In an industry that places such a premium on youth, directing seems to be one of the few jobs where age is considered an asset, not a liability. Many of today's top directors are men (and, in a handful of cases, women) who've been at it for decades. When it comes to managing hundreds of people on an eight- or nine-figure production, experience counts, as does level-headedness, maturity, authority, reliability, and other qualities that grow more pronounced with age.
But most of these senior filmmakers aren't directors for hire. They're making the films they want to make, with only occasional regard to commercial or youth appeal. Sure, it helps that directors like Ridley Scott and his brother Tony (who's 67) specialize in genre movies, or that Allen and Nora Ephron (age 70) like to make romantic comedies, but pleasing focus groups and studio suits isn't their primary concern. Ultimately, what keeps these directors relevant is their seasoned, sure-handed storytelling skills.
But what keeps them working? Maybe it's pure cussedness. Stone is famously ornery. Ridley Scott has said he has a strong competitive streak. Allen has said he has a drawer full of movie ideas he'd like to make while he's still able.
Perhaps the work itself keeps them young. Directors like these are following in the footsteps of such classic filmmakers as John Huston, Robert Altman, and Sidney Lumet, all of whom worked into their 80s and never retired. (They still have a ways to go, however, to match the record of Manoel de Oliveira, the Portuguese director, who's still making movies at 103.)
They also provide an example for today's younger directors. It's easy to imagine that the filmmakers whose love of their craft is apparent in their work --such as J.J. Abrams (45), Paul Thomas Anderson (42), Wes Anderson (43), Darren Aronofsky (43), Sofia Coppola (40), David Fincher (49), Christopher Nolan (41), Robert Rodriguez (43), and Quentin Tarantino (49) -- will be in it for the long haul.
Below is a list of the directors they hope to emulate, the still-strong seniors who'll be calling, "Action!" as long as they can draw breath.