THE HOT PRESS IN­TER­VIEW...

Based in Wick­low for nearly 50 years, leg­endary film di­rec­tor John Boorman is cel­e­brated for clas­sics like Point Blank and De­liv­er­ance. In a fas­ci­nat­ing in­ter­view, he re­flects on the mak­ing of those movies, his ex­pe­ri­ences in Hol­ly­wood, the chang­ing face

Hot Press - - Contents - In­ter­view: Ja­son O’Toole Photography: Brian Mul­li­gan

Leg­endary film di­rec­tor John Boorman re­flects on the mak­ing of clas­sic movies like Point Blank and De­liv­er­ance, the chang­ing face of Ire­land, cop­ing with per­sonal trauma, mor­tal­ity – and his re­cently pub­lished de­but novel, Crime Of

Pas­sion.

While we here at Hot Press are com­mem­o­rat­ing our 40th an­niver­sary, renowned film maker John Boorman is also cel­e­brat­ing a mo­men­tous mile­stone this year: it’s ex­actly 50 years since he first jet­ted over to LA – on the back of his hugely suc­cess­ful de­but flick about The Dave Clarke Five band – to make his first Hol­ly­wood pic­ture, Point Blank.

A hard boiled thriller, shot in 1967, it ce­mented Boorman’s rep­u­ta­tion as a bril­liant new tal­ent. On the set of the first film to be made at Al­ca­traz af­ter the prison had closed, Boorman formed a life-long friend­ship with its star, Lee Marvin. In­deed, there was such a strong bond between the two men that Boorman named one of his seven chil­dren af­ter the Hol­ly­wood star; and he made a doc­u­men­tary about Marvin in 1998, which he sub­ti­tled “A Per­sonal Por­trait”.

The two men made Hell in the Pa­cific (1968) to­gether, but it was Boorman’s 1972 film,

De­liv­er­ance, that made him a house­hold name – even to­day, movie buffs still talk about the film’s in­fa­mously bru­tal bug­ger­ing scene, which leaves very lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion.

Shortly be­fore mak­ing De­liv­er­ance, for which he was nom­i­nated for Best Di­rec­tor and Best Film Os­cars, Boorman re­lo­cated per­ma­nently to Co. Wick­low. Over the past 46 years, he has made some of the finest movies ever to come from these is­lands, in­clud­ing the Cannes award-win­ning The

Gen­eral, Ex­cal­ibur and Hope and Glory, which was nom­i­nated for five Os­cars.

Boorman also di­rected Ex­or­cist II: The Heretic, which is of­ten de­scribed as one of the worst movies ever made.

Boorman has writ­ten sev­eral non-fic­tion books. Now, at 84, Boorman has dipped his toes into the world of fic­tion with his first novel, Crime of

Pas­sion. He has clearly taken to heart the ad­vice to write about what you know best: his highly en­ter­tain­ing novel is the story of a film di­rec­tor and pro­ducer who de­cide to put to­gether a movie that is both sexy and vi­o­lent enough to de­liver them an worldwide smash hit.

Ja­son O’Toole: Were you a big film fan grow­ing up?

