- 13 Mar 17
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 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 re-cut 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 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 post-production 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 brought-up 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, 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).
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 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.