In Empire of the Sun (1987), you worked with a very young Christian Bale. Even he would acknowledge he is a very headstrong actor. Was he the same way at that age?
No, Christian was easy. He listened more than he spoke, and he invested himself both spiritually and consciously into that character of Jim. It was one of the best experiences I've ever had directing a young person.
That brings us to Hook (1991), a movie my wife loves.
[Laughs] Bless her heart. I love your wife.
I get the sense you don't love Hook so much.
There are parts of Hook I love. I'm really proud of my work right up through Peter being hauled off in the parachute out the window, heading for Neverland. I'm a little less proud of the Neverland sequences, because I'm uncomfortable with that highly stylized world that today, of course, I would probably have done with live-action character work inside a completely digital set. But we didn't have the technology to do it then, and my imagination only went as far as building physical sets and trying to paint trees blue and red.
Is it true that Hook was going to star Michael Jackson at one point?
Michael had always wanted to play Peter Pan, but I called Michael and I said, ''This is about a lawyer that is brought back to save his kids and discovers that he was once, when he was younger, Peter Pan.'' So Michael understood at that point it wasn't the same Peter Pan he wanted to make.
It's also shocking that at the end of the movie, as Wendy gets older, you realize, ''Oh my God, that's Gwyneth Paltrow!''
Gwyneth is my goddaughter. Bruce [Paltrow], her dad, and Kate and I had taken Gwynnie to see The Silence of the Lambs when it first came out. We were driving back from the movie theater, and I was going back to work the next day. I was looking at her in the rearview mirror, and she was talking about the film and she had this really frightened look on her face, and it suddenly clicked, and I said, ''Hey, you could be the young Wendy! You could be the young Maggie Smith!'' So I turned around and said, ''Do you want to make a movie?'' She got a SAG card because of it.