John Boorman: At the age of 15, I was see­ing ev­ery­thing that was on at the lo­cal cin­ema and I be­came very much a fan. I had to join the army for two years at the age of 18. A few months be­fore I went into the army, the Na­tional Film Theatre opened on the South Bank in Lon­don and they showed all the great silent movies like In­tol­er­ance and Abel Gance’s Napoleon. So, I haunted the place. I was steeped in the silent cin­ema. And then when I came out of the army, I got a job as a trainee as­sis­tant film editor. My ca­reer de­vel­oped or­gan­i­cally. I didn’t set out to be­come a film di­rec­tor. I was in­ter­ested in film – and one thing led to an­other. Was your first fea­ture, Catch Us If You Can with The Dave Clark Five in 1965, in­flu­enced by The Bea­tles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night? Yes. It came about be­cause The Bea­tles’ films were a great suc­cess. I had carte blanche to do what­ever I wanted. The odd thing was, when it opened in Amer­ica, Pauline Kael – who was a very in­flu­en­tial fig­ure in film crit­i­cism – praised it much more than it de­served! As a re­sult, I started to get of­fers from the States. So, ev­ery­thing about my ca­reer has been a sort of a se­ries of ac­ci­dents. The Lee Marvin ve­hi­cle Point Blank, which is re­garded as one of the best film noir movies ever made, came next. Be­cause of Pauline Kael’s in­flu­ence, this Amer­i­can pro­ducer came to Lon­don and gave me this script. He said, ‘What do you think of it?’ I said, ‘It’s ter­ri­ble!’ He said, ‘I agree with you’. I said, ‘The char­ac­ter is in­ter­est­ing’. So, we met sev­eral times and I de­scribed how I could see it de­vel­op­ing and it touched some­thing in Lee. What do you mean? Lee was wounded in the Pa­cific War. But he was also wounded psy­cho­log­i­cally. He’d been rather bru­talised. He was, in a sense, try­ing to re­de­fine his hu­man­ity. And he could see a par­al­lel to his own ex­pe­ri­ence in this story about a man who is shot and left for dead and some­how comes back to life. I think this is what gives the film its power. I re-watched it last night and it feels like a Euro­pean art house film. I was very much in­flu­enced by Renoir. And I was very in­flu­enced by Harold Pin­ter in the di­a­logue. You had carte blanche on Point Blank too, which is highly un­usual for a novice in Hol­ly­wood. When I went out there, Lee Marvin knew bet­ter than I did how dif­fi­cult it was go­ing to be to make the film that I en­vis­aged. So, he called a meet­ing with the head of the stu­dio and the pro­duc­ers and he re­minded them that he had script and cast ap­proval. And they agreed that he had it in his con­tract. And he said, ‘I de­fer those ap­provals to John’. And then he walked out of the room – and these guys were star­ing at me an­grily! Here is this young English di­rec­tor who had to­tal con­trol over the film (laughs). Lee was so sup­port­ive of me through­out. Were you ner­vous do­ing such a big Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion? There was one moment. We were in Al­ca­traz. We’d flown down from LA on the pre­vi­ous night and I was ex­hausted from the whole thing and I lost it for a moment: I couldn’t think what to do. And Lee came over to me and he said, ‘Are you in trou­ble?’ I said, ‘I’m try­ing to break down this scene’. He then started to act drunk! He started to shout, sing and fall over. And the pro­duc­tion man­ager came up to me and said, ‘Do you see the state Lee’s in? You can’t shoot with him like this’. So, im­me­di­ately the pres­sure was off me. All I needed was 10 min­utes with­out the pres­sure to fig­ure it out – and he gave me that. Have you ever thrown a tantrum or screamed and shouted on set? No. I’m quite se­vere. I prepare very care­fully and I give care­ful in­struc­tions to ev­ery­one on what they have to do. And if they don’t do it, I have right­eous anger! How did you man­age to per­suade MGM not to take a scis­sors to Point Blank? There was a very good editor at MGM called Mar­garet Booth. She cut Gone With The Wind.

She was a greatly feared woman be­cause she re­cut all their pic­tures. So, I had to show the film to her and she made one or two sug­ges­tions, which were good, and I made the changes. And then I had to show it to the executives and they got up at the end and started mum­bling about reshoots. And Mar­garet Booth said, ‘You cut a frame of this film over my dead body!’ So, that’s how it came

about. I was very for­tu­nate. The film you’re most fondly re­mem­bered for is prob­a­bly De­liv­er­ance. Warn­ers said they would do it if I get two ma­jor stars. Jack Ni­chol­son was on the up at the time and I got him. And he said, ‘Who’s go­ing to play the other part? What about Mar­lon Brando?’ I went to Mar­lon and I spent the day with him. It was just be­fore he made The God­fa­ther. He agreed to do it. I said to Mar­lon, ‘Ok, who’s your agent?’ He said, ‘I don’t have an agent any­more. I’m not in the busi­ness!’ He said he hadn’t worked for years. And he was con­sid­ered box of­fice poi­son. I said, ‘How much do you want for do­ing this pic­ture?’ He said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do: pay me the same that you paid Jack Ni­chol­son’. So, why weren’t Jack Ni­chol­son and Mar­lon Brando in De­liv­er­ance? I went to Jack’s agent and I said, ‘What do you want for Jack to do the pic­ture?’ He said half a mil­lion dol­lars! Now, I knew that he never been paid more than $50,000 for a pic­ture! I said, ‘That’s out­ra­geous. He hasn’t done a big pic­ture’. He said, ‘Well, that’s what we want. He’s go­ing to be a great star’. I went to the stu­dio and I said, ‘You wanted me to get two stars. Here they are: Jack Ni­chol­son and Mar­lon Brando’. And they said, ‘Jack is up-and-com­ing and we’d like to do a pic­ture with him. But Mar­lon Brando! Who cares about Mar­lon Brando? He’s fin­ished!’ So, I said, I think they’d match up very well’. He said, ‘What does Brando want?’ I said, ‘I agreed to pay him the same as Jack’. And that killed it be­cause Ted Ash­ley, who was run­ning the stu­dio, said, ‘If I paid Mar­lon Brando half a mil­lion dol­lars I’d be laughed out of town’. So they said to me, ‘Make it with un­knowns, for a very low price’.” How much did you pay Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight?

