Robert Mitchum is an actor who does not like to improvise, and liked to have all of his dialogue in his hands a few days at least before shooting. I was a little bit intimidated by him because, hell, he’s Robert Mitchum, one of my all-time favorite screen actors. But he’s a very self-effacing, really funny, intelligent man, and it was a real honor to work with him. But it was also very funny. He has a shotgun which is a prop in the scene. I knew he had some guns and thought he was maybe interested in them, so I got several vintage shotguns form the period for him to choose, put them in my car and drove from LA to Santa Barbara where he lived, and went to his house.
His wife let me in and I laid out the guns on a carpet in the living room to let him come and look at the shotguns. And he came in and said, “What the hell’s this?” and I said, “Well, I wanted you to choose the gun that you use in the film,” and he said, “Why the hell should I care which one it is, you’re the damn director!” I had spent a day going to the place, picking the guns, researching everything and I said, “You don’t care which one it is?” and he said, “I gotta hold the damn thing in several scenes, right?” and I said, “Yeah”, and he said, “Well, which one’s the lightest?” (Laughter)
Also, when we were shooting that scene when he was talking to the three killers, he was basically in two positions: one leaning over the desk and one standing up. I kept shooting it with different lenses and different sizes, and he got confused where we were picking up a certain section from and he said, “Well dammit Jim, was I in the receiving position, or was I fully erect?” and I said, “You were fully erect,” and he said, “Goddamn right I was!” (Laughter) What an amazing man I tell you.
—Jim Jarmusch on directing Mitchum in his final role in 1996’s Dead Man