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Bright Dreams, Hard Knocks: A Journal for 1991 by John Boorman

Bright Dreams, Hard Knocks: A Journal for 1991 by John Boorman

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Published by Cinephilia & Beyond
"This journal is meant to record my observations about film in the coming
year. Had I written it in 1990, it would have been something of a horror
story." John Boorman
http://www.faber.co.uk/catalog/projections-1/9780571167296
"This journal is meant to record my observations about film in the coming
year. Had I written it in 1990, it would have been something of a horror
story." John Boorman
http://www.faber.co.uk/catalog/projections-1/9780571167296

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Published by: Cinephilia & Beyond on Oct 14, 2013
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1
Bright Dreams, HardKnocks: A Journal for
1991
John
Boorman
I
January
This
iournal
is
meant
to record my observations about
film
in the comingyear.
Had
I written it in
1990,
it would have
been
something
of
a horrorstory.In February
1990,
my film
Where
the
Heart
Is opened disastrously in theStates and, throughout the year, in other territories without
much
moresuccess. I wrote a screenplay
of
Lindsay Clarke's novel,
The
Ch)'miml
Wedding,
which so far has failed to find a taker among the Hollywood studios. Myagent and other friends in Hollywood urged me
to
do a 'studio' picture,
to
get back in the mainstream, to make a hit, rather than go on trying to finance
my
own quirky projects. Sheepishly, I pointed
out
that
U71ere
the
Heart
Is
hadbeen
my
attempt to make a contemporary American movie. Somehow itmutated into a creature that was not quite mine and not quite theirs.
As
Disney
chief
Jeffrey Katzenberg put it
when
our
horns were locked over thescript,
'The
trouble is, it's still a Boorman film. It's not a Disney film.'Afterwards,
he
thanked me for trying to accommodate their wishes andlamented, 'I guess, if you ask Hockney to paint a Renoir, however hard
he
tries, it will still come
out
looking like a Hockney.' I had to agree with him.
As
1990
wore on and
Ch)'mical
Wedding
looked more and more shaky, thepressure mounted. Richard
Gere
was making a picture for Warners called
Final
Ana(J'sis.
He
wanted me to direct it, and Warners were happy
if
he was.I read the script. It was about a psychiatrist who falls in love with the sister
of
a patient. It turns out
that
the two sisters are conniving in a convolutedplot to involve the gullible doctor in providing a medical alibi for the oldersister to get away with murdering
her
brutal husband.
The
script was a slysleight
of
hand written by Wesley Strick.
If
you picked a hole in it, the wholething unravelled,
but
it was intriguing. I set out to work on the script andwrote a new
treatment
in which I tried to make some sense
of
the plot andcharacters. I set the story in the context
of
a
New
York seen
as
an insaneasylum.
Gere
and Warners enthusiastically embraced my approach and a deal wasstruck. I went over to
New
York
and
visited some mental institutions in theamusing company
of
Dr
Bob Berger, who was the model for the
Gere
 
b
PROJECTIONS
character.
These
places were havens
of
tranquillity in the paranoia
of
Manhat-
tan, partly because
of
the drugs dispensed, and partly because the inmateswere safely
out
of
the battle field.In Los Angeles, Wesley Strick and I locked ourselves in a bungalow at theBeverly HiIls Hotel and plotted
out
a new script.
It
began to feel good: a mancaught in a nightmare, in a nightmare city.I went back
to
my home in Ireland while Wesley wrote it up. We hadworked it out in such detail that it took him only ten days. Warners readthe script, and made a few comments,
but
their reaction was positive andenthusiastic.Richard
Gere
had gone
off
to
Japan
to
act for Kurosawa.
The
script
\vas
waiting for him when he got back.
He
hated it. Wesley and I asked him tobe specific; maybe
we
could modify it. But he said,
'No,
it's the whole tone
of
the piece that's wrong.'
Gere
was very pleasant about it.
He
said, 'Youknow exactly the film you want to make.
Go
ahead and do it with anotheractor. I'll step away.'\Varners,
of
course, given the success
of
ret~)1
 
