"He was very good at letting actors think that they had more control than they actually did." -- Tommy Lee Jones
Film director Robert Altman, dead at 81. Altman was like no other filmmaker. Others can put together great ensemble casts, and allow them the freedom to improvise, but nobody can then put that chaos back into a narrative form quite the way that he did.
From M*A*S*H, to Nashville, to Prairie Home Companion, these titles are well known. I loved each of them, but also The Player, A Wedding, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, and so many more.
There are very few great directors working anymore. People who could put their imprint on a film from behind the camera in such a way that you know directed it without even asking. Hollywood is full of very competent, but interchangeable, professional hacks. Robert Altman was filmmaker of the first class.