THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH

Re­jected head­lines: Roeg One. Roeg War­rior. Then we ran out of phrases with “rogue”.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS HAY­LEY CAMP­BELL

IF YOU’RE LOOK­ING for a David Bowie ori­gin story bet­ter than the pro­saic “he was born in Brix­ton”, then you can pre­tend that Ni­co­las Roeg ’s The Man Who Fell To Earth is it; that Bowie came from a planet where or­gasms are rep­re­sented by ex­pert tram­polin­ists bounc­ing 15 feet high in the air, spin­ning alien se­men (ac­tu­ally buck­ets of wall­pa­per glue — we asked) against a black sky. Makes sense.

Four decades on, Roeg’s sci-fi is as de­s­pair­ing, deca­dent, hope­ful, bizarre and ni­hilis­tic as ever. Based on a 1963 novel by Wal­ter Te­vis, it tells the story of Thomas New­ton (Bowie), an alien who comes to Earth in the hope of sav­ing his dy­ing home­world. Along the way, he meets a girl, dis­cov­ers booze, slides into a pit of ex­is­ten­tial de­spair, and dis­be­liev­ing, cyn­i­cal hu­mans ruin ev­ery­thing for him. And make him play ping-pong into the bar­gain.

At first, Roeg favoured the tall, skinny author Michael Crich­ton for the role of New­ton, but then he plumped for the bril­liant Bowie, then at the height of his mu­si­cal fame and look­ing to break into movies. It was per­fect cast­ing: an alien to play an alien. Now, with the movie be­ing re-re­leased with a 4K re­vamp, we spoke to Roeg, his cin­e­matog­ra­pher An­thony B Rich­mond and co-star Candy Clark for their mem­o­ries of The

Man Who Fell To Earth, and Bowie, the man who fell to Earth.

tweezy does it New­ton re­veals his true self to Mary-lou (Clark) by re­mov­ing his con­tacts via tweez­ers, ex­pos­ing his alien eyes. “It’s one of my favourite shots in the movie,” says Richard­son. “Nic and I were in that tiny bath­room try­ing to keep out of the mir­rors our­selves. We just got it done.” ROEG ONE Roeg and Bowie pore over the script. “Our re­la­tion­ship was very se­cre­tive,” says Roeg. “I never thought of him as an ‘ac­tor’. He was liv­ing the part. Our first meet­ing seemed to be based on a sense of des­tiny.” Bowie once said he func­tioned on ten grams of co­caine a day while shoot­ing, but Clark says that wasn’t the case. “He was to­tally stone-cold sober. He gave a prom­ise to Nic Roeg that he would not do drugs and I think he kept his prom­ise, I re­ally do.”

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