Fernab von dem Oscar-Trubel, dem Hype um Newcomer und Comebacks und den tausendfach erzählten Erfolgsgeschichten, werden Filme gemacht. Und nichts daran ist glamourös oder schillernd. Es ist Arbeit, und sie ist undankbar. Projekte werden jahrelang vorbereitet und nie gedreht. Filme werden gedreht und finden keinen Verleih. Geld wird ausgegeben, mit der ständigen Gefahr, es nie wieder zu sehen.
Ich hatte zwei Filme des britischen Regisseurs Bernard Rose gesehen, die mich nicht mehr losgelassen haben. Die Filme waren Ivansxtc und The Kreutzer Sonata. Beteiligt an diesen Filmen war Lisa Enos, Produzentin und Schauspielerin. Zusammen experimentierten sie mit dem digitalen Format und das zu einer Zeit, als die Vorherrschaft des Zelluloids unanfechtbar schien. Ihre Ehe hat die Kollaboration nicht überstanden, geblieben sind einige tolle Filme. Der Erfolg blieb aus, aber die Reputation von Filmen wie Ivansxtc, die ihrer Zeit etwas zu weit voraus waren, wächst nach wie vor.
Lisa Enos hat an der Michigan State University studiert. Der Tod ihres Vaters in ihrem zweiten College-Jahr hat ihren ursprünglichen Plan, eine Karriere beim Theater anzustreben, vereitelt. Sie hat längere Zeit studiert, bis sie schließlich ihren Abschluss in Wirtschaft gemacht hat. Eine reine business decision, wie sie sagt.
Dennoch hat sie das Leben irgendwie zurück zu den Künsten getrieben. Im ersten Teil des Interviews spricht sie über ihre Anfänge als Dokumentarfilmerin, ihre erste Begegnung mit Bernard Rose und ivansxtc.
Bitte erzähl mir ein wenig von dir. Was hast du gemacht, bevor du zum Film kamst?
LE: Nach dem College bin ich nach Chicago gezogen, einerseits weil es die größte, nächstgelegene Stadt war, andererseits weil man kein Auto brauchte, um mobil zu sein, wie das in den meisten Städten in den Vereinigten Staaten der Fall war. Ich fing an, mich für Jobs auf meinem Gebiet zu bewerben, und war frustriert mit den Bewerbungsgesprächen, wo ich Dinge gefragt wurde wie „Wie schnell können sie tippen?“ Währenddessen haben meine männlichen Kommilitonen gute Jobangebote bekommen, Trainee-Stellen, etc.
Aber es hat nicht lange gedauert, vielleicht ein paar Wochen, als sich mir eine ganz neue Möglichkeit bot. Ich hab in einem Pub gekellnert. Ein junger Mann, der direkt neben dem Pub wohnte, kam herein, ich war die Einzige, die gerade Schicht hatte. Nach dem großen Andrang zur Mittagszeit, herrschte stets Flaute, daher setzte ich mich ins Büro und spielte ein wenig mit dem Grafikprogramm am PC, ich denke es war Corel Draw. Ich hab mich mit dem jungen Mann angefreundet und zeigte ihm meine Bilder, die ich am PC erstellt habe. Es stellte sich heraus, dass er der Kopf einer kleinen Filmproduktionsfirma, Loxley Hall Productions, war, und auf der Suche nach einem Künstler. Ich sollte für ihn ein Bild von Zähnen anfertigen, für einen Vertrieb für Lehrfilme. Ziemlich banales Zeug.
Und so hab ich an weiteren Kurzlehrfilmen für Loxley Hall gearbeitet. Zwei der jungen Partner hatten die Firma verlassen, um nach LA zu gehen. So begann ich Lehrfilme zu produzieren. Ich habe eine Serie namens Life Lessons geschrieben, die an Schulen vertrieben wurde. Das Zielpublikum waren Kindergartenkinder bis Drittklässler. Das war 1994. Wir arbeiteten mit der neuesten Technologie, die es so gab, und haben den Rohschnitt auf unseren Heim-PCs erstellt, was damals recht ungewöhnlich war.
So konnten wir gutes Geld verdienen, und das, obwohl die Filme recht aufwändig produziert waren. Dann wurde ich irgendwann Partner bei Loxley Hall Productions. Ich hab viele Filme produziert, u.a. Dokumentationen für A&E Televison und den History Channel.
