Alex Graves, US director of Netflix’s The Diplomat and The West Wing, trusts his colleagues’ viewing tips, and avoids social media.

Alex Graves_Credit Ed Araquel

Source: Ed Araquel

Alex Graves

I watch a movie almost every night. Usually before I go to bed, I’ll put an old film on my laptop — last night it was Casablanca, and it’ll probably be [Zhang Yimou and Yang Fengliang’s 1990] Chinese film Ju Dou tonight. 

I’m not on any social media, but I look at The Criterion Collection website for recommendations. I also listen to The Daily from MPR News [The New York Times’ radio show] to try to keep up with what’s going on in America, and they do a whole thing on art, culture, cinema and music.

I trust the friends I’m working with for recommendations. Recently, I watched Lawrence Of Arabia for the 275th time after we were talking about it, and a documentary on the atomic bomb, The Bomb. Rufus Sewell [star of Graves’ Netflix show The Diplomat] loves film, and we can gab about Godard and lots of types of movies.

Younger people I work with always ask me for films they should watch that they can learn from. The top three I say are The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and Dog Day Afternoon. They don’t make films that operate at that level anymore, and these films remind people that sophistication is possible. Hopefully it will come back, and there will be a broadening of the scope of what gets made.

I love franchise films, but I’d like other genres represented, rather than just sci-fi, superhero or action. Westerns, dramas, screwball comedies, romantic comedies — I miss the way it was when I was growing up, and there were 10 different types of movies you could see [in cinemas] at any weekend. Streaming has become the place where you see other work — it’s where more risk-taking is happening.

My guilty pleasure viewing is Monty Don on [BBC factual series] Gardeners’ World. It became big in America during lockdown. It’s so calm, zen-like and harmless. The world was so crazy, we didn’t need to watch even more crazy.