Mendes has never been a 'genius' in the traditional neurotic mould; he's much more like a charismatic magician with a seemingly bottomless bag of very elegant tricks. This in itself can be nerve-racking. Mendes tells me about his very first moment in motion pictures. There he was, with a budget of $15m, several highprofile stars and a veteran cinematographer, yet he had to approach Conrad Hall before the first day of shooting American Beauty and say: 'I know this sounds really stupid, but when do I say "Action"?'
Hall explained; the moment arrived; Mendes said it. Instantly, he drifted off into a reverie of boyish excitement. 'I'm thinking: "Oh my God, I just said 'Action'! That's amazing! I'm in Los Angeles, California and I actually said 'Action'!" And the whole crew is standing there looking at me and I say, "What?" I'd forgotten to say "Cut".'
- Observer, 14 December 2008