Very lit­tle. Burt got $50,000 and Jon got $75,000. Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox had both never made a film or been on a TV show. I made the film very cheaply. They kept beat­ing me up about the bud­get and I cut ev­ery­thing back. I didn’t even have an art di­rec­tor on the film. And then they still needed me to cut the bud­get. I had the money for a com­poser and an orches­tra, so I cut them and I got two mu­si­cians to make the score – and that’s how I got down to a bud­get of $1.7mil­lion. Of course, the pic­ture went through the roof and they made mil­lions out of it. You’re not cred­ited for it, but did you do a lot of work on the script? It was James Dickey’s novel. He did a draft of a script be­fore I came into the pic­ture and then we worked to­gether on a new draft. And then we fell out over the di­rec­tion of the script and I took it on my­self and wrote the fi­nal draft. But since it was based on his novel and they were his char­ac­ters, he got the credit. The Writ­ers’ Guild were in­tent on pro­tect­ing writ­ers from pro­duc­ers – they gave him the credit. But that was OK be­cause it was very much his story, his char­ac­ters – and he de­served it. When the film was fin­ished, Dickey was thrilled with it and told ev­ery­one, ‘It’s bet­ter than the novel’. But in later life, he dis­owned the film and sent his script to ev­ery stu­dio, try­ing to get them to re­make it. There’s a story that you fought with Dickey on­set – and came out of it badly. Ab­so­lutely not! He’s sup­posed to have knocked my teeth out – but mirac­u­lously I still have them! Do you think, as Burt Reynolds char­ac­ter says, that it’s jus­ti­fi­able homi­cide to mur­der a rapist? They de­bate it: whether they should go to the po­lice or not. And they de­cide to bury the man and say noth­ing – and that all comes back to haunt them. What do I think (laughs)? It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter what I think. It’s what the char­ac­ters thought that mat­ters. So what was go­ing through the char­ac­ters’ minds? You had Ron­nie Cox as the moral com­pass of the group, and he was all for re­port­ing it to the po­lice; Jon Voight was hes­i­tant, he didn’t know which way to go; and Ned Beatty sided with Burt be­cause he didn’t want this whole thing get­ting around – be­ing bug­gered. Lewis (Burt Reynolds) des­per­ately wanted the ex­pe­ri­ence of killing a man. He felt that his view of mas­culin­ity was that he had to go through fire – you had to ex­pe­ri­ence these things – and the ul­ti­mate was to kill a man. So, they all had their dif­fer­ent views. Voight was the in­de­ci­sive char­ac­ter: the one who never re­ally com­mit­ted to any­thing, didn’t re­ally stand up for any­thing. So, he be­comes the one who even­tu­ally has to take the harsh de­ci­sion. He’s the one who’s most changed by it. That’s the heart of it. If you were in such a hor­ri­fy­ing po­si­tion, do you think you would’ve been able to draw the bow and ar­row? No, I couldn’t have done that. I have a shot­gun, and many years ago there was a rather drunken bur­glar try­ing to break into my house and I got the loaded shot­gun and con­fronted him. And I thought, ‘What am I go­ing to do (laughs)? I don’t want to kill him. How shall I wound him? And where would I shoot him? Maybe in the feet or the leg?’ And I knew the guy! He was a lo­cal labourer. And I thought, ‘I can’t shoot him in the leg be­cause that would in­ca­pac­i­tate him. He wouldn’t be able to work as a labourer!’ I couldn’t bring my­self to shoot him or wound him. But the threat

“He’s sup­posed to have knocked my teeth out – but mirac­u­lously I still have them!”

of the gun was suf­fi­cient and he went off. Your house was bro­ken into by Martin Cahill, aka The Gen­eral. I was away, but the po­lice iden­ti­fied him as the thief. He stole this gold record for Du­elling Ban­jos (from De­liv­er­ance). I’m sure he was hor­ri­fied when he found it was just gold paint on vinyl! And so I put that scene in the film (laughs). I got my own back on him! If you had been there dur­ing the bur­glary, would you have been able to shot him?