Woman,
wanted a Richard
Gere
movie. I went
to
LA and became marooned in a hotel room. Nobodyat Warners would take
my
calls while they tried to make up their minds aboutwhat to do.
As
I languished there, my only sustenance was gossip comingfrom old friends at Warners. I discovered that Harold Becker had
been
engaged to direct
Final Ana(ysis
before me,
but Gere
had not liked his versioneither, and he was canned.Finally, I
had
a painful meeting with the
head
of
Warners,
Terry
Semel,a
man
I have known for twenty years, going back to
Deliverance.
He
agreedwith Gere. My script was much too dark.
He
wanted it to be light andentertaining.
They
were aiming for the
Fatal Attraction
audience. Well, thetwo pictures shared the same initials.
That
was a start.I went home.
They
engaged Phil
Joanou
to direct
Final A
na
(j's
is
and poorWesley Strick had
to
start
aU
over again. I
unders~and
 
they now have a scriptthat pleases
Mr
Gere.
That
more
or
less concluded my year.
26
January
The
Academy voting papers arrived today.
They
list around 350 English-language films released in the United States in
1990
which are eligible forOscars. I've ticked
off
the ones I've seen. About forty. Another
100
titleswere familiar; I had
been
aware
of
their existence. So more than
half
thefilms released in the United States failed
to
impinge on
my
consciousness.Sadly, I expect
my
own contribution,
Tt7lere
the
Heart
Is,
aroused only vaguestirrings
or
sorrowful headshakes from Academy members: 'I
didn't
knowBoorman made a picture last year,' or, 'Boorman really
fell
on
his face this
 
7
RIGHT
DREAMS, HARDKNOCKS
time.' So I join the phantom ranks
of
films that fail, our dismal shuffle tooblivion recorded in that list. Like the names on a war memorial, the Academyimmortalizes our anonymity.
When
I recall the anguish and hopes pouredinto
my
film and then multiply it
by,
what?,
180
-
what a deluge
of
disappointment. Yet a business that
is
obsessed with success needs failure to feed on.
The
Oscar ceremony, that annual blood-sport, deems that all
but
one shall
fail.
Hope
and
Glory,
my
previous effort, swept critics' awards in Britain andAmerica, won a Golden Globe and sundry other trophies and was nominatedfor
five
Oscars;
100
million people witnessed
my
failure
to
win one.At the dinner afterwards the bravest approached me with the awkward longfaces people wear when they struggle to console the bereaved. Most
of
themshunned me in case failure was contagious.
That
was failure at the summit.
Where
the
Heart
Is
was a failure from theoutset.
It
is
dispiriting when your movie
is
both reviled by critics and spurned
by
the public.
It
did pick up a few passionate advocates along the way amongboth critics and public, and I was both delighted and astonished when itfound its way into a few
'ten
best' lists in the States and won the
US
NationalCritics award for best cinematography. However, its abject showing in thebox office has dented my credit rating at the studios.
The
rejection
of
my screenplay
of
The
Ch.vmical
Wedding
by
all the likelystudios in the States
is
not unconnected to that debacle. British Screen hasoffered money and enthusiasm and Canale Plus
is
ready to
put
in someinvestment, although somewhat reluctantly. Perhaps I can find a way
of
financing it without the Americans.I plan to shoot it in Ireland rather than England (where the novel
is
set),since here
we
can get tax-shelter investment which can contribute up to
IS
per cent
of
the budget. While the British film industry suffers one
of
its worstdeclines, Ireland flourishes. You fall over film units here, and all because
of
this modest incentive.
The
net gain to the Irish Exchequer
is
prodigious.European investors often make their involvement conditional on getting
US
distribution. Having done the rounds,
my
last hope was Orion, for whom,ten years ago, I made
Excalibur.
Last night I talked with Bill Bernstein, whonow runs the company.
He
had read the script carefully and was able toquote scenes and discuss characters.
He
claimed to like it and understand it,yet feared that its themes were too removed from the American movie-goer'sexperience for it to find an audience.
He
was expressing politely what otherstudios had
put
more crudely -this
is
not an American movie. Americansare interested only in Americans.
Go
away. Yet
we
are so dependent on theAmerican distributors that
we
cannot
go
away.
We have to go back cap inhand and try again. Perhaps this will be different.So far, the money I can raise falls just short
of
the very minimum I need

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