Peter Bog­danovich re­ceives a Life­time Achieve­ment Award


Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Jonathan Richards

PETER Bog­danovich is a man on a mis­sion. Like Cap­tain Ahab chas­ing his great white whale, he has com­mit­ted him­self to a re­lent­less pur­suit: the com­ple­tion of The Other Side of the Wind, the last pic­ture show un­der­taken by the leg­endary Or­son Welles.

Bog­danovich, who will be hon­ored by the Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val with its 2015 Life­time Achieve­ment Award, spoke to Pasatiempo by phone from Los An­ge­les. “Way back in the mid-’70s, Or­son turned to me at lunch one day and said, ‘Lis­ten, if any­thing ever hap­pens to me, I want you to prom­ise me you’ll fin­ish the pic­ture.’ I said, ‘Come on, Or­son, noth­ing’s go­ing to hap­pen to you.’ He said, ‘I know, but if it does ...’ ” Bog­danovich is one of the stars of The Other Side of the Wind, along­side John Hus­ton (who di­rected Welles in his 1956 adap­ta­tion of Moby-Dick). He de­scribes his ex­pe­ri­ence on the film, which was shot be­tween 1970 and 1976, as “the most in­ter­est­ing thing that I ever acted in, apart from my own films like Saint Jack and Tar­gets.” Bog­danovich started his ca­reer as an ac­tor and di­rec­tor in theater, and has done a lot of act­ing since, most mem­o­rably as a psy­chother­a­pist in The So­pra­nos. Tar­gets (1968) was the first fea­ture Bog­danovich di­rected. He got his break when he met B-movie ti­tan Roger Cor­man at a screen­ing. “He asked me if I would do a re­write on the script of The Wild An­gels. I did it, with­out credit, and got three hun­dred bucks. I rewrote al­most the en­tire script.”

The as­pir­ing young film­maker ended up do­ing just about ev­ery­thing on the project but wash­ing dishes. “Cor­man kept say­ing, ‘I can’t shoot this. This is go­ing to have to be done by the sec­ond unit.’ I said, ‘Who’s do­ing the sec­ond unit?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. My sec­re­tary can do the sec­ond unit. You can do the sec­ond unit.’ I said, ‘I’d like to do it.’ And ul­ti­mately I did. I learned an enor­mous amount on that pic­ture — in­clud­ing edit­ing.”

That led to Cor­man giv­ing Bog­danovich a shot at making his own movie. “Tar­gets came with a bunch of re­stric­tions,” the di­rec­tor re­called. Cor­man was

owed a couple of days’ work by Boris Karloff, so the vet­eran hor­ror ac­tor had to be worked into the script. There was also some footage fea­tur­ing Karloff from an un­suc­cess­ful Cor­man pic­ture that had to be in­cor­po­rated. “It was a film called The Terror. He wanted me to use about 20 min­utes. I ended up us­ing about five min­utes.”

The movie that put the young di­rec­tor on the cin­ema map was his next fea­ture, 1971’s The Last Pic­ture Show, which won both sup­port­ing ac­tor (Ben John­son) and ac­tress (Cloris Leach­man) Os­cars and was nom­i­nated for sev­eral more, in­clud­ing for best pic­ture and best di­rec­tor. It will be one of the en­tries shown at the fes­ti­val, in Bog­danovich’s di­rec­tor’s cut. “It runs about six min­utes longer. That ex­tra footage sharp­ens the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Sonny, Jeff Bridges’ char­ac­ter, and Tim Bot­toms’ char­ac­ter. There’s some nice stuff there. The long­est scene is where Clu Gu­lager makes love to Cy­bill [Shep­herd] on the pool ta­ble. That whole se­quence was length­ened by about three min­utes. I thought it was im­por­tant to show what hap­pened to her in terms of the sex. I thought it helped to understand her char­ac­ter.”

Bog­danovich looks back over a ca­reer that has pro­duced some clas­sics and some flops, and ad­mit­ted to a smat­ter­ing of sec­ond thoughts. Hum­ming a couple of bars of Si­na­tra’s My Way (“Re­grets … I’ve

had a few”), he al­lowed, “If I had it to do over again, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t make Daisy Miller. There was an­other project that was around, and I think I prob­a­bly should have done that one. Not that I’m un­happy with the pic­ture, but it didn’t do well, and it mud­died the wa­ters for the next couple of pic­tures of mine.”

The Last Pic­ture Show may still be the movie with which he is most iden­ti­fied, but there are oth­ers he likes bet­ter. “It’s not my fa­vorite at all,” he protested. “They All Laughed is my fa­vorite.” They All Laughed (1981) is on the fes­ti­val’s pro­gram, but his lat­est, She’s Funny That Way, is not be­ing shown. “It’s kind of a ret­ro­spec­tive. I had noth­ing to do with pick­ing the pic­tures. They picked them, and I thought they were good choices.” His only ad­di­tion to the slate was a doc­u­men­tary, One Day Since Yes­ter­day, which deals with the ex­pe­ri­ence of making They All Laughed. “They didn’t even know about it,” he said. “It’s not fin­ished; they’ll be run­ning a hot-off-the-presses print. It’s just be­ing fin­ished now, and it’ll come out hope­fully in time for the Os­cars. It might not get nom­i­nated, but — we’ll give it a shot, any­way.”

Mean­while, there’s The Other Side of the Wind to bring in, and the prom­ise to Welles to honor. Bog­danovich is try­ing to get the film ready to show at Cannes next May. “The ob­sta­cles have al­ways been get­ting ev­ery­body who owns a piece of it to agree to let us do it. We’ll get it done now be­cause there are so many peo­ple work­ing on it. It’s Or­son’s last film, so it’s im­por­tant by its very na­ture. I haven’t seen it. Well, no­body’s seen the whole pic­ture. It doesn’t ex­ist. It still has to be cut. Un­til I see the whole pic­ture, I don’t know ex­actly what I’ve got. But it’s cer­tainly in­ter­est­ing.”

The Last Pic­ture Show may still be the movie with which Bog­danovich is most iden­ti­fied, but there are oth­ers he likes bet­ter. “It’s not my fa­vorite at all,” he protested. “They All Laughed is my fa­vorite.”

What’s Up, Doc?, 1972

They All Laughed

On the set pho­tos

They All Laughed, 1981

What’s Up, Doc?

The eye knows: Bog­danovich (left)

The Last Pic­ture Show

Pa­per Moon

The Last Pic­ture Show, 1971

Pa­per Moon, 1973

Mask, 1985

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