Frears, Stephen (7 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 7: SF’s world becoming more cosmopolitan. SK’s reaction working in UK. Rest of cast of film: Frances Barber, also in PUYE; Clare Bloom; Ayub Khan Din, also in MBL, writer of East is East. Clare Bloom, a tortured woman. SRGL did less well than MBL; a less good film, less surprising to audiences. Hard to follow successful films; only time SF has done it was with ‘The Deal’, ‘The Queen’. SF then asked by Martin Scorcese to make film of ‘The Grifters’; search for a writer; SRGL at Telluride Film Festival; SF and HK driven afterwards by Tom Luddy to Las Vegas; suggestion of writer Donald Westlake; Westlake’s unwillingness; persuaded by SF on grounds that film was all about the women. Scorcese an independent US film-maker; had seen MBL, recognised qualities of film same as needed for ‘Grifters’; SF described as anto-social. SF agreed to make ‘Grifters’, but then approached with ‘Liaisons Dangereuses’ [DL]; SF wanted to make film, despite rival movie of Milos Forman. SF flown to New York, to meet Lorimar Films; agreed to make immediately; finished a year ahead of Milos Forman. Strike of writers, Westlake unable to do ‘Grifters’ script. History of Christopher Hampton’s script of DL. DL filmed in Paris, after unsuccessful recce in Hungary [14.15]; shot on location in 2 chateaux; brilliant crew; brilliant designer Stuart Craig, won Oscar, as did Jim Accheson who won Oscar for costumes. Crew mostly French. SF cast with Americans; had more money than ever before ($15 million); US cast a form of insurance; SF’s later discovery that he didn’t want to make (British) comedy of manners; wanted to make a film about passion; view that UK actors can’t do passion. John Malkovitc’s brilliance, after his initial fear at start of shooting. Glenn Close’s unwillingness to film; her only one day meeting with Michelle Pfieffer. Opening of film, Xmas day in NYC. Seven Oscar nominations, three wins; SF not nominated, but not upset because of success of film. Huge success of film. SF’s view: another hooligan film; importance of being a hooligan and having respect for the text; refinement and irreverence, all coming from RCT. Irreverence of DL: an attack on Kubrick’s ‘Barry Linden’, a scholarly beautiful and boring film. DL true to 18th century, made by SF knowing nothing of 18th century; SF’s view of film as wonderful because of human qualities. SF’s first meeting with French cameraman Philippe Rousselot; their agreement to make film like Fragonard painting; spirited, animated, with ‘mucky’ subtext. DL all shot in close-up, to show dishonesty of characters; decision evolved in first week, as actors couldn’t make it work unless shot in close-up; filmmaking a slow process of evolving of what works [30.18]. Need to see actors’ eyes. Comment on working with Angelica Huston, decision to shoot her whole body. Malkovic not a theatre actor, can’t make long shots work; a function of American cinema. Lighting of DL; all by candlelight; difficulties of making this kind of lighting work on film; explanation of how it was done in DL; use of chandelier of candles; cameramen’s liking for challenging jobs. Faster lenses, requiring less light; faster film stock; trail blazed by Kubrick in ‘Barry Linden’.
Life story interview with Stephen Frears, film and television director.