If you know things about him personally, other than his work, bring up those subjects. If you don't, ask him what he does when he's not directing. Find something you can connect with, if possible. It's okay to bring up his work, but I'm sure he gets that all the time from strangers and this is a dinner party, so you want it to be comfortable. If you really want to discuss his work, ask him if he enjoys talking about it with new people he meets. If he light up and says, "I love talking about my work, I'm very passionate about what I do," then proceed. If he says something along the lines of, "It's been kind of a long week and I'd rather not." Then be prepared to say, "I totally get that. Whenever I don't want to talk about my work I just talk about (insert another passion of yours) because I always get excited talking about it, and it makes for great dinner conversation..."
Just remember the old Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live skit quote: Guys.. Guys... I put on my pants like everyone else, one leg at a time... except when I put on pants I make gold records.
I'm sure this director puts his pants on one leg at a time too.
For more tips and articles by top entertainment industry career coach, The Greenlight Coach, visit www.theGreenlightCoachBlog.com