LFM’s Govindini Murty & Jason Apuzzo at The Huffington Post: A Conversation With Fashion Icon Ozwald Boateng on Style, Africa, and His New Film A Man’s Story
[Editor's Note: the article below appears today at The Huffington Post.]
By Govindini Murty & Jason Apuzzo. During his meteoric career, Ozwald Boateng’s been called the coolest man on Earth, and the fashion world’s best-kept secret. Yet the candid new documentary A Man’s Story, opening this weekend in New York and Los Angeles, makes certain that the British fashion designer and style icon no longer remains a secret.
In a career already spanning two decades, the 45 year-old Boateng has outfitted celebrities from Will Smith to Russell Crowe, from Jamie Foxx to Mick Jagger. At age 28, he became the youngest tailor – and the first of African descent – to open a store on London’s legendary Savile Row. Boateng’s also designed menswear for Givenchy and bespoke costumes for films like The Matrix and Ocean’s Thirteen, and he’s even been the subject of his own Sundance Channel TV series, House of Boateng. He’s also the recipient of an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his contributions to the clothing industry.
Throughout all this, however, Boateng’s private side – such as his quiet struggles in the rarified world of British fashion, or his efforts to foster entrepreneurial investment in Africa – have taken a back seat in public to his style innovations.
Director Varon Bonicos’ new documentary, A Man’s Story – for which Bonicos filmed Boateng from 1998 through 2010 – reveals much about Boateng’s personal life: from the challenges of growing up as a young man of African descent in London of the ’70s and ’80s, to the abiding influence of his father on his life and career. The result is a warm and often poignant film that humanizes Boateng, while doing full justice to the glamorous place he occupies in the world of men’s fashion.
We spoke with Ozwald Boateng and Varon Bonicos in Los Angeles, where they are promoting A Man’s Story. The interview has been edited for length.
GM: What is your passion for film – and in particular, how are you inspired by the intersection of film and fashion?
OB: Film has always been a really good tool for me to communicate emotion about why I create a collection. I’m probably one of the first designers to make short films. The first time I did it was back in 1994. The invite for my first fashion show was a VHS cassette. And it kind of became part of the language of my designing collections – I was always putting together short films.
Apart from that, I think fashion designers are directors anyway. We spend a year designing a collection for a fashion show that lasts maybe fifteen minutes. We have to design the look of the catwalk, cast the model for each look, work up the sound, the lighting – it’s a lot of work that goes into that fifteen minutes.
JA: Film has been so important in terms of influencing men’s style, men’s self-perceptions. I was curious whether there were film icons, movie stars who have influenced your sense of style?
OB: Sean Connery, of course, since I was a kid – you know, James Bond. Or The Thomas Crown Affair – you can’t beat those three piece suits. The Italian Job with Michael Caine – again the suits. If you’re a designer, there’s got to be some films that you’ve seen that have inspired you creatively. There’s no escaping that. Film is such a very good tool for communicating emotions, and all designers and creative people look to inspire an emotional response.
JA: You mention Connery and Bond, and he was so crucial in selling the Savile Row style here in the States.
JA: You yourself have become an icon on behalf of that style. Was that something you planned from the outset as a designer – to be so out front selling the look yourself?
OB: No, actually, I tried to stay out of it. In the early years, it was because I was a very young guy working in a very old discipline – so really, that’s tough to begin with. And then I was trying to do it in a very modern way – so again, that’s tough. Add me, visually, into the mix of all that, and that just complicates things. So for the first few years, I didn’t let anyone take any pictures of me. Basically, a lot of people had no idea what I looked like. And because my name did not necessarily sound African, a lot of people … just thought I was some kind of middle aged white guy [laughs]. So no-one actually knew what I looked like, and that was the best thing – because it allowed everyone to focus on the work.
[Editor's Note: the post below appears today on the front page of The Huffington Post.]
By Govindini Murty. They’re among the most iconic faces of the second half of the twentieth century. Isabella Rossellini, Beverly Johnson, Paulina Porizkova, and their supermodel sorority helped to shape public perceptions of beauty and womanhood at a time of rapid expansion in the mass media. Their faces graced thousands of magazine covers and they were role models to millions of young women.
But was the rise of the supermodel a sign of female empowerment, or of female objectification?
About Face: Supermodels Then and Now, an insightful new documentary by director and photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders available on HBO on-demand through September 3 and HBO Go through 2013, interviews sixteen of these supermodels about the true nature of beauty in an age of consumerism and mass media.
As alluded to in About Face, the irony that underlies the modeling profession is that it should lead to both the empowerment and objectification of women. On the one hand, the mass distribution of images of female models through fashion magazines, ads, and other media in the past century has led to women becoming quite literally more visible in today’s world – with that visibility being an affirmation of their femininity and right to exist as women in the public sphere. In contrast to this, from the Puritans to the Taliban, misogynistic societies through history have restricted sensual or beautiful images of women as a prelude to denying their basic right to participate in public life, citing women’s beauty as a “corrupting” influence on social morality. The predominance of beautiful images of women in Western culture has thus affirmed the broader right of women to exist in public as feminine and not as neutered beings.
On the other hand, modeling has also had the effect of objectifying women by focusing on external surfaces, and at times unnatural standards of beauty. In About Face, Isabella Rossellini asks of the pressure for women to undergo plastic surgery: “Is this the new foot-binding? It’s misogyny to say that older women are unattractive.” Objectification can also lead to racism by dehumanizing people and imposing narrow standards of ‘beauty’ or ‘normalcy.’ Model and agent Bethann Hardison describes in About Face trying to book African-American models for runway shows in the ’70s and ’80s, only to be told by the casting agents that such models weren’t their “aesthetic.” As Hardison explains “‘Aesthetic’ is borderline for racist.”
I spoke with director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders about some of these issues at the LA Film Festival’s screening of About Face. The interview has been edited for length.
GM: What drew you to these ladies? I know you met them initially at a party in New York, but what did you find so magical about them?
TGS: I think when I met them at that party … I immediately got a sense of how smart they were. You know, the cliché is that you either have brains or beauty, but you don’t have both. Well, they seemed to have both. It really makes it an interesting film. And I thought that people weren’t aware of that. I have two young daughters who knew who they were. But many young people today who are so interested in fashion, they don’t know the history of it and of these iconic women.
GM: What has changed about modeling? You mentioned in the screening that these models were so unique, whereas today the models and their careers seem more transient. Why is there this disparity today versus back then?
