats. Stella Adler, Uta Hagan, Herbert Berghof, and so many more. The foundation that I got; the insights were priceless. There was one particular class that Stella Adler would teach called Script interpretation where she talked in depth about writers such as Strindberg, Ibsen, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Chekhov. It was an absolute privilege to go to her lectures and learn from her.

KB: In 2006 you made your directing debut with the movie How to go Out on a Date in Queens. You were nominated as Best Director at L.A. Film Awards. How does this feel to get a nomination like that with your very first feature movie?

Well, you know. I’ve been lucky, some of the independent movies that I’ve done have gotten some recognition. There was a moment with my last movie, The Runner, where I won best director at the Catalina film festival, and it was a magical weekend. I remember sitting in this beautiful theatre, the first one that had sound in Catalina. I turned to my kids who were with me, and they were so happy for me, and that was really the moment that mattered.

KB: Your movie Hello Herman with Norman Reedus is an anti-bullying movie? Tell me a bit more about this?

Yes, I am very drawn to a certain theme, which is kids falling through the cracks. So, this anti-bullying movie that I directed with Norman Reedus spoke to me. It is about a journalist who interviews a sixteen-year-old boy, who is in police custody after he shot and killed 42 people at his high school. John Buffalo Mailer wrote the screenplay and we were trying to have the conversation, not necessarily answers, because they are very complex but how can school shootings keep happening over and over again.

KB: You have won many awards already with only 5 movies you directed yourself: You must be doing something right then? How does it feel to get all these accolades?

I have gotten awards and I have lost some. I’ve gotten great reviews and bad ones. The truth of the matter is it’s all the same to me. If I get the accolades, I try not to let it lift me too much and if I get tomatoes thrown at me, I try to not go down the tubes. Obviously, it’s less painful for people to celebrate your work, but the truth is you learn from all of it.

KB: You have an acting book coming out: The Golden Box? What does the title mean and tell me a bit more about the book?

By the time the Golden Box will come out, it would have been like the journey in Gone with the Wind. I’ve been working on it for years, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m trying to put every insight I have on acting in it, and I keep revising it. I know that when it comes out in the next year or so, it will be very complete.

KB: Are there any current actors/actresses you would like to work with? Do you have anything new coming up?

So many, the list is too long. But I have a movie I am working on, Miranda’s victim, written by George Kolber that is the riveting true story of how the Miranda Rights came about, told from the perspective of the victim who survived the assault. It was a blazing moment in our country’s history, and I am very excited to be directing it. I am prepping for it now and love the fact that I am working on something I am so passionate about.

Check out Michelle’s website: HERE
Twitter: @actingclassla
Instagram: @michelledannerla