I don’t think so. No, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t. Your last big bud­get Hol­ly­wood movie was

Ex­or­cist II: The Heretic. I was ac­tu­ally of­fered the orig­i­nal and I turned it down! Why would you turn down di­rect­ing the great­est horror ever made? Be­cause to me, it was a film about the tor­ture of a child. And, as a fa­ther of seven chil­dren, I found that ab­so­lutely im­pos­si­ble to con­tem­plate. So, with

Ex­or­cist II, I made the mis­take of mak­ing a film, which in a sense, was an an­swer to the orig­i­nal. It was a big mis­take be­cause what the au­di­ences were en­ti­tled to ex­pect was more of the same, since it was a se­quel. I think the film has a great deal of qual­ity, but it was aimed at the wrong au­di­ence. Did you rate Richard Burton – the star of The

Heretic – as an ac­tor? Richard had this fan­tas­tic voice, but he was not phys­i­cal: all his act­ing was from the neck up­wards. He couldn’t use his body! He was the an­tithe­sis of Lee Marvin, who could use his body like a ballet dancer – so you could make com­plex shots and move­ments. Burton was static and I had to work the scenes around that lim­i­ta­tion. Brian Hoyle’s book on your work men­tions that you were struck down with a mys­te­ri­ous ill­ness and al­most died, film­ing The Heretic. We im­ported desert sand into one of the stages for a scene. It con­tained spores that cause Val­ley Fever. It causes very high tem­per­a­tures. I was hos­pi­talised and shoot­ing was stopped for four days. Did you turn down any other block­busters? Oh, I’ve turned down projects that have made a lot of money – Rocky be­ing one! My friend Bob Chartoff, who re­cently died, pro­duced a cou­ple of my films and he sent me the script and asked me to do it. I wrote back and said I thought the script was ridicu­lous. I said, ‘Not only am I not go­ing to do it, but I strongly ad­vise you not to!’ He put my let­ter in a frame and had it up in his of­fice (laughs)! I turned down Alien, which also made a lot of money. Why did you turn down Alien? It was set on a space­ship and I didn’t know what I could do to make it in­ter­est­ing. And, of course, that (film) had the won­der­ful scene of the alien break­ing out of John Hurt’s stom­ach. John was my great friend. He died just a few days ago. His death must have hit you hard. Yes. We did two short films to­gether. We did Two

Nudes Bathing and I Dreamt I Woke Up. Was he good to work with? He was great. Al­ways drunk but al­ways good! This film, I Dreamt I Woke Up – some­one put that on Face­book. You could have a look at that. It’s partly doc­u­men­tary and partly spir­i­tual. He plays my al­ter ego and we ac­tu­ally have scenes in which we talk to each other. Was it a con­scious de­ci­sion to move away from Hol­ly­wood af­ter the Ex­or­cist se­quel? I was get­ting more and more dis­il­lu­sioned with the stu­dio sys­tem and liv­ing in Hol­ly­wood. And when I made Leo the Last with Mar­cello Mas­troianni in Lon­don, I left LA to do that. I did the post­pro­duc­tion at Ard­more and fell in love with the land­scape and the moun­tains – and bought this house that I still live in, 45 years later. That be­came my home and my base and that’s where I broughtup my chil­dren. And so, I elected to work at arm's length from Hol­ly­wood. In fact, I made De­liv­er­ance en­tirely on lo­ca­tion in South Carolina, af­ter I’d left LA. So I never had to go any­where near the stu­dio, “I think suicide has had a very bad name. But I be­lieve that ev­ery­one should be al­lowed to end their life when they see fit.”