TGS: I think that it was a smaller world then. I think there was a warmer relationship between the models and the designers and even the businesspeople involved. It was not so cut-throat and not so corporate. And I think today it’s just big business and big money, and I don’t think the human relationship is there as much. I think it’s very changed.
GM: Do you think a big part of that is the issue of covers – that the actresses are taking over magazine covers?
GM: It’s such a striking change. What has that done to the morale of the models? Does it make a big difference behind the scenes?
TGS: I’m not sure I can answer that because it’s not my world, exactly. But I know certainly it was huge in those days to have covers, because covers were the definition of success. And the cover of Vogue was the ultimate success. So when Beverly Johnson got on the cover of Vogue – the first black woman to do so [in August, 1974], that was a big deal. And today – that doesn’t happen for models.
GM: I thought it was very interesting what Dayle Haddon said that it wasn’t just that she thought she was the prettiest – in fact she didn’t quite fit into the physical type that was popular at the time, but that she brought something else to the picture.
TGS: She brought something else. And Dayle Haddon had to struggle because she wasn’t the look of the moment. She was a very smart woman and she figured out a way to add something more to the picture.
GM: Do you think the reason that those models from that era were so powerful – we’re talking the ’70s and ’80s, was because they were often muses for the designers they were working with?
TGS: Yes, exactly.
GM: I think of Yves St. Laurent and models like Khadija Adams, or even Catherine Deneuve in the ’60s who was dressed by St. Laurent for Belle de Jour. I think of Calvin Klein and Brooke Shields, they were so intimately tied together.
By Govindini Murty. Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild has garnered much acclaim on the film festival circuit and is one of the top indie films in theatrical release right now, having already earned $5.9 million at the box office. The story of a little girl and her father struggling to survive in the flooded bayou of southern Louisiana, Beasts of the Southern Wild won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Camera D’Or at Cannes, and the Audience Favorite Award at the LA Film Festival. There is already talk that it may be nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, and that Quvenzhané Wallis, the film’s remarkable eight-year old lead, may be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress.
We had the opportunity to attend the premiere of Beasts of the Southern Wild at the LA Film Festival this summer and enjoyed the Q & A conducted afterward by John Singleton with director Benh Zeitlin and the film’s stars, the irrepressible Quvenzhané Wallis (who utterly stole the show) and the charming baker-turned-actor Dwight Henry.
We spoke briefly with Benh Zeitlin after the screening and also met John Singleton, who expressed repeatedly what a fan he was of the film. Here’s the conversation I had with Zeitlin, followed by excerpts from the Q & A that Singleton held with Zeitlin, Wallis, and Henry. While there were a variety of topics discussed in the Q & A, my focus here is on the comments that Zeitlin made about the creative and practical aspects of translating his vision to the big screen.
GM: I was curious about your influences. Were you quoting anyone specific in the film? What inspired you – either in classic or contemporary film?
BZ: The big one for me is this film called Underground by Kusturica. That’s the one that made me most want to make films when I was growing up … the way that the fantasy and reality worked in that film I think was a big deal. And then we watched a lot of documentaries – we watched a lot of Les Blank documentaries. This one called Dry Wood – and all those ‘70s films that he made – were kind of how we came up with the cinematography. But you know, I studied the way that Cassavetes directs actors and Mike Leigh directs actors – and looking at narrative from Disney movies, like Bambi [Zeitlin himself has a background in animation and his parents are folklorists]. So, really, it was from all over the place, from all eras – from high-brow to low-brow – sort of a broad world.
GM: That’s interesting. You mention Les Blank – did you see Burden of Dreams, about Werner Herzog making Fitzcarraldo?
BZ: Oh yeah, of course. Werner Herzog, absolutely.
GM: Because [Beasts of the Southern Wild] just reminded me – the atmosphere – the organic feeling of being in the mud with the animals and the wilderness all around -
BZ: Definitely, yeah. He was a huge inspiration for me. The first time I saw that film I was like “This is what I want to do.”
GM: I interviewed Werner Herzog a few months ago and there’s some great footage from that film [Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams] that’s online. But you know, I was curious, because the film has that blend [of reality and fantasy] that you were mentioning. But I didn’t know about Bambi, that’s going to be interesting to throw in there -
BZ: [Laughs.] You got to go back to Bambi, always got to go back to Bambi.
GM: Well thanks so much, that was fun to see.
BZ: Thanks very much, nice to meet you.
Beasts of the Southern Wild tells the story of Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a six-year old girl growing up on an island off the coast of Louisiana known as “The Bathtub.” The story follows Hushpuppy and her widower father, Wink (Dwight Henry), as they eke out a living on their small plot of land – with the little girl caring for their farm animals and living in tune with the rhythms of the natural world. Her father, who has a mysterious illness, almost like a latter-day Fisher King, teaches Hushpuppy how to fish and emphasizes that she needs to learn how to take care of herself so she can succeed in the world and climb to the “top of the ladder.”
The island community of the Bathtub might lie in the shadow of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain, but its rural lifestyle feels a world away. To emphasize this, Beasts was shot in a documentary-verité style on 16mm film, which, when blown up on a large screen, creates a grainy, mysterious image that paradoxically heightens the mythological and poetic themes of the film. Hushpuppy’s view of the world is thus depicted in an alternately realistic and fantastical manner that Benh Zeitlin called “a heightened world built out of very real parts.” For example, Zeitlin noted that though there is no place called the Bathtub in Louisiana, it was based on the real Isle de Jean Charles, an island that is slowly falling into the Gulf and that has gone from 200 families to 20 families in recent years. As Zeitlin explains, “we took elements of things and swirled them together – almost like a folk tale.”
LFM’s Jason Apuzzo & Govindini Murty at The Huffington Post and AOL-Moviefone: Basketball Diplomacy: An American Point Guard Becomes a Symbol of Freedom in The Iran Job
By Jason Apuzzo & Govindini Murty. NBA fans know that two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash recently joined the Los Angeles Lakers. Fans are buzzing, because the addition of Nash could soon result in a return to championship glory for the league’s most glamorous franchise. As big as Nash’s impact on the Lakers might be, however, it can’t possibly match the impact that flashy point guard Kevin Sheppard — the former Jacksonville University star and Virgin Islands native — had in 2008 on A.S. Shiraz, a professional basketball team in Iran’s Super League.
