By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
Early on in the book, there’s an image of Anderson lugging heavy groceries when he meets Malcolm McDowell. Apart from his directorial accomplishments, his life seemed very ordinary.
I think when you look at Lindsay‘s life on the surface, it was ordinary, but when you think that it was Lindsay Anderson living that life, it becomes extraordinary. By which I mean, the person who made those films, you wouldn’t think he was living that kind of life. That was part of the Puritan side of him; he didn‘t enjoy luxury, he didn’t really like good food.
Yes, I think it‘s true. Nothing ever happened. It’s quite extraordinary. When I first read [his] diaries, they didn‘t tell me anything I didn’t know, but what they did tell me was how desperate he was and how it went on until almost the end of his life. Which to me makes it even more impressive that he achieved as much as he did, with that sort of terrible, lonely frustration at the heart of his life.
Given the fact you were both involved in moviemaking, how is it that you never collaborated?
We tried to once: this project that got turned down, The Grand Babylon Hotel, a sort of Grand Hotel story set on the eve of World War I. Lindsay had written me, some project had collapsed, and he said, a “Do you have any ideas? It might be fun to work together.” And I remember suggesting a couple of things that he wasn‘t so keen on. There was a Nabokov novel that I thought would make a good movie, and he said, “No, I want something more commercial, I’ve got to be a little more commercial,” and that‘s when I suggested Grand Babylon Hotel, and he liked it. We did get development money for it, and the script turned out really quite well. It was sponsored by a producer at Columbia, and then the studio went through a management change and the usual clean sweep occurred, and they threw out all the previous projects and very meanly wouldn’t put it in turnaround, so it died.
You mentioned in the book that you started writing The Slide Area in Paris. Did you feel you had to be away from Hollywood to write about it?
No, that just happened because the last film I worked on with Nicholas Ray, this film made in Europe, Bitter Victory, there were problems with the producer, and he was withholding my salary for a month or so but paying my expenses. So I was holed up in this hotel, and I couldn‘t leave, because I was determined to stay and get the money that he owed me. And I wanted something to do. I guess the idea of The Slide Area had sort of been around somewhere in my unconscious, and it came up. So I occupied that month by starting to sketch it out.
You’ve seemed to accomplish what all writers aspire to, and that is to work continuously.
I‘ve been lucky in that I could write screenplays as well as novels and nonfiction, so that when any idea for a book was running dry, there might be a movie script coming up, which was a wonderful way of keeping my hand in. Finally, I think I attach more importance to the books I’ve written than to the movies I‘ve written. That’s simply because in a book you‘re on your own, and you are responsible for what’s good and what isn‘t good. In movies, it can get very boring sometimes when somebody says, “That was a terrible scene in that movie you wrote,” and you say, “I didn’t write it.”
Many serious writers feel sullied by working in the film industry, that their talents are co-opted and they develop an animus toward the industry. I gather from the Anderson book, you don‘t feel that way at all.
I don’t. I get rather impatient with these writers, particularly with New York writers, who get very snooty about the movies. But I‘m terribly grateful to them, because for me it was wonderful. I could earn as much money in three months on a movie as I could in a year or two on a novel. Also, I love movies. Writers who resent working in movies do not like collaboration. If you go to work on a movie thinking it’s going to be your film, you‘re asking for trouble. It’s ultimately not your film. I accept that.
That‘s an egalitarian attitude.
I think it’s the only way it can work. I find it fascinating to work with a good director, a director I‘m in sync with. And that’s why, for instance, the various changes that had to be made in the adaptation of Inside Daisy Clover -- I was much more interested in doing a new version than just doing a faithful adaptation, that is, to try and be creative within the context of the movie.
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