nor did they in­ter­fere in any way. Is it true that Stan­ley Kubrick was an un­cred­ited tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor on Zar­doz, which starred Sean Con­nery? No. And I never dis­cussed it with him. But I was in­spired by the mag­nif­i­cent 2001 – to imag­ine that I too could dare to make a meta­phys­i­cal fu­tur­is­tic movie. You were good friends with Stan­ley Kubrick. I was. I greatly ad­mired him. For sev­eral years, Stan­ley would call me once a month, or once a week, al­ways look­ing for in­for­ma­tion about film mak­ing, about the tech­ni­cal as­pects, al­ways ask­ing about how I did a cer­tain shot, a cer­tain se­quence and things like that. And I re­mem­ber, af­ter about three or four years, I said, ‘We should meet and have lunch’. And he said, ‘Why? We have a per­fectly good tele­phone re­la­tion­ship!’ (Laughs)

But we did meet and we did have lunch. He was an ex­tra­or­di­nary man. In the poster for Zar­doz, Sean Con­nery seems to be wear­ing a nappy. How did you talk him into wear­ing that? I had no prob­lem with the red thing, but he was a bit re­luc­tant to go into the wed­ding dress. But fun­da­men­tally, he’s an ac­tor and plays parts. He was great. I love Sean. What hap­pened with your planned Lord of the

Rings movie? Be­fore De­liv­er­ance, I wanted to make my Arthurian story and I went to United Artists with it and they said, ‘We own the film rights to Lord of the Rings.

Why don’t you think about that? You’re in­ter­ested in this kind of thing’. So, I did. And I spent sev­eral months on mak­ing a script. It was be­fore CGI. And not only did I have to find a way of mak­ing the story in script form, but I also had to find a way of solv­ing the spe­cial ef­fects prob­lems, par­tic­u­larly, for in­stance, the hob­bits be­ing half the size of men. I re­searched all sorts of tra­di­tional film tech­niques. By the time I’d writ­ten it, United Artists had run out money and couldn’t af­ford it. And so I didn’t make it. The idea I had for the hob­bits was that I would cast nine- or ten-year-old boys who were roughly half the size of a man and put on fa­cial hair and dub them with adult voices. So, that might have worked but it might have not (laughs)!

It’s just as well I didn’t do it. If I did make it, I think

Peter Jack­son’s tril­ogy would not have been made. Any­way, all the re­search I did, I was able to ap­ply it to Ex­cal­ibur. How do you rate Peter Jack­son’s tril­ogy? It is one of the great ac­com­plish­ments of cin­ema. And so, in a sense, it was for­tu­itous that I didn’t make it be­cause it wouldn’t have been any­where nearly as good as Peter Jack­son’s. Be­cause I didn’t have the fa­cil­i­ties of CGI to do those as­ton­ish­ing ef­fects. Of your own films, which is your favourite? I’m fond­est of Hope and Glory be­cause it’s a film about my own fam­ily. It’s a film that was very suc­cess­ful, with lots of Os­car nom­i­na­tions and prizes around the world. And it’s prob­a­bly the only film I ever made that had uni­ver­sally good re­views – ex­cept for one! And it was the very first re­view, which was in Va­ri­ety. Va­ri­ety said, ‘It’s not art and it’s not com­mer­cial (laughs)!’ And, of course, you only ever re­mem­ber the bad re­views. When Point Blank came out, the re­view in Time mag­a­zine was:

‘Point Blank is a fog of a film!’ One line! That was it. You al­ways re­mem­ber the bad ones. Tech­ni­cally, which is your best film? I’ve spo­ken about Ex­cal­ibur and do­ing all the spe­cial ef­fects with the cam­era – so that was cer­tainly one. Ex­cal­ibur was made be­fore CGI. There was no post-pro­duc­tion ef­fects. All the tricks were done in the cam­era. It was prob­a­bly the last ef­fects pic­ture to have been done be­fore CGI. But, I think, oddly enough, The Heretic was the most com­plex in terms of spe­cial ef­fects and the whole com­plex­ity of shoot­ing it. Will we ever see a new di­rec­tor’s cut of

Ex­cal­ibur – or any of your other films? My movies are my cuts for bet­ter or worst. No wish to re­visit. Which of your films do you like the least? I asked Billy Wilder how Buddy Buddy had worked out. He had just fin­ished it. He said, ‘John, our movies are like our chil­dren. When we have a kid we hope he will grow up to be Ein­stein, but some­times they turn out to be con­gen­i­tal id­iots!’ I don’t dis­like any of mine, but the fail­ure of The

Heretic was painful. Who are the best ac­tors you’ve ever worked with? I’ve had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with some of the best film ac­tors: Lee Marvin, Ma­cello Mas­troianni – and I’d put Bren­dan Glee­son along­side them. Bren­dan Glee­son is one of the best film ac­tors around. Do you have fond thoughts about Where The