The reasons for this go beyond sports, however, because over the course of one gripping and emotional season — a season documented by director Till Schauder and producer Sara Nodjoumi in their extraordinary new documentary, The Iran Job — Sheppard becomes one of Iran’s most popular athletes, and brings a ray of hope into an increasingly repressive and isolated society.
The Iran Job screened last week in Washington, D.C., and had its world premiere recently at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where we had the chance to talk to the film’s creators.
As depicted in the film, Kevin Sheppard’s Iranian odyssey begins in the fall of 2008, when he’s offered a spot on A.S. Shiraz’s roster. Having already played professional basketball in South America, Europe, China and Israel, the voluble Sheppard is unfazed by the prospect of playing overseas — but is understandably nervous as an American traveling to Iran. Coming in the midst of a 2008 election in which Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain all had sharp words for Iran and its nuclear program, Sheppard nonetheless decides to take the plunge out of a spirit of professionalism.
It was a decision that would change his life, as well as the lives of everyday Iranians — and in particular, those of three young Iranian women.
One of the most compelling aspects of The Iran Job is the way it captures the casual details of life in today’s Iran — a closed society that clearly harbors some unusual stereotypes about the outside world. So for example, the moment Sheppard arrives in Iran and meets up with his Serbian roommate (the team’s 7-foot center, and the only other non-Iranian allowed on the squad), Sheppard learns that his cable TV has been custom-provided with hundreds of pornographic channels — the assumption being that because he is an American, he must be sex-obsessed. The irony that such programming is even available in a “strict” Islamic society, of course, is not lost on Sheppard — who can’t help but laugh at Iranian officialdom’s awkward notions of diplomatic courtesy.
Such ticklish moments aside, however, Sheppard immediately begins bonding with average Iranians. A natural show-off with a wicked sense of humor, Sheppard dazzles everyone around him — even when they barely speak English, and are only able to respond to his warm smile and playfulness. The camera follows him early on as he goes out to grab dinner, and we see regular Iranians high-fiving him and snapping pictures with him before he’s even picked up a basketball. His enthusiasm and dynamic personality ignite smiles everywhere.
We asked Sheppard about the rock-star treatment he received from average Iranians:
“The funny thing about it is, once I got over there — people really love America. The government would say, ‘Down with America.’ They have all kinds of signs — ‘America is the Devil,’ ‘Down with the U.S.A.’ — but once you get to the people, they love American culture, they know everything about America, they love all the American sports. So it was a little bit ironic and crazy for me at first. I was like, how can you have all these signs around? But yet, when you speak to the people it’s totally different. So I know it [hostility toward America] was not coming from the mass of the people in general. This was all pushed upon them by the government.”
As The Iran Job proceeds, however, Sheppard’s innate enthusiasm is challenged by his lackluster basketball team, A.S. Shiraz a new and untested squad in Iran’s Super League, and a team sorely lacking in the kind of talent or winning attitude to which Sheppard is accustomed. Viewers basically get the sense that Sheppard has just joined The Bad News Bears of Iranian basketball, and his first task will be to shake up the underwhelming squad.
It’s worth noting here that The Iran Job follows the usual parameters of sports documentaries in depicting how one inspirational player can turn the fortunes of a franchise around by getting his teammates to believe they can win. That’s precisely what Sheppard does, due in part to his on-court heroics (we watch him win several games with buzzer-beating shots), but mostly due to his cocky swagger and high standards. The intense, demanding point guard simply hates to lose — and refuses to let his teammates ever be comfortable accepting defeat.
[Editor's Note: the post below appears today at The Huffington Post.]
By Govindini Murty. Egypt’s government announced on Sunday that an Islamist has won Egypt’s first competitive presidential election. The superb new documentary Words of Witness, screening at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York through June 26th, sheds much needed light on how Egyptians got to this point. Directed by Mai Iskander, the film depicts the complex reality of an Egypt in which long-suffering citizens genuinely desire democracy, but must deal with the less than ideal reality of having to vote either for the Muslim Brotherhood or for remnants of the former Mubarak regime – with the military looming over any choice they might make.
Against this backdrop, Words of Witness makes the smart decision to focus its story on a young Egyptian woman, journalist Heba Afify. The documentary follows the 22 year-old Afify, a reporter for the English-language newspaper Egypt Independent, as she covers Egypt’s transition to democracy – from the heady days of the revolution in early 2011, through Egypt’s chaotic year and a half under military rule, to the recent months of buildup to Egypt’s first free presidential election. Completed in just the last few weeks, Words of Witness has a remarkable timeliness and immediacy in depicting the contending forces that are challenging Egypt’s journey to democracy.
Like her fellow citizens, Heba Afify finds herself torn between tradition and progress. Her traditional Muslim family worries about her career and her safety, while Afify’s chief concern is reporting the truth of the Egyptian revolution so that she may contribute to her nation’s democratic future.
As Afify poignantly says: “I can’t abide by the rules of being an Egyptian girl if I want to be a good reporter.” And if she can’t be a good reporter, the implication is that she can’t help her country, as a free press and democratic liberty go hand in hand. Afify adds, “It’s hard to live under a dictatorship – if you say the wrong thing, they will knock on your door and take you away forever.”
The film documents the remarkable degree to which Afify and other young Egyptians like her are willing to buck authority in order to bring about freedom and progress. It is her faith in these ideals that leads Afify to volunteer to cover the most dangerous demonstrations, despite the fears of her family. Afify’s conviction and her willingness to put her ideals on the line are what ultimately make her such a compelling protagonist.
In one extraordinary scene, Afify hears that there is a protest taking place outside the State Security headquarters. This is the home of the hated secret police who have been arresting (and reportedly torturing) thousands of pro-democracy activists. Even though it is nighttime, and reports indicate that the situation is dangerous, Afify doesn’t hesitate to join the demonstration. What follows is shocking footage, shot by Afify herself, in which the demure young woman dives right into the crowd of protesters in the dark – joining them as they break into the building. They’re hoping to free political prisoners, but as they turn on the lights in the building, they discover something even more surprising: boxes of surveillance files kept by the secret police on government employees, media, public figures, and countless ordinary Egyptians. A colleague of hers hands Afify boxes of files, saying “This happens only once in history, Heba.” Afify shakes her head at the magnitude of the surveillance, commenting: “The number of files is unbelievable.”