Während der Arbeit für Loxley Hall traf ich Ron Forsythe, den späteren Kameramann von allen Filmen, die Bernard und ich zusammen gemacht haben. 1995 haben wir die Firma von Chicago nach Portland, Oregon verlegt, zum einen wegen des milderen Klimas, zum anderen wegen der Aufgeschlossenheit der Westküste dem digitalen Format gegenüber. Außerdem haben die Gewerkschaften in Chicago die Arbeit erschwert. Das Problem bestand in Portland nicht.
Es hat eine Weile gedauert, bis wir Klienten fanden. Zwischendurch hatte ich bei der Werbeagentur Weiden and Kennedy gearbeitet. Ich hab Marktforschungsvorgänge für Nike, Coca Cola und Kodak aufgezeichnet. Eins meiner lustigsten Erlebnisse bei W&K hatte ich, als ich nach Lansing, Michigan musste, wo OK Cola getestet wurde, ein experimenteller Coca Cola-Softdrink. Ich hab Leute interviewt, Zielgruppen untersucht, usw. um rauszufinden, was die Leute davon hielten, und dann alles zu einem Film zusammengeschnitten. Das Witzige war, dass die Meisten den Softdrink für „Ok“ hielten, also verschwand das Produkt schnell in der Versenkung. Dann hörte ich von Luba Tryszynska, einer polnischen Jüdin, die im Zweiten Weltkrieg 54 holländische Kinder aus Bergen-Belsen rettete. Die Geschichte hat mich nicht losgelassen, also hab ich eine Dokumentation darüber gemacht. Die Werbeagentur hab ich verlassen.
Wie hast du Bernard Rose getroffen?
LE: Ich zog 1998 nach Los Angeles. Ich hatte ein paar Leute zum Abendessen eingeladen, in das Restaurant Drai's auf La Cienega. Bernard war das Date eines meiner Freundinnen, Heidi Jo Markel. Er schaute sich um. An den Tischen saßen wunderschöne junge Frauen neben grauhaarigen Anzugträgern und er sagte: „Sieht aus wie eine Hurenparty für alte Männer.“ Ich hab mich sofort in ihn verliebt. Es war lustig, weil es stimmte, aber niemand hatte den Mumm, es auszusprechen. Das ist typisch Bernard. Er ist selbst sein schlimmster Feind, weil er sich einfach nicht beherrschen kann. Manche Leute sagen, dass alles was er denkt, ungefiltert seinen Mund verlässt. Fluch und Segen zugleich. Später, als wir verheiratet waren, wurde er mit dem Tourette-Syndrom diagnostiziert. Jeder, der Bernard kennt, weiß, dass er manchmal nicht ganz auf dem Damm ist. Er hat Ticks und haut manchmal wohlformulierte, anstatt zufällige, Obszönitäten raus. So wird er oft missverstanden.
Wer hatte die Idee zu Ivans XTC? Und wessen Idee war es, den Film digital zu drehen?
LE: Bernard wollte einen Film über einen Hollywood-Agenten machen, der auf Tolstojs Protagonist aus Der Tod des Iwan Iljitsch basiert. Wir haben oft drüber gesprochen und das bevor einige meiner Dokumentationen (Copycat Crimes für A&E Television) im Fernsehen ausgestrahlt wurden. Ich sagte ihm, dass die Filme, an denen ich gearbeitet habe, um die 200,000 $ gekostet haben, also dachte er, sie würden furchtbar aussehen. Er kannte sich noch nicht aus mit dem digitalen Format. Als er meine Filme sah, war er erstaunt über die gute Bildqualität. So kam es zustande.
Jetzt kennt man ihn vor allem als denjenigen, der den Einsatz von Digitaltechnik für diese Art von Film praktisch erfunden hat, aber ehrlich gesagt hab ich 1996 den ersten digitalen Film für den History Channel gedreht. Der Film hießt Angel of Bergen-Belsen und wurde von meinem Kameramann Ron Forsythe, der später für Bernard arbeiten sollte, auf einer Panasonic AJD-750 gedreht. Also, wer hatte die Idee, den Film digital zu drehen? Wir kamen zusammen darauf! Ich hatte das Know-How und die Crew und Bernard war der Mann mit der Vision.
War Ivans XTC das erste Skript, das du geschrieben hast? Wie bist du an das Schreiben rangegangen? Und wie bist du bei der Adaption vorgegangen?
LE: Es war nicht mein erstes Skript. Ich hatte bereits viele kurze Lehrfilme geschrieben und den Voice Over-Kommentar zu einer meiner Dokumentationen. Ich hatte auch ein Drehbuch mit dem Titel Underground News geschrieben. Ich hab daran gearbeitet, als ich Bernard Rose traf. Er hat's gelesen und mich gebeten, mit ihm an Ivans XTC zu arbeiten.