Heart Is? Your daugh­ter Telsche – who passed away from ovar­ian can­cer in 1997 – wrote the script? That went through a few in­car­na­tions! It started off as a mod­ern ver­sion of King Lear where

Sean Con­nery was to play the head of this cor­po­ra­tion, who de­cides to re­tire and give it over to his daugh­ters. It was a way of talk­ing about con­tem­po­rary young peo­ple. And then he fell out of it. It was your first big Hol­ly­wood film af­ter The

Heretic. I had a big prob­lem with Dis­ney be­cause they kept want­ing to change it. And the head of Dis­ney

(laughs) – af­ter we’d been strug­gling back and forth – said to me, ‘The prob­lem with this film is it’s still a Boorman film and not a Dis­ney film’

(laughs)!

I can’t even be­gin to imag­ine the or­deal you went through los­ing your daugh­ter. You never get over it. It was a ter­ri­ble thing to lose a child. What’s your fond­est mem­ory of Telsche? We were play­ing ten­nis on our court. It was a wind­less au­tumn day when a lit­tle birch tree caught a pri­vate breeze. It shook, and its leaves dropped in a shower. We were the (only) two peo­ple in the world who wit­nessed this and we smiled at each other. It was a metaphor for all the things of life that we shared to­gether. Is it why you never left your base in Wick­low – that she grew up in this house?

Yes, that’s true. You’ve lived in Ire­land for al­most 50 years now. Do you feel Ir­ish in any way? No, I don’t feel Ir­ish and I don’t feel English! But I al­ways felt Euro­pean. I have a love of Ire­land and a love of Eng­land too. But I don’t feel con­nected. In Eng­land, I was al­ways very crit­i­cal of Bri­tain and its colo­nial past. And I’ve al­ways felt that pa­tri­o­tism is a ghastly thing. I don’t like it when it’s ug­li­ness ap­pears in Eng­land. And also in Ire­land. I find peo­ple cheer­ing for their foot­ball team rather vul­gar. What are your thoughts about Brexit? I feel Euro­pean, which is why I was so dis­mayed when Bri­tain de­cided to leave. I thought the Euro­pean idea was one of the most promis­ing ideas, so­ci­o­log­i­cal ideas, since Athens. And for all its faults, it’s a bril­liant no­tion – and it’s such a pity that Bri­tain’s not go­ing to be part of it.

What do you make of Boris John­son?

He’s a buf­foon!

And your thoughts about Don­ald Trump?

(Laughs) I think he’s a dan­ger­ous, nar­cis­sis­tic bully. What did you make of Trump hold­ing Theresa May’s hand? He wanted her to love him as much as he loves him­self! Has Ire­land changed much since you came? Very much so. I think that two things changed. Well, first of all go­ing into the EU and the EU put all the money into build­ing roads and the in­fra­struc­ture, which opened up the coun­try tremen­dously. And then, the other thing was the big prop­erty bub­ble, which every­body who had a house be­came a mil­lion­aire and every­body got very cocky. And when it all came crash­ing down, I think, Ire­land – the new Ire­land with a recog­ni­tion of tech­nol­ogy – be­gan to grow up af­ter 2008. It was painful, but I think what’s hap­pened since then – de­spite an in­ef­fec­tual gov­ern­ment – it’s grow­ing in a very good way. There’s a ma­tu­rity that’s come into Ire­land, which I find very good. Has the coun­try im­proved since you at­tacked it in your movie The Tiger’s Tail? Per­haps it's lost some of its easy-go­ing charm from when I first ar­rived. But it’s now much more rooted and much more ma­ture. It’s grow­ing into it­self. Ire­land was the first coun­try in the world to pass a ref­er­en­dum on same sex mar­riage. Would you have be­lieved it pos­si­ble 10 or 20 years ago? No (laughs)! Es­pe­cially as the Church had in­structed ev­ery Catholic to vote against it. I think most peo­ple in Ire­land didn’t give a toss about same sex mar­riage, one way or the other. But it was a very good way of cock­ing a snoot at the Church. What about re­peal­ing the Eighth Amend­ment: are we ma­ture enough to do it?

I think so, yes. Back in the days of the Trou­bles, did you re­ceive any death threats from the IRA be­cause you’re English? One night there was a knock on my door and it was the Of­fi­cial IRA guys! And they said, ‘We would like to use your land for train­ing pur­poses?’

