In 1991, director Mira Nair made Mississippi Masala, a romantic drama with an international twist starring a young Denzel Washington, hot off his first acting Oscar win for Glory. Twenty-five years later, the Indian-born Nair (Queen of Katwe), 59, sat next to Washington (Fences), 61, who since has become an accomplished filmmaker himself, at The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Director Roundtable.
Not surprisingly, the conversation quickly turned into a spirited debate among peers, touching on their often-paralyzing fears (“I was like, ‘I can’t do this,’ ” recalled Washington of his first directing gig), cast and crew complaints (“They make your life hell sometimes,” quipped Stone), the backlash over The Birth of a Nation director Nate Parker’s rape trial (“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Gibson) and the feeling that making a movie is akin to going to war (“You feel like you’re a general and you have troops,” added Gibson). Toward the end, Nair came full circle with Washington, revealing she had cast a first-time actor in a scene with him all those years ago. Responded Washington with a laugh, “I didn’t know she had not acted!”