As Afify later examines the files in her office, she finds a transcript of an actress’ phone call; Afify wonders why the state police felt the need to write down every word of this woman’s personal phone conversation. As the film suggests, such an abuse of authority engenders a moral corrosion that is an important reason why authoritarian societies have such trouble adapting to freedom. It can take generations to overcome the cynicism, paranoia, and bad faith created by a system in which the government spends more time repressing its own people than in serving them.
Another important point made in the film is the need for religious tolerance. Afify shows concern when the unity between Muslims and Christians – that had largely prevailed in the early days of the revolution – breaks down in the wake of attacks on Christians. When a church is burned down in the village of Atfeeh, leading to riots in Cairo, Afify goes to the village herself to find out what has happened. When she gets to the village, she finds a curious scene – the kind of scene that often doesn’t make it into the Western media. A local Muslim leader addresses a large group of villagers, telling them that they should show support for their Christian brothers and work to have the church rebuilt. However, a large army presence watches the scene, and Afify is prevented from visiting the site of the church. Indeed, no-one is allowed to go near the church site, and the rumor ripples through the crowd that it is the State Security apparatus itself that burned the church down in order to inflame religious tensions in Egypt and justify the old regime hanging on to power.
By Govindini Murty. The turn toward female-centered comedies seems to be accelerating in the indie cinema as much as in mainstream Hollywood. In the wake of Bridesmaids and HBO’s Girls, the new comedy Lola Versus, starring indie favorite Greta Gerwig, is the latest risque, R-rated project to explore the imperfect reality of women’s lives. The film screened this spring at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently playing in theaters.
Greta Gerwig plays 29-year old Lola, a graduate student working on her Ph.D. in literature who thinks her life is perfect until she is dumped by her fiance just a few weeks before their wedding. Lola is devastated by the break-up – and flummoxed at the prospect of turning 30 as a single in New York. She swerves into a series of comic misadventures: hooking up with the wrong men, drinking and partying too hard, and neglecting her work, as she tries to figure out what to do with her life. Aiding and abetting her are her friends, the zany aspiring actress Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones, also the film’s screenwriter) and a quirky musician named Henry (Hamish Linklater). Lola’s parents are played in nice turns by Debra Winger and Bill Pullman.
Gerwig shines as Lola, bringing a quirky charm and intelligence to what might otherwise be a standard rom-com role. It’s easy to see why directors Whit Stillman (in Damsels in Distress), Woody Allen (in From Rome With Love) and mumblecore favorite Mark Duplass have all worked with her.
I had the chance recently to chat with Greta Gerwig, as well as with director Daryl Wein and screenwriter Zoe Lister-Jones, at a screening of Lola Versus at USC Cinema School in LA. Interestingly enough, all three of them emphasized the importance of making a film that celebrated a woman’s point of view. As Wein said in the Q & A after the screening:
“We realized that we really wanted to do a female oriented film just because we weren’t really seeing female-driven stories about single women, especially at this age. … Even me as a man, I wanted to see a portrait of a woman I could relate with.”
I asked them what influenced them as filmmakers in this regard, and Gerwig, Wein, and Lister-Jones cited films from two distinct eras: the 1970s/‘80s (with a smattering of ‘90s indie cinema) and classic Hollywood in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Greta Gerwig answered:
“I’m a cinephile – I love movies … I like movies that have a really strong writer, I love Howard Hawks’ movies, I love Preston Sturges movies, Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch. Those are the movies that I love because they’re almost “plays as films.” They have this quality of – you can almost see the dialogue when people speak it. [That’s] really important, and I think that that’s still what I love, and I’m so grateful that I got to work with someone like Whit Stillman who is in that tradition, who’s really erudite and literary. … And I also love Woody Allen, I mean he’s kind of a person I think of all the time. But those filmmakers – that’s what I always look for, what I always hope for, and when I see echoes of that in things I just get so excited.”
Zoe Lister-Jones added:
“I love John Hughes, I love Pretty in Pink … and obviously Woody Allen … Daryl and I as filmmakers are very inspired by him, he’s just sort of the OG and no-one can ever top him. I like Robert Altman, I think his movies are really cool, and Hal Hartley, I grew up really being into Hal Hartley in the ‘90s. Music’s really important to me and he always had really good music – and you know, complex characters who were dark and dry.”
As for Daryl Wein, he recounted: “I grew up on classic guys like Scorsese and Spielberg and Kubrick. Big fan of Hitchcock’s films, and I love some of Hal Ashby’s movies, and of course Woody Allen is a big influence.”
Of course, many of these filmmakers are notable for creating witty, dialogue-centered movies that took a fresh approach to depicting women’s lives. And as women gain greater power in the film industry, it seems we may have a new era upon us of character-driven women’s comedies and dramas. Greta Gerwig, for example, who studied at Barnard to be a playwright before turning to acting, has written and directed an indie women-centered comedy that will be unveiled later this year. Gerwig in particular spoke with great passion at the screening about what she saw as a coming revolution for women in the movies.
“This is a huge moment, I really think, for women in film. I think it is as big as anything that has happened for women. I think people look at television and movies to figure out who they are and how they live and what’s important, and for the first time in a big way women are being shown to women as they are. I think it’s unprecedented, and if I get to participate in it even a little bit it’s the most exciting thing I can think of. I went to women’s college so I get really excited about it. But it’s true … If women aren’t represented in media the way they are, it’s like they don’t exist. I just think it’s such a huge moment. … and I hope it keeps going because I feel seen and heard in a big way as a woman…”
To which Wein piped up: “Greta for President. First female president!”
After the Q & A, I chatted further with Gerwig, Wein, and Lister-Jones about the issue of women’s representation in the film industry. We discussed the absurd fact that three or four men are still cast for every one woman in film and TV, and Wein indicated his own commitment to making more movies that featured women. I told them about the work of Geena Davis’s Institute on Gender in Media, and all three of them expressed how glad they were to hear about her work. I also told Gerwig that I agreed with her that we’re entering an important new era for women in film, and that the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games had been crucial in this regard. Wein and Lister-Jones added that they thought that Bridesmaids had also played a major role in showing that women-centered comedies could make money.
In all, I think we have some very provocative and interesting times ahead of us as more and more women get both in front of and behind the camera.
Posted on June 25th, 2012 at 11:47pm.
LFM’s Jason Apuzzo & Govindini Murty in The Atlantic: ‘Black Lagoon’: The First, Great Pretty-Girl-Attacked-By-Aquatic-Beast Film?
[Editor's Note: the article below appears today on the front page of The Atlantic.]
Chatting with Julie Adams, the star who helped set the formula followed by the new Piranha 3DD.
