Frears, Stephen (8 of 11).  The legacy of the English Stage Company.

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  • Recording date

    2008-08-27, 2008-09-02, 2008-09-30, 2008-10-14, 2008-11-10, 2009-02-20, 2009-04-07

  • Interviewees

    Frears, Stephen, 1941- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Devine, Harriet (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: [Session 5: 10 November 2008] SF’s mobile phone. SF’s clothing, a dressing-gown. SF’s recent journey to LA to receive BAFTA award; his feelings about getting it and other awards; his visit to his son [FF], meeting with FF’s new wife Nicole [NF]; FF’s occupation, working on films; NF’s work, with film and with cancer charities. FF’s ambition to be a director; his two short films. SF’s older son WF also directing films, in New York; WF’s university career in USA; his green card; his work as a theatre director off-Broadway. SF’s desire for his children to become employable. SF’s complicated relationship with WF; AF as a very young stepmother. SF and AF’s early relationship; birth of FF; their marriage, for financial reasons; reasons for not marrying earlier; effect on relationship of being married. SF’s planned trip to Paris to meet Alexandre Desplat [AD], composer for ‘Cheri’; problems with ‘Cheri’, SF’s unwillingness to discuss them; editing film, disastrous preview in NYC, rewriting the opening, adding a voiceover [15.08]. Adding music, having to wait for AD, AD’s difficulty with writing music. AD’s music for ‘The Queen’. Process of working with a film composer. Effect of AD’s music on SF’s ideas about ‘Cheri’; SF’s need to re-cut as a result. SF’s liking for composers. AD’s success. Story of making of ‘The Grifters’; music by Elmer Bernstein [EB]; process stopped after viewing in Dublin; SF’s sense that something was wrong; visit of another composer [George Fenton] to see film; moving music around, making the film work; EB’s reaction; explanation of nature of changes. Finding a writer for ‘Grifters’; discussions with Donald Westlake [DW]. Writers’ strike, enabling SF to make DL. Subsequent return to ‘Grifters’; working on script with DW; ‘Grifters’ as a B-movie; pulp fiction as view of more interesting side of America; DW’s original script, modernising story, blander, duller; SF’s desire for melodrama, Sophocles. Martin Scorsese [MS] as producer; creating a budget; costing the film; actors and director ‘above the line’; SF no longer knows what he gets paid for directing, all negotiated by agents [30.21]. SF’s attitude to money; not making films for money. ‘Grifters’ a cheap film. ‘Cheri’ a hugely expensive film; need to film in Paris; employing a star, who brings Hollywood values. ‘Grifters’ a non-union film; casting the film; wanting Cher, who became out of reach after winning Oscar; cast from wrong side of tracks, much better. Approach of Tim Robbins. John Cusack, a teen heart-throb. Process of auditioning; quality SF looks for. Negotiations. Comparison with salaries at RCT, and at BBC. Willingness of stars to work for less money; SF’s willingness. Budget of ‘Cheri’, effect of currency fluctuations; ‘Cheri’ not making economic sense; SF’s discomfort. SF’s protection of ‘The Queen’, keeping it low budget. Negotiations in 2007 in US for film about Martin Luther King; a good script; need for large budget; reasons for turning it down. Filming of ‘Queen’, in wrong locations [45.00]; using Rothschild house for Buckingham Palace; audience reactions. Comparative sizes of Michael Sheen and Tony Blair. Collapse of Martin Luther King film; SF’s view that struggle is over now Obama elected. Uncertainty of SF’s future plans; his desire to go and teach; his teaching at National Film School, as David Lean Fellow; nature of his teaching. Unsatisfactory nature of film education in present day. SF’s teaching methods; some recent examples. Importance of clarity of thinking in film-making. SF’s decisiveness on set, not shooting a great deal. SF’s reaction to ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Re-shooting and re-writing ‘The Queen’; SF’s desire to re-shoot ‘Cheri’; importance of the writer, a legacy of RCT [59.50]. Ending of ‘Mary Riley’, or rather development of story; SF’s feeling that he should have stopped shooting the film; financial implications of stopping; SF’s verdict on the film; painful process of making the film; film a financial disaster. Role of Sony in financing the film. SF’s dislike of operating at high economic level. Film of ‘Tom Jones’, its unexpected success and effect on subsequent careers of those involved; comparison with ‘The Queen’, in raising expectations. RCT as a nursery. SF’s need to write the rules, impose own values on a film. SF’s film ‘The Snapper’, made for £1 million in Dublin 1993, from novel by Roddy Doyle. Comparison with ‘The Commitments’. Story of success of film: on TV, at Cannes, in UK cinemas. ‘The Van’, third in Doyle trilogy, less good than ‘Snapper’, made for cinema. Plot of ‘Snapper’, funny and heartbreaking. SF’s meeting in Paris with President Mitterand, his compliment to SF about ‘Snapper’. Cast of ‘The Van’. Re-negotiating BBC contracts for ‘Snapper’; SF’s contract, stipulation about his permission for cinema release of TV films. Richard Eyre’s experience. SF’s view of capitalism.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Stephen Frears, film and television director.

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