Stephen Frears, part 3


There are no dull interviews. Only dull interviewers. And those who blow obvious follow-up questions.

PK: Do you think younger people would be entertained by this movie?

SF: Yes, of course they would be, but they won't go to the cinema.

PK: And that's because...

SF: That's because they're programmed; they like pop culture. But when they see another kind of film different from what they're used to they love it. When I was growing up there were these things called general audiences.

PK: When do you think this change occured ?

SF: Well I know the cinema became self conscious in the late 50s.

PK: So the cinema became self conscious and broke away from the mainstream and the mainstream became more mainstream.

SF: Yes, that's right. the detriment of both?

SF: Yes, from my taste, yes. I mean, some people like it just fine. But I used to like going to the cinema; I can remember seeing "North By Northwest;" you really couldn't ask for a better film. It was so intelligent and so clever and so exciting. So I'm still stuck there, trying to see "North By Northwest."

PK: You're making a movie now about gamblers ?

SF: I may, yes, in the spring.

PK: People you see on TV...

SF: No, people who just sit at home watching computers, playing with the odds and finding the variations in the odds.

PK: And they gamble on horse racing, and...things like that, or?

SF: Anything.  They gamble on anything...this world...anything. Football, anything. They're looking for very slight variations.

PK: On the Oscars?

SF: Probably.

PK: Have you seen "California Split" (1974)?

SF: I've never seen it...I mean everyone always says it's wonderful, but you can't get it.

PK: Really? It's not on DVD?

SF: It sort of disappeared. But everybody says it was terrific.  The film the gamblers all like, though,  is "The Gambler" by Karel Reisz.

PK: Did you work on that one?

SF: No, but I knew Karel very well.

PK: Do you gamble yourself?

SF: No.

PK: And you don't go to movies anymore?

SF: No, I do.  The truth is I'll only see films in cinemas.

PK: You were in Toronto, right?

SF: I was in Toronto, yeah. But I didn't have a minute.

PK: Doing your favorite thing...interviews.

SF: (laughs)

PK: I've read other interviews and people say you're very difficult.

SF: Is that what everyone says?
PK: Not everyone, no. But I think it was the "Guardian" that said they had an interview with you and they had to do it a second time because the first one was so...laconic.

SF: People ask me questions, I answer them.

PK: But they expected you to go on in more detail...

SF: Self importance...

PK: You're answered all my questions.

SF: Have I done all right? Have I been laconic?

PK: I'd give you like a 98.

SF: 98 is fantastic!

PK: Not bad. Multiple choice next time.

SF: If you want my honest opinion, I think it has entirely to do with the interviewer.  If the interviewer is dull, I just pack up. So I kind of expect the interviewer to be interesting.

PK: With different questions..

SF: No, I can see that...but you can just tell when people are interesting. And I expect the interviewer to be as interesting as I am. And if they want me to be interesting, they have to stimulate me in some way.

PK: They have to be interested in your movies or...?

SF: Whatever it is...they just have to be interesting.  I'm very reactive.  And if I'm in the presence of someone boring, I tend to fall asleep.

PK: You're still awake.

SF: You've done alright. 98? 97 maybe. High 90s.

PK: So the only film that you have on the horizon is the gambling movie?

SF: Well that's enough. (laughs) How many do you want me to have on the horizon? It's two years of your life, yeah.  This one has been slightly quicker.  But that's what I mean...if I was critical, well that's a sort of lazy assumption that you have seven films you want to make. No, no, I have one film I want to make, and that's hard enough.

PK: Sometimes people have others that...

SF: Well they hedge their bets, yeah. But what often you're doing with questions is correcting the questions, if the questions are based on a view of the world that I don't share really. They describe your thinking in a way that you don't think, so it's like, how do I answer this?

PK: And you don't write so we can't read your memoirs and figure out what you do think.

SF: I don't want to, no...(laughs) absolutely.

PK: Which of the movies that you made...which was the most pleasure to make and which one was the most ...

SF: This one was a joy to make; a complete joy. I always have-I generally have a good time. If films go wrong, it's painful. And you know before anyone else that something's gone wrong.

PK: What kinds of things go wrong?

SF: I'm not going to tell you.

PK: Personnel problems?

SF: I'm not going to tell you.

PK: Weather related?

SF: I'm not going to tell you. (laughs) But something goes wrong and you think ‘Uh-oh, I've made a mistake.'

PK: So everything that didn't happen in this movie is what goes wrong in other movies?

SF: Yeah, but I don't know if that covers...that's meaningless. But, no, when things go wrong you just think, ‘Oh, I shouldn't be standing here.'

PK: This film sounded especially collaborative...

SF: It was a very, very happy time. I know perfectly well that I take responsibility for everything, but I enjoy collaborating. I mean, it makes perfect sense to me, and the film that comes out in the end seems okay. So the idea that you're sort of wearing jodphurs and carrying a whip or something...I don't know. People just have such odd ideas about the movies.

PK: It's a very tedious process.

SF: I think so. I think it's very, very pedestrian.  In the end, you require stamina and willingness to go on every day, you is what Oliver Stone says.

 PK: I don't see how people find the strength to do this over and over again.

SF: You don't have a choice. And also you find other bits of it interesting; like I find all the other people interesting.

PK: Somebody like de Oliveria, who's 100 years does he do that? He's still making movies.

SF: Well he's like a child...he's wonderful.

PK: You've met him?

SF: Yeah. He's like a child.  He's just sort of misbehaving.  And a lot of the impulse to make films comes from things like that, that sort of unruliness. I look at early films; for some reason I saw some of my early films the other day...and you just thought, ‘My God...' And we just sort of stood there giggling thinking we were so silly and how we were... 

PK: Like "The Hit" (1984)?

SF: I might do a remake of "The Hit."

PK: The noir sensibility is back in fashion.

SF: We might do a remake of it in Mexico.

PK: Or "Gumshoe" (1971).

SF: Oh, "Gumshoe" is great. It's a really good script.

PK: It was in '71 and then you didn't make anything for a while...

SF: Well I then went and learned my job in TV (laughs).  I learned how to make films.  I was slightly out of my depth to make "Gumshoe." Not to make the material, I could deal with the material...but the whole, running a film crew.

PK: So BBC is kind of the nursery.

SF: The nursery...that's where we all learned.  They'll never be another thing like that. It was fantastic.

PK: You're number 63 on the hundred pop culture figures in Britain according to a poll from 2008.

SF: Is that right?

PK: Yeah.

SF: That seems rather high.

PK: Just to be in the top hundred is an accomplishment.

SF: I'm glad I didn't know that...I would've been so frightened I would've shot myself.

PK: Second guessing yourself...

SF: Yes, yes. I think we're all...the filmmakers I know...are all more innocent than the people around them.

PK: That's not the impression that...

SF: Yes, I know. We're thought to be very cynical people. Actually, we're innocent.

PK: You have a kind of arrested development...?

SF: No, but I'm struck what a naïve view of the world most of us have.

PK: There's  a playfulness to it.

SF: That's right

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