By Jason Apuzzo & Govindini Murty. From piranhas and sharks to brain-eating crabs and giant leeches, Hollywood has provided some frightening and improbable reasons over the years for why pretty girls in bikinis should stay out of the water. Long before this week’s Piranha 3DD or even classics like Jaws, however, it was the lustful Gill Man from 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon who first made young women think twice about going swimming.
A beauty-and-the-beast tale of an aquatic humanoid who falls for a female scientist during a research expedition to the Amazon, Creature helped inspire the 3D science fiction craze of the 1950s. It also made its young star, Julie Adams, sci-fi’s first pin-up girl—and launched her distinguished career in film, TV, and on stage.
Still vibrant and active at age 85, Adams remains a popular draw at sci-fi and classic film conventions, where she’s currently promoting her lively new autobiography, The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From the Black Lagoon, which she cowrote with her son, Emmy Award winning editor Mitch Danton.
Over her lengthy and colorful career, Ms. Adams has seduced Elvis Presley and Dennis Hopper on screen, played John Wayne’s wife, tussled in a burning basement with Barbara Stanwyck, and played the love interest to James Stewart, Rock Hudson, and Charlton Heston. She’s been directed by Anthony Mann and Raoul Walsh—and more recently has appeared in projects like Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and TV shows like CSI and Lost.
Yet Adams still remains best known for her role as Kay Lawrence, the sultry brunette in a plunging one-piece pined over by the Gill Man in Creature.
What was your initial reaction upon getting offered Creature?
[Laughs.] Well, I wasn’t thrilled, you know, and I thought I could turn it down, but then I would go on suspension [from Universal Pictures] and wouldn’t get paid … and so I thought, well, the studio wants me to do it, what the hey, it might be fun. And it was!
What was director Jack Arnold like, and how did you two get along?
I got along great with Jack Arnold, and he was a wonderful director. He was very low key, he seemed almost casual—but it was very easy to work with him. Any suggestion he made always made sense.
Did you interact much with William Alland, the producer?
Not that much, because he was not on the set that much—but I liked him. He was always very nice to all of us.
Alland played the reporter in Citizen Kane, and he apparently attended a dinner party hosted by Orson Welles while they were shooting Kane. Welles’s lover Dolores Del Rio was also there, and she brought along Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. Figueroa had heard a legend as a child about an Amazon water creature, half-man and half-lizard. And the story went that there was an Amazon village that would bring a virgin to the creature once a year in order for the creature not to terrorize the village.
Right. So Alland went home later and wrote Figueroa’s story down. And then about 12 years later the whole 3D craze started, and at that point he pulled out the story and started to make a movie of it.
That’s a very interesting story—it fits in, in a wonderful, cuckoo way.
>>>FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT The Atlantic.
Special Note to LFM Readers:
Julie Adams’ autobiography The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From the Black Lagoon is available exclusively at her website . Featuring 300 photos of the gorgeous Adams and her famous co-stars, the book provides a charming look at Adams’ experiences working with movie greats like James Stewart, Tyrone Power, Ida Lupino, and many others. While supplies last, the book also comes with a bonus CD of the iconic score for Creature From the Black Lagoon, re-recorded by Monstrous Movie Music and featuring music by Henry Mancini, among others.
Posted on May 29th, 2012 at 10:13am.
By Jason Apuzzo & Govindini Murty. His documentaries have been among the most provocative films featured in the Sundance Film Festival over the past several years. Bolder even than Sacha Baron Cohen, he’s punk’d both the North Korean communist government and now, in his new film The Ambassador, the Central African Republic and the corrupt diplomatic culture that supports it.
He’s one of Europe’s funniest and most controversial filmmakers, although most Americans haven’t heard of him — yet.
The name of this lanky, cerebral enfant terrible is Mads Brügger.
In Brügger’s previous film The Red Chapel (read the Libertas Film Magazine review of the film here), winner of Sundance’s 2010 World Cinema jury prize for documentaries, the filmmaker pulled off one of the most dangerous and politically provocative stunts in cinema history by infiltrating North Korea as part of a fake socialist comedy group. Operating under the watchful (and vaguely confused) gaze of the North Korean government, Brügger’s cameras proceeded to document the bizarre, Orwellian nether-world of today’s Pyongyang and its frightening cult of the ‘Dear Leader.’
In his new film The Ambassador (read the Libertas Film Magazine review of the film here), which recently screened at Sundance, Brügger now attempts an even more complex and daring stunt by purchasing a Liberian diplomatic title and infiltrating one of the most dangerous places on Earth — the Central African Republic (CAR) — as an ersatz Ambassador. His purpose? To expose the illegal blood diamond trade — and the corrupt world of CAR officials, bogus businessmen and shady European and Asian diplomats that it benefits.
Like a tragicomic version of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, The Ambassador takes viewers into a rarely-seen world of European influence-peddlers who exploit the African continent — and the amoral retinue of African officials, petty businessmen and hangers-on who are complicit in the exploitation.
Along the way Brügger and his hidden cameras have close encounters with everything from an obese ex-French Legionnaire heading the CAR’s state security (who is assassinated shortly after talking to Brügger), to armed militias in the middle of Africa’s ‘Triangle of Death,’ to a diamond smuggler with a secret child bride and potential terrorist ties, to a tribe of inebriated pygmies organized by Brügger to staff a match factory.
It all makes for a potent, carnivalesque and politically incorrect experience — and one that exposes the mutual racism (of Europeans toward Africans, and Africans toward Europeans) that makes central Africa such a hotbed of corruption and violence.
In the midst of all this is Brügger himself — a tall, soft-spoken Danish journalist (and son of two Danish newspaper editors) with an ironic sense of humor and an uncanny ability to transform himself into the kind of diffident European grandee that African officials are accustomed to exploiting — and being exploited by — well into the 21st century.
Along with my Libertas Film Magazine co-editor Govindini Murty, I sat down with Brügger at the Sundance Film Festival to talk about his funny, horrifying and highly controversial new film. With a shaved head, and wearing a skull ring from DC Comics’ The Phantom, Brügger arrived looking very much the part of an experimental European director.
Apuzzo: What got you interested in [corruption in the Central African Republic] as subject matter for a film?
