It’s no secret that the beard is the Samson-esque (Samson-ite?) power of the Hollywood director. Though it wasn’t always this way. The fathers of film – Griffith, Demille, Murnau were as hair free as a Ken doll. And all the greats through decades (except for ahead of his time Orson) kept a razor handy.
Then suddenly in the late 60’s/early 70’s… BOOM. Dawn of the face bush.
In come the so called Film School Generation: Spielberg, Coppola, Lucas, Scorsese, De Palma. Young, maverick directors hired by the studios to shake up a dying Hollywood. They then become the deity directors looked up to by a generation to follow.
But why the beard?
Well, there is undoubtedly power in a beard. Think of the great bearded men from history and religion: Egyptian pharaoh’s had superbly cultivated beards as a symbol of power; the Greek gods Zeus & Poseidon and the Philosophers Socrates & Plato were bearded gents. Jesus and God are usually portrayed with a beard. Suffice to say the beard has an aura of intelligence and authority.
Then in the 60‘s the beard becomes a symbol of an idealogical fight against ‘The Man’. Here come the hippies and the beatniks. Here come the anti-vietnam supporters. Here come the folk and rock musicians, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Beatles, all bearded up. Now there’s another subliminal layer to the beard. FREEDOM! All of a sudden you can wear a totem of authority, intelligence, free thinking and revolution just by not shaving.
In the late 60’s a movie called Easy Rider comes out, directed by Dennis Hopper. It was one of the first independent movies released by a studio, made on a shoe string budget and it blew up at the box office. Easy Rider heralded the start of New Hollywood. And the gates were open for the film school generation to come in and do their thing. Dennis Hopper is in the top 10 coolest men of film. He changed things. He had a beard. And subsequently I think the new crop of young guns did as well. Who wouldn’t want to be like Dennis Hopper?
Sadly, I can’t. My half Asian blood doesn’t seem to contain the high enough octane follicle fuel to power a full beard. Given enough time and a truck load of vitamin D I could probably muster up some type of wispy Confucius beard. Though I’m not sure how supportive my wife would be. I suppose I’ll have to be happy with the regular hair growing parts of an Asian body. i.e. first three toes, around the nipples, centre of chest and the belly button ladder of doom.
Top bearded directors:
Steven Spielberg, George Lucas (who clearly shaved for Episode 1 and most of Episodes 2 & 3), James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Scorsese (early on!), Orson Welles, Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrik, Terence Malick, Ridley Scott
Director who desperately needs to grow a beard: Michael Bay