The prospect of meeting Peter Weir was more than slightly intimidating.
Being a ravenous film buff since my early teen years, I have formative memories of watching “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and “The Truman Show.”
And, of course, Mr. Weir has created images throughout his career that were unavoidable to any culturally conscious American growing up in the 1980s and 1990s. Who can forget the little Amish boy’s silent, wide-eyed stare in “Witness,” or Robin Williams standing atop his desk and encouraging students to “seize the day” in “Dead Poets Society”?
A handful of other graduate students and I met Mr. Weir over lunch at Finch’s restaurant. He was immediately, disarmingly gracious. Topics of conversation covered everything from trends in film distribution and consumption to the First World War, Italy and working with Harrison Ford and Robin Williams.
Although he was certainly the center of the table, I was impressed throughout by how Mr. Weir repeatedly de-emphasized his own voice, preferring instead to ask questions of all of us. In these moments, he seemed less the Oscar-nominated director of Hollywood glory and more a curious grandfather.
I couldn’t resist asking Mr. Weir about some of his favorite memories in the film industry, particularly what figure he was most excited to meet when he initially gained his fame. His eyes lit up and the name dropped out his mouth almost reflexively: Stanley Kubrick. Mr. Weir indulged us with his story of visiting Kubrick, a light smile visible at the sides of his face as he reminisced. Occasionally he would pause to offer another anecdote, or simply to share his thoughts on his favorite Kubrick films. We were in the presence of not only a legendary filmmaker, but a real cinephile as well.
I am tremendously grateful to Indiana University and the IU Cinema for bringing Mr. Weir to campus and granting the opportunity to spend two hours with him. (I’m also grateful for my VHS copy of “Witness,” which Mr. Weir signed for me with a chuckle at the end of the lunch.)