Brügger: I like doing films that divert from their own genre. I wanted to do an Africa documentary without all the usual semiotics and codes of the generic Africa documentary. You know — NGO people, child soldiers, HIV patients, and so on. But also I wanted a film where you would meet all the people you usually don’t get to see – you know, the kingpins, the players, the ministers who live a very secure and comfortable life away from the scrutiny of the media. So I thought that if I could purchase a diplomatic title, I could gain access to this very closed realm of African state affairs and politics. It’s pretty much a ‘let’s-see-what-happens’ project. Once we set off to do this, who will we meet? What kind of people will I run into?
Apuzzo: How did you prepare to become a corrupt European diplomat?
Brügger: [Laughs.] I prepared for almost three years, because I wanted to really go into detail with my persona. I would go to receptions, embassies in Copenhagen, especially the Belgian embassy because they have a lot of African diplomats coming there. I noticed all the telltale signs, the do’s and don’ts of how diplomats behave and carry themselves. For instance, when they’re having cocktails they like to fold their napkin into a triangle and then wrap it around the glass. I think it’s because they don’t want to leave fingerprints, but I don’t know for sure. [Laughs.]
The most popular cigarette amongst African diplomats are red Dunhills. The most popular liquor is Johnny Walker Black Label. You know, things of that order. At the same time, I also wanted my ‘character’ to be packed with various archetypes, and characters from comic books: Dr. Müller in Tintin, Bernard Prince (a Belgian comic book hero), even the Man with The Yellow Hat from Curious George.
By Jason Apuzzo. He’s 89 years old, and his career is hotter than ever.
With hits like Thor, Captain America and X-Men: First Class dominating the box office in 2011, and upcoming films like The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man looking to light up the summer in 2012, you’d think that a man whose career in comic books began just prior to World War II might want to slow down.
Think again – because this 89 year-old dynamo is named Stan Lee.
This year’s Sundance Film Festival offered a smorgasbord of art-house delights, but its competitor across the street – the scrappy Slamdance Film Festival – presented one of Park City’s best events last week when it hosted comic book legend Stan Lee for a 2-hour master class associated with Slamdance’s screening of the new documentary, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story. Just two days after receiving the Vanguard Award from the Producers Guild of America, Lee breezed into Park City to spend a special two hours with filmmakers and journalists prior to the With Great Power screening, discussing his extraordinary career as the creator of iconic characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
And if anything was clear at the end of the master class and screening, it was this: the keys to Stan Lee’s ongoing success are his earthy humor, humanity, and incredible vitality. The man simply doesn’t know how to slow down. As Lee says in With Great Power about being the impresario of today’s comic book cinema: “I’m having fun! Don’t punish me by making me retire.”
A flinty and funny raconteur with a baritone New York accent, Lee spent much of his time at the Slamdance master class describing his colorful early days in which he was alternately a rebellious office boy for a trouser manufacturer (he made a mess of his store after being fired two days before Christmas), an obituary writer (he found the job morbid), and even a Broadway theater usher (he once tripped and fell flat on his face while escorting Eleanor Roosevelt to her seat at the Rivoli Theater in New York).
Lee finally got his big break in late 1941 when he became interim editor at Timely Comics, which would eventually evolve under his leadership into Marvel Comics. Then known as ‘Stanley Lieber’ (his name at birth, as the son of Romanian-Jewish immigrants), Lee was first given the chance to provide text filler for a May 1941 edition of Captain America Comics – and he hasn’t looked back since.
A passionate reader, Lee described in detail how literature fueled his imagination as a young person. “I read everybody when I was young – Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, [Edgar Rice] Burroughs’ Tarzan. I read everything I could get my hands on.” Lee also cited Shakespeare as an influence on the style of language for Thor, drily noting that Thor “was supposed to be a Norse god – I couldn’t have him talk like a guy who was born in Brooklyn. I loved Shakespeare, and I read Shakespeare when I was young. I probably didn’t understand most of it, but I loved the sound of it.” Lee’s fascination with Shakespeare continues to this day, with Lee and 1821 Comics collaborating on the new graphic novel Romeo and Juliet: The War, a sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare’s classic love story which debuted last week.
Lee also developed an early love of the movies. When I asked Lee what movies had influenced him, he was quick to cite Errol Flynn’s adventure films of the 1930s and ’40s.
[Editor's Note: the post below appears today on the front page of The Huffington Post.]
By Govindini Murty. In Part I of my interview with Werner Herzog, we discussed his new movie Into the Abyss and its searing exploration of evil in human society. Now in Part II we turn to the world of nature, which Herzog sees as even more dangerous. In Les Blanks’ documentary Burden of Dreams, Herzog famously spoke out on the “obscenity” of the jungle, its “harmony of overwhelming and collective murder.” In Herzog’s documentary Encounters at the End of the World, he expressed skepticism toward “tree huggers and whale huggers,” while in Grizzly Man, he documented the fate of a man literally killed by his unhealthy obsession with wild nature. Herzog has even criticized the romanticizing of nature in Avatar, calling the film “an abomination because of its New Age schlock and bullshit.”
Obviously Werner Herzog has strong feelings about the proper relationship between humanity and nature. One sees this, for example, in Herzog’s stunning documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, released this week on DVD. Cave of Forgotten Dreams offers an extraordinary look at the 30,000 – 32,000 year-old Paleolithic cave paintings inside the Chauvet Cave in southern France – currently considered to be the oldest cave paintings in the world. As Herzog told me in Part I of our discussion on the concept of “the abyss,” “I’ve always tried to look deep inside of what we are – deep into the recesses of our existence, of our prehistory – like in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. So it is some sort of a theme that runs through quite a few of my films.”
In Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog speaks eloquently of the Paleolithic cave paintings of Chauvet and their relationship to the surrounding landscape:
“These images are memories of long-forgotten dreams. Is this their heartbeat, or ours? Will we ever be able to understand the vision of the artists across such an abyss of time? [Camera shows a massive natural stone arch in the landscape.] There is an aura of melodrama in this landscape. It could be straight out of a Wagner opera or a painting of German Romanticists. Could this be our connection to them? This staging of a landscape as an operatic event does not belong to the Romanticists alone. Stone Age man might have had a similar sense of inner landscapes …”
And yet despite these poetic sentiments, Herzog vehemently denies being a Romantic; rather, he defines his approach to nature as being similar to that of the artists of the late Middle Ages.