Neulich hab ich mit dem Rechteinhaber von Underground News gesprochen, um das Projekt zu reanimieren. Es ist etwas knifflig, da es auch darum gehen würde, Videoaufnahmen einiger kultureller Ikonen der 70er Jahre in den Film einzuweben, wie in Forrest Gump. Es geht um eine Nachrichtensendung aus Chicago, die in den 70er Jahren ausgestrahlt wurde. Die Sendung hieß Underground News und war der Anlaufort für Prominente aller Art, die ihre Meinung zum Vietnamkrieg, der Korruption und der US-Regierung im Allgemeinen kundtun wollten. Während die Mainstream-Medien versucht haben, die Opferzahlen und die Kriegsverbrechen herunterzuspielen, hat eine Gruppe junger, unerschrockener Fernsehmacher Interviews mit Jane Fonda, John Lennon, Donald Sutherland, Abbie Hoffman, Woody Allen, Mitgliedern der Grateful Dead und vielen anderen geführt, die was dazu zu sagen hatten. Diese Aufnahmen existieren noch und sie sind großartig!
Was das Ivans XTC-Skript betrifft, wollte ich totalen Realismus. Bernard begann das Skript zunächst allein, und es hatte Szenen wie aus einem Actionfilm, zum Beispiel eine Szene, in der Ivan gekidnappt wird, gefesselt, festgehalten wird, also reißerisches Zeug. Auf mich wirkte das wie ein Vorwand, ein billiger Versuch, Dramatik zu erzeugen, obwohl die Hauptfigur doch schon an Krebs litt. Ich fand, das Drama sollte subtiler sein und sich auf Momente konzentrieren, wie den „verhängnisvollen Anruf“ des Arztes, der dir sagt, kommen sie vorbei und bringen sie besser jemanden mit.
Da hab ich mich gegen Bernard durchgesetzt. Wenn ich schon einen Film über Krebs machte, dann sollte es besser echt sein. Er sagte stets, er wolle sich auch Krankenhäuser ansehen und Recherche betreiben, er hatte es wohl wirklich vor, aber er tat es letztlich nicht. Und so entschied er sich, er, der seinen Screen Credit sonst nie geteilt hat, mir eine Chance zu geben und mich am Drehbuch arbeiten zu lassen.
Ich finde, Ivans XTC wirkt sehr naturalistisch, einerseits durch das Cassavetes-mäßige Schauspiel, andererseits durch den Digitallook.
LE: Diese Cinema Verité-Qualität des Films war auf jeden Fall intendiert. Der Grund, warum wir bei dem Film kollaboriert haben, war meine Erfahrung im Dokumentarfilm, sowie der kürzliche Krebstod meiner Mutter, außerdem gefiel Bernard, was er von mir gelesen hat. Ich strebe nach Authentizität. Ich hab eine Menge eingebracht, was den Krankheitsaspekt der Geschichte betrifft. Bernard hatte keine Ahnung von Krebs, das war sogar einer der Gründe, warum er mich so sehr involviert hat: ich wusste Bescheid und hatte mich bis zum Schluss um jemand Krebskranken gekümmert.
Einige Leute waren nicht gerade erfreut, dass ich mich als Produzentin selbst im Film besetzt hab. Ich hab das so gesehen: Ich hatte mittlerweile als Regisseurin gearbeitet (ich hatte bei meinem letzten Film einen Director's Credit bekommen), und nur zu produzieren erschien mir langweilig. Also dachte ich, wenn wir Danny Huston besetzten, wäre es ein Kinderspiel, seine Freundin zu spielen. Wir waren ja Freunde, hatten also eine gute Chemie zusammen. Danny hatte bis dato nur Kleinstrollen gehabt, zum Beispiel als Barkeeper in Leaving Las Vegas. Außerdem wurde er wegen seiner Freundschaft mit Bernard in Anna Karenina besetzt.
Ich wollte mit dem Film wirklich Geld verdienen. Das heißt, ich wollte das Material auf Film zurück transferieren, ohne bekannt zu machen, wir hätten digital gedreht. Doch Bernard war total begeistert von der Ästhetik und begann quasi kostenlose Werbung für die Sony HD Cam zu machen. Es hat uns nicht viel gebracht. Dabei hab ich versucht einen Film zu machen, der nach mehr als seinem 68,000 $-Budget aussah. Das haben wir am Ende zwar irgendwie hingekriegt, aber es war keine Hilfe, dass das Großmaul von Regisseur überall mit dem kleinen Budget des Films angegeben hat.