(Laughs) So, I said, ‘Do I have a choice?’ And they said, ‘Yes. We’d only want to do it if you ap­proved’. And I said, ‘Well, I’d rather not’. And they moved on. Was that your only con­tact with the IRA? The only other con­nec­tion was mak­ing Zar­doz.

I needed a lot of guns and I wanted to im­port them from Lon­don and there was strict pro­hi­bi­tion about im­port­ing weapons, even though these weapons wouldn’t fire bul­lets (laughs). It was a big prob­lem. It al­most top­pled the pro­duc­tion. And then one of the car­pen­ters came up to me and said, ‘The lads above can get you all the weapons you want!’ (Laughs) How did you solve the prob­lem? I went to the gov­ern­ment. Justin Keat­ing was the Min­is­ter at the time and I told him and he sorted it out and I got the weapons. Any­way, I could’ve got them from the IRA (laughs)! My deal­ings with the IRA were, on the whole, rather pos­i­tive! The Gen­eral is a black and white film – but it was re­leased in colour and even dubbed in parts for the US mar­ket. I wanted to do it in black and white and we couldn’t find enough black and white stock to shoot it be­cause no­body uses it any­more. So, I shot it in colour and then de­sat­u­rated it to black and white. I hate the idea of it hav­ing a life as a colour film: it was lit for black and white.

You were crit­i­cised for por­tray­ing Martin Cahill as a lov­able rogue.

(Laughs) I got a lot of crit­i­cism for glam­or­is­ing a gang­ster – de­spite all the cruel and bru­tal acts he com­mit­ted in the film. The thing was, I kept mak­ing him do more and more nasty things and what­ever he did, it didn’t seem to make any dif­fer­ence – peo­ple just loved him. But I think it was partly to do with Bren­dan. You see, Bren­dan is a very, very beau­ti­ful man and some­how his beauty, his good­ness shone through the char­ac­ter, even though it was so nasty. Hitch­cock said, ‘Only a good per­son can play a good per­son and vice versa’. But Bren­dan gave a bril­liant per­for­mance in that pic­ture. It launched his ca­reer. He is a won­der­ful ac­tor. It was widely re­ported that you re­tired af­ter mak­ing Queen and Coun­try, the se­quel to

Hope and Glory. Will you make an­other film? Some morn­ings, when I wake up stiff and ev­ery­thing aches, I think not! But then on good days I think, ‘Maybe I will’. I’ve got a project and I’ve got most of the money for it and I’m just try­ing to make up my mind. I’ll make it in Ire­land. I’ve got three scripts that I would’ve liked to have made, but I cer­tainly won’t make them all – I might make one of them. You’ve just writ­ten your first novel, Crimes of

Pas­sion. Why did you de­cide to turn your hand to fic­tion? I write ev­ery day and I’ve writ­ten sev­eral books and I did this se­ries of Pro­jec­tions (books) with Wal­ter Dono­hue. So, I had this idea for a novel about these guys mak­ing a film and the sort of back­ground to what goes on in the mak­ing of a film and how a film de­vel­ops and takes on its own

life. It’s just be­ing trans­lated into French. Some peo­ple like it (laughs).

How closely does the pro­tag­o­nist Daniel Shaw re­sem­ble you?

I put my­self into the book as a char­ac­ter in the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val be­cause I wanted to sep­a­rate my­self from Daniel Shaw (laughs)! There are as­pects of me in Daniel Shaw, but he’s very dif­fer­ent from me and from the way I work. He’s a com­pi­la­tion of two or three English di­rec­tors I’ve known. He’s much more manic and pos­sessed than I am (laughs)!

Was it a big leap, into writ­ing fic­tion?

Scripts are fic­tion – so writ­ing scripts is not too far away from novel writ­ing. The only thing is: when I look back at the book, I prob­a­bly didn’t de­scribe the char­ac­ter enough. You don’t have to de­scribe the char­ac­ters in a movie script be­cause they are go­ing to be up there on the screen. In fact, it’s bet­ter not to put in too many char­ac­ter­is­tics be­cause it can of­ten dis­suade an ac­tor from play­ing a part – if you say that he’s fat or sweaty, it’s very hard to cast that (laughs).

What’s next?

