Frears, Stephen (6 of 11). The legacy of the English Stage Company.
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2008-08-27, 2008-09-02, 2008-09-30, 2008-10-14, 2008-11-10, 2009-02-20, 2009-04-07
Frears, Stephen, 1941- (speaker, male)
Devine, Harriet (speaker, female)
Part 6: [Session 4: 14 October 2008] SF’s house, in Notting Hill/Bayswater/Westminster, near Portobello Road. A Victorian terrace, 1860s, 4 floors. SF and AF live there alone. Bought 1980 for £90,000. Much work done on house, roof redone. AF has studio on top floor. Two children born there, Frankie and Lola. SF’s work for TV in 1970s, until 1984. MKW’s friendship with AB, AB’s suggestion that she should marry SF. SF’s early friendship with AB at RCT. AB’s first work for TV sent to Huw Weldon, ended up with PG, AB’s row with PG, SF doing AB’s play, ‘A Cycling Party’. Very lyrical film, wonderful actors. SF’s first film for BBC, then unemployed, then made AB’s second film. SF became part of BBC drama dept, worked on numerous small films with various good writers. During unemployment SF starting teaching at National Film School (still continuing), also met AF, marriage broke up. Work at BBC, SF for first time working with his peers. TV films shot on 16mm, shot very fast. Best work in Britain in 1970s was on TV, not in cinema. A good stimulating time. No need for fundraising. TV a writer’s medium. SF still free-lance but well paid compared to RCT. Trouble free time, no interference, only need for approval of peers. No filming in studios, all on location [15.20]. Learned to use what was there. Writers writing from own experience, no need to invent towns. World changed at end of 1970s, Mrs Thatcher round the corner, deregulation. SF’s film with Stephen Poliakoff, ‘Bloody Kids’, in 1979, shot on 35mm, new ruling that films for cinema got tax relief. A punk film, shown in cinemas as well as TV. SF eventually took whole think into cinema with ‘Laundrette’ [MBL] ¬– union rules had to be re-negotiated. MBL made money. TV film ‘Going Gently’, won BAFTA. Opening of Channel 4, SF’s film opened it with ‘Walter’ (Ian McKellan). SF’s desire to make gangster film, a script commissioned, but Ian McKellan not available by then. Film, ‘The Hit’, 1984, made for cinema, financed by offshoot of ATV. Filmed in Spain. A good film but not successful in UK, didn’t make money. SF’s attitude to success of films – making money important for future work. SF’s life spent protecting films, unhappy when unprotected, likes using subsidised money. Subsidisers not too unhappy when films fail, unlike shareholders. ‘The Deal’ made for TV to protect it. SF’s unprotected films always fail. Appearance of MBL [30.09] script came through letterbox; SF read; met Hanif Kureishi [HK]. SF thought film important, thought it was about economics, Thatcherism. SF involved with a [film-making] company with David Hare and Richard Eyre; huge rows within company (Greenpoint); SF snooty about films made by DH and RE. SF invited to do music video, assisted by Tim Bevan [TB], with new young crew; decided to give MBL to TB’s company to make film. SF made ‘MBL’ for TV, not cinema, to get bigger audience. Financed by Channel 4; TB good with finance; decision made instantly; Channel 4 had developed script, had commissioned HK; wanted play about minorities. HK’s story of how homosexuality got into film. Script had been sent to another director, HK subverted by getting it to SF. SF’s ignorance of politics of immigration, taught by HK. Shortage of Asian actors; SF’s desire to use Sayeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth. Casting of Daniel Day Lewis; actors rejected for part; DDL cast because he was the sexiest. [45.08 ]. Shirley Ann Field; SF’s initial unwillingness to cast her; her history; her insistence that HK rewrite her part. SF’s relationship with HK; effect of having a younger crew; TB’s lack of experience. Location in Vauxhall; lack of money; enjoyment of filming; innocence of experience; 6-week shooting period. MBL invited to Edinburgh Film Festival; extra performances put on; suggestion it should go in cinemas; SF’s contract. Derek Malcolm review; subsequent success of film in Toronto; purchase of film by USA; film made and still makes lots of money, for SF, for Channel 4 etc; unprecedented situation. TV showing delayed 18 months. SF’s life changed to upward slope, ended up in Hollywood. Working Title, a video company, founded by TB and Sarah Ratcliffe; SF’s involvement with them, 3 more films. TB most powerful man in film; made a producer by SF. MBL made in Feb 1985, came out Sept/Oct 1985. SF in Calcutta when it opened, on recce for Ismael Merchant [IM]; read review in New Statesman; comment on incorrect spelling of Laundrette. IM’s offer of John Masters script to SF; SF pulled out of film. Making of ‘Prick Up Your Ears’ [PUYE]; history of SF’s earlier involvement with script; Joe Orton’s diaries [1.00]; AB’s script, early 1980s, rewritten and made in 1986. A biopic of Joe Orton [JO]; story of film. Leicester connection. SF’s desire to conceal terribleness of story; JO’s charm, people’s ignorance of his double life. Problems of casting part in 1980s; Gary Oldman [GO] too young; GO older by 1986. Also SF now backable. Film made in studio and around London; intended for cinema. Complication of filming owing to taking place in several periods; costume designer Bob Ringwood. PUYE came out 1987; did fairly well; in US, gay audiences had been discovered; MBL bought for gay audience and crossed over; PUYE more obviously a gay film, or at least about gay couple. MBL based on stories told to SF at RCT, by PG and others. JO’s sister; her view of the film. JO’s stardom, a hero to young people. ‘Sammy and Rosie Get Laid’ [SRGL] made 1987; written by HK; story of HK’s uncle’s visit to London; multiculturism, sexual identity. Original title ‘The Fuck’. SF’s reaction to script; his view of it as a bit undigested, lacking depth of MBL. Changed ending of SRGL; also of MBL, changed to happy ending in last 10 seconds. Complication of endings. End of SGRL: Shashi Kapoor [SK] hanging himself; SK a wonderful man.
Life story interview with Stephen Frears, film and television director.