Ultimately, if one were to search for a theme that unites Werner Herzog’s diverse body of work, it would be that respect for human life and its limits is what holds us back from the brutality of amoral nature – the abyss into which humanity’s natural instincts might otherwise plunge. As Herzog told me, he is concerned above all with civilizational breakdown – with how humanity can abandon its own heights to descend into unfathomable depths of madness and annihilation. Equally importantly though, Herzog’s love of art, of literature, of joyful exploration of the world and its peoples points to a hopeful way out of the abyss and into the light of day.
Thus, in Part II of this interview, we tackle such colorful subjects as Herzog’s anti-romantic views on nature, why he can’t help ranting about Avatar, his excitement over his Rogue Film School (in which he teaches such crucial skills as “lock picking” and “neutralizing bureaucracy”), and his belief that Wrestlemania and reality TV offer vital clues to understanding civilization. The interview has been edited for length.
GM: There is this sense in all of your films, whether they’re historical dramas or contemporary documentaries, that you wish to explore the extremes. You go from examining the molecular world in scenes from Encounters at the End of the World to these broad vistas of Antarctica or the desert or the Himalayas in your other documentaries. Do you feel that you’re part of what could be termed the German Romantic tradition in terms of having this approach to nature – seeing it both as a place of danger and a place of inspiration?
WH: I think that’s a common misconception [that] I had an affinity to romantic culture – no I don’t. I do not feel much affinity with it. I don’t feel at home with it. I’m much closer to poets like Heinrich von Kleist, Georg Büchner who wrote Woyzeck – in the early 1820s he wrote literature that belonged to the early 20th century, that was almost like Expressionism. Or Hölderlin the poet, and he’s not a Romantic poet either. He’s somewhere completely unique. He’s like a continent of his own – not really comparable to other Romantic writers of his time…
And when you look at how I depict nature – wild nature for example in Grizzly Man, it’s quite evident that it’s a completely anti-Romantic view. Timothy Treadwell who was protecting bears and who was killed and eaten by a grizzly bear together with his girlfriend, he has this kind of watered down Romanticism … that’s what I’m completely against. I would stop the course of the film even and in my comment I would have an ongoing argument with Treadwell: “Here I differ from Treadwell.” I do not see wild nature as something benign and beautiful and the bears fluffy like little pets. No, they are dangerous and aggressive and nature itself looks rather chaotic and hostile. You look at the universe – it’s very, very hostile out there.
For example in Les Blanks’ Burden of Dreams I deliver a speech/rant about the jungle and you’ll never see anything so clearly against Romanticism and the romanticizing of landscapes, romanticizing of wild nature. … It’s funny because being a German everyone immediately thinks yeah yeah he must have an affinity with Romantic culture. No, I don’t.
GM: I think I see multiple sides to Romanticism. It’s such a complex movement. What I was thinking of was not so much the warm, romantic with a small ‘r’ approach to nature but the approach that sees it as terrifying and overwhelming. For example, even going back into 16th century German art I think of Albrecht Altdorfer with his landscapes towering over very small figures, or of Bruegel’s Landscape With the Fall of Icarus with the human figures very small in the distance, on through Caspar David-Friedrich’s work [in the early 19th century] where you have the two extremes – you either have humanity dwarfed by nature, as in The Monk on the Seashore or you have humanity standing titanic over nature, as in The Wanderer over the Sea of Clouds. So it was in that sense I was asking about nature. Your quote was very striking [in Burden of Dreams] where you mention the jungle as being “full of obscenity … nature here is vile and base.”
WH: Yeah. Obscenity – that was because Kinski kept saying everything is erotic. And he would hug a tree and fornicate with it. [Laughs] Which is really against my inner convictions.
GM: But this comment about the ‘harmony of overwhelming and collective murder’ – setting aside Kinski’s comments, is that how you would see that particular jungle, or nature in general?
WH: No, you would have to be a little bit cautious. It’s a rant ‘against’ the jungle, but it came at a time of enormous strain on me – weeks and weeks and weeks where there was every single day a major disaster. And when I speak of major disaster I mean disasters like two plane crashes. Two consecutive plane crashes, and on and on and on. So, yes you have to see it in the context. But otherwise, thinking about the jungle, it’s not completely wrong what I said. But the ferocity of the rant is in a way a result of enormous pressure of disasters one after the other. … And it’s OK, I still like my rant.
GM: It’s achieved a cult status on-line. People enjoy it a great deal.
[Editor's Note: the post below appears today on the front page of The Huffington Post.]
By Govindini Murty. Few directors are as willing to venture into the abyss as Werner Herzog. His prolific body of work has ranged from intense dramas like Aguirre: The Wrath of God and Woyzeck that plumb the depths of the human soul to documentaries like Encounters at the End of the World and Grizzly Man that examine humanity’s fragile place in the miraculous and terrifying world of nature. The astonishing breadth of Herzog’s filmmaking conveys the humanist’s sense of wonder at the world – what he describes as the “ecstasy of observation.”
Herzog’s latest film, Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life (opening this Friday, November 11th) is a compelling look at the contentious issue of the death penalty. Producer Erik Nelson has stated that the film is intended to inform the current Republican presidential debate over the death penalty, in particular with regard to the candidacy of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Herzog himself has issued a Director’s Statement expressing his opposition to capital punishment – though in keeping with his lifelong aversion to political interpretations of his work, he has also asserted that Into the Abyss is not a political film. These apparent contradictions point to the enigma of Werner Herzog himself – on the one hand a sensitive humanist with strong moral convictions, yet on the other hand an artist who resists being defined by political activism or party ideology.
Into the Abyss embodies these contradictions. The film tells the true story of a brutal triple murder committed in Conroe, Texas. Michael Perry and Jason Burkett, intending to steal two cars owned by Sandra Stotler, killed Stotler in her home and then lured her son Adam and his friend Jeremy Richardson into the woods and executed them. Perry and Burkett subsequently went on a joy ride in the cars, before winding up in a bloody shoot-out with the police. Perry and Burkett were convicted of the murders, with Perry receiving the death penalty, and Burkett receiving a life sentence.
Herzog interviewed Michael Perry just eight days before his execution, and also interviewed Jason Burkett in prison. Other interviews include those with Burkett’s wife Melyssa Thompson-Burkett, who contacted Burkett while he was in prison and subsequently married him; Fred Allen, a prison captain who worked in the execution chamber and who assisted in over 125 executions before resigning in moral crisis; and most significantly, the relatives of the victims themselves: Lisa Stotler-Balloun, the daughter of Sandra Stotler and sister of Adam Stotler, and Charles Richardson, the brother of Jeremy Richardson. Stotler-Balloun and Richardson in particular provide the most heartbreaking testimony of the film, as Herzog does not shy away from depicting the shattering effect of the murders on their lives. As a result, Into the Abyss exists in a complex tension between Herzog’s avowed position against capital punishment and his impulse as a storyteller to depict both sides of the story and allow readers to make up their own minds.