I’m writ­ing an­other mem­oir, bring­ing it up to date. I call it Con­clu­sions. I think it’s the last thing I’ll write. You know, I’m 84 – things come to an end. I’ve had a good in­nings.

Have you started to think a lot about your own mor­tal­ity?

You have to wind down and it’s very im­por­tant for you to con­tem­plate death. And that’s what I’m do­ing. I think about it a lot.

It must be very emo­tional?

No, it’s ra­tio­nal. I’ve seven chil­dren and I’ve got grand­chil­dren. In a sense, I stay alive for them rather than for my­self. But I’m ready to go any­time that they call (laughs).

You had three chil­dren later in life, dur­ing your sec­ond mar­riage, which ended in di­vorce about ten years ago.

My three young one are grown up now. They’re 24, 21 and 18. I’m very, very de­voted to those three be­cause they still need help and guid­ance

“I’ve had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with some of the best film ac­tors: Lee Marvin, Mar­cello Mas­troianni – and I’d put Bren­dan Glee­son along­side them. Bren­dan Glee­son is one of the best film ac­tors around.”

and I love them dearly. I’ve al­ways loved chil­dren. I’ve al­ways loved play­ing with them and help­ing them and do­ing things with them. And that’s been one of the great joys of my life. And I was very for­tu­nate to have a sec­ond lit­ter, as it were!

Are you re­li­gious?

No. I was brought up as a Chris­tian, but I’m not a be­liever.

So, you don’t be­lieve in heaven or hell?

No. I be­lieve in obliv­ion.

What are your thoughts on eu­thana­sia?

I’m all in favour. I think suicide has had a very bad name. But I be­lieve that ev­ery­one should be al­lowed to end their life when they see fit. And the no­tion of what we see to­day – of peo­ple liv­ing into their 90s and liv­ing just a half life, of pain and aching bones and de­men­tia – it’s a dread­ful thing. So­ci­ety is be­ing plunged into this abyss of de­crepit age, sup­port­ing a vast part of so­ci­ety which is old and use­less. We should all be given a pill at the age of 80 – it would solve all the prob­lems (laughs)! Which means I would’ve died four years ago!

Would you go to Dig­ni­tas in Switzer­land to end your life?

I would find some way, I think, yeah. I don’t know

about Switzer­land – but there are ways and means!

Do you have any re­grets?

Yes, I have lots of re­grets (laughs)! I’ve worked in­cred­i­bly hard and I’ve fought and strug­gled to make films and it cost me a huge amount of ef­fort. And I think I’ve of­ten ne­glected peo­ple I love, and my re­la­tion­ships, be­cause of de­vot­ing my­self so much to the work. That’s my re­gret.

You never won an Os­car, even though you’ve been nom­i­nated five times – does it bother you?

Not in the least (laughs). If you look at the his­tory of the Os­cars their record is not great in terms of the films that have lived. A lot of great films – like for in­stance Cit­i­zen Kane – didn’t win an Os­car. Zar­doz was a com­plete fail­ure at the box of­fice. But that film has grown in rep­u­ta­tion year af­ter year. And it was re­cently re­stored. It has more and more fol­low­ers ever year. I get so much cor­re­spon­dence (laughs) from these ad­dicts. Of­ten when you look at a film you thought was bril­liant at the time, you see it ten years later and think, ‘What did I re­ally see in that film?’

And vice versa: films that es­caped you at the time of­ten turn out to have a longer life.

Look­ing back at your ca­reer, are you sat­is­fied with what you achieved?

My only pro­fes­sional re­gret is that I didn’t make more films. You know, mak­ing a film takes so long. You write the script, then maybe it doesn’t work and you write an­other one, and then you try to find the money and you cast it and then you de­sign it and then you shoot it and then you edit and then you pro­mote it. It takes about three years. Whereas in the old days, it was more of a fac­tory job: di­rec­tors like John Ford would make two a year – be­cause they weren’t in­volved in edit­ing the film. In a way, I much pre­fer be­ing in­volved in the whole process. But it does take so much time. I’ve made – what? – 16 films or some­thing, whereas I prob­a­bly could’ve made twice that much.

Crime of Pas­sion is pub­lished by Lib­er­ties Press, priced €13.99.

Life dur­ing wartime: a scene from Boorman's favourite of his films,

Hope and Glory

Hunt­ing high and Wick­low: Boorman at home in the Gar­den County; with his late daugh­ter Telsche; and the di­rec­tor's son Charley as a boy..

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