Wie hat das Publikum auf den Film reagiert?
LE: Kommt drauf an, welches Publikum du meinst. Die Hollywoodagenten mochten den Film überhaupt nicht. Frauen mittleren Alters und Leute, die Freunde oder Verwandte an Krebs verloren haben, schienen am meisten was damit anfangen zu können. Vielleicht mochten die Frauen auch einfach die Figur, die Danny Huston gespielt hat, trotz ihrer schmierigen Art. Andere haben den Film gehasst. Ich glaube, Avi Lerner wollte, dass wir den Film umschneiden und Ivans Tod rückgängig machen. Schon irgendwie witzig. Aus dem Ausland hat sich niemand an den Film rangetraut.
Bernard hat rumerzählt, dass es in dem Film eigentlich um Jay Maloney geht, einem Agenten, den ich nie getroffen habe. Maloney wurde von der CAA entlassen (gefeuert?). Es ging das Gerücht um, Drogen wären im Spiel gewesen. Dass Bernard den Film mit dieser Geschichte in Verbindung brachte, hat zwar Interesse geweckt, den Film aber auch in eine Kontroverse hineingezogen. Dabei war alles nur Fiktion. Es ging nicht um Jay Maloney. Am Ende der Postproduktion in Burbank, legte unser Sound Mixer Elmo Webber letzte Hand an, um den Film noch am selben Tag unserem CAA-Agenten Adam Krentzman zu zeigen. Da erfuhren wir, dass Jay Maloney sich erhängt hat. Es war wirklich traurig.
Bis zum heutigen Tag hab ich das manchmal das Gefühl, dass Bernards Spinnereien, er mache einen Film über Maloney, und die Gerüchte, die in LA die Runde machten, ihn vielleicht in den Selbstmord getrieben haben. Für mich handelte der Film nicht von Jay. (Wenn du ein wenig recherchierst, findest du einige Artikel über Jay Maloney. Eine wirklich tragische Geschichte)
Ich denke, Ivans XTC hat den Weg geebnet für Filme wie Paul Schraders The Canyons, der den digitalen Look ebenso wie eine Auszeichnung vor sich trägt, und nicht wie einen finanziellen Makel. Hast du den Film gesehen?
LE: Nein, habe ich nicht, aber das werde ich! Ich verehre Paul Schrader sehr. Ich hab ihn 2004 auf dem Edinburgh Film Festival getroffen, als Snuff-Movie herauskam. Wir bedauern beide, dass unsere Heimat Michigan sich im Würgegriff christlicher Fundamentalisten befindet. Ironischerweise lebe ich jetzt in Grand Rapids, Michigan, wo Paul Schrader geboren und aufgewachsen ist. Ich hab viel von seiner Arbeit gelernt. Zum Beispiel, als ich für die Reihe Copycat Crimes gearbeitet hab und dabei einen Ausschnitt aus Taxi Driver, den er ja geschrieben hat, benutzt habe. Ich hab auch die Produzentin des Films interviewt, die verstorbene Julia Phillips.
Ich frage mich manchmal, wie Taxi Driver geworden wäre, wenn Schrader ihn gedreht hätte anstatt Martin Scorsese.
Ich frage mich manchmal, wie Taxi Driver geworden wäre, wenn Schrader ihn gedreht hätte anstatt Martin Scorsese.
Ein schöner Gedanke, dass Schrader Ivans XTC gesehen hat und vielleicht sogar davon beeinflusst wurde.
Hier geht's zu Teil 2.
UNABRIDGED ENGLISH VERSION:
Please tell me a little bit about your background. What did you study? What did you work on before you got into films?
I studied many things at Michigan State University. I changed my major 8 times before ending up with a degree in Business. Part of the indecision was because I wanted to go into theater, but my father died unexpectedly in my second year of college. Without parental financial support I didn't know how I would be able to pursue a career in theater. New York City is where you have to go to do that. As you may know, in the USA in order to get health insurance, at least in those days, one had to be employed 40 hours per week at a company that offered a healthcare plan. For this reason alone many people from working families choose career paths in college based simply on estimates of what jobs will be available when they graduate. I chose business, Materials and Logistics Management, to be specific, because that was supposedly going to be the easiest field in which to secure employment upon graduation.
I enjoyed appearing in plays and acting