I had the opportunity to meet with Werner Herzog in Los Angeles recently and discuss with him Into the Abyss and his extraordinary body of work. Part I of this interview appears below.
GM: I’d like to ask you about the title of your movie, Into the Abyss, because I’ve seen you refer to the concept of ‘the abyss’ quite a few times in your work. In Woyzeck you have a line “Every man is an abyss, you get dizzy looking in,” and in Nosferatu you have a line “Time is an abyss profound as a thousand nights.” This is a concept you keep referring to – what does ‘the abyss’ mean to you?
WH: It’s a good observation, and when I came up with the title Into the Abyss – it dawned on me that it could have been the title of quite a few other films. Like Woyzeck could have had that title, or The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner or even the cave film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, because I’ve always tried to look deep inside of what we are – deep into the recesses of our existence, of our prehistory – like in Cave of Forgotten Dreams. So it is some sort of a theme that runs through quite a few of my films.
GM: I want to ask you about the relationship between humanity and the universe. There was a wonderful quote at the end of Encounters at the End of the World where Dr. Gorham asks, and I paraphrase, “are we the means through which the universe becomes conscious of itself?” This reminded me of a quote from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées:
“A reed only is man, the frailest in the world, but a reed that thinks. Unnecessary that the universe arm itself to destroy him: a breath of air, a drop of water are enough to kill him. Yet, if the All should crush him, man would still be nobler than that which destroys him: for he knows that he dies, and he knows that the universe is stronger than he; but the universe knows nothing of it.” (Trans. A.J. Krailsheimer)
This seems to apply to Into the Abyss and its depiction of human beings within this world. In the film you go driving down country roads and you show the trailer parks, the run-down stores, the boarded up gas stations, the bars. It looks like a wasteland that God is somehow absent from, and there are these people in the midst of it who are in a terrible state of pain and confusion – in an apparently indifferent universe.
WH: Let me address Pascal first. Yes, I like him very much. I even invented a quote for the film Lessons of Darkness. It starts with a Pascal quote “The collapse of the universe will occur like the creation in grandiose splendor,” and underneath it says Blaise Pascal, but I invented it – and of course Pascal couldn’t have said it better. [Laughs.]
But, it’s interesting. The wasteland, this forlorn landscape, has become fascinating for me – this lost kind of Americana. And one of the death row inmates with whom I spoke – not in this film but in another film I’m already finishing – he said to me how he saw on his very last trip forty-three miles between death row and the death house where they are being executed in Huntsville. And in this cage in the van he sees a little bit of an abandoned gas station, he sees a cow in the field, and all of a sudden for him, everything is magnificent, and he says: “It looked like Israel to me, it all looked like the Holy Land.” And I immediately grabbed my camera and I did this voyage of the forty-three miles and indeed the most forlorn landscapes all of a sudden look like the Holy Land. So I look at these forlorn landscapes all of a sudden with fresh and different eyes.
By Jason Apuzzo. So that you can get a feel for the man, I wanted to share with everybody some interviews that recently appeared on-line featuring my late friend and mentor Irvin Kershner. The interview above, which he did about a year ago, deals with making The Empire Strikes Back. It’s classic Kersh, in full storytelling mode. (You can see Part Two of this interview here.)
One of the things I should have mentioned in my remarks about Kersh from Monday was his tremendous sense of humor, which you get a flavor of above. His humor was typically of the earthy, Jewish – and occasionally ribald – variety, and it’s what kept you hooked on the man, even if he’d just given you a verbal pounding.
I’ll never forget a time when Govindini and I had been up to his place, and Govindini had accidentally left behind a sweater, a blue cardigan. We asked Kersh later if he still had it. “No,” he said, with a wry grin. “I sold it to the Rag Man when he came by.” Classic Kersh. (With a cheeky grin, and with his typical old World courtliness, he then gently brought forth the sweater – neatly folded.)
Anyway, Kersh (born ‘Isadore’ Kershner) certainly came a long way from his youth in Philadelphia in the 1920s, when his Ukranian father supported the family selling fruits and vegetables from a street cart. It’s nice seeing him finally get his due right now in the media. It would’ve made him feel good, although – ever industrious, ever motivated – he wouldn’t have liked it distracting from his work …
Here are some of the better quotes I’ve seen about Kersh over the past few days:
George Lucas: “I considered him a mentor,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement after Mr. Kershner’s death. “Following ‘Star Wars,’ I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to direct the second movie myself. I needed someone I could trust, someone I really admired and whose work had maturity and humor. That was Kersh all over.”
“I didn’t want ‘Empire’ to turn into just another sequel, another episode in a series of space adventures,” he said. “I was trying to build something, and I knew Kersh was the guy to help me do it. He brought so much to the table. I am truly grateful to him.”
Francis Coppola: “We all enjoyed knowing Kersh, learning from him — and admired his creative spirit and indomitable will,” Coppola said in a statement released by Kershner’s publicists. “It was always exciting to talk with him about all aspects of cinema and life.”
Barbra Streisand: “He had the most incredible spirit, an exuberance for life. Always working, always thinking, always writing, amazingly gifted and forever curious. We met doing ‘Up The Sandbox’ in 1972 and remained friends ever since. I loved him,” she said in a statement.
Billy Dee Williams: “[A]n extraordinary mountain of a man with whom I’m proud to have shared the world of art.” “I bet he’s smiling at us right now with that wonderful impish smile,” Williams said in a statement.
Matthew Robbins: “To many, he represented the best in what American film making could do with its enviable resources and catholic traditions,” Robbins said. “He believed in emotion as the basis for all dramatic storytelling. For him, the worst cinematic crime was flatness, or lack of feeling. “Few who encountered Kershner either on the set or in the classroom will forget his almost ruthless pursuit of honesty and recognizable, complex human motivation,” Robbins said.
The interview below, conducted in his wonderful living room – full of artifacts from his many travels – is a more personal interview that deals with his youth, and his development as an artist, covering some of his early period as a painter and a photographer.
Part 2 of this interview can be seen here. I’ll be reviewing The Making of the Empire Strikes Back in coming days.
Posted December 1st, 2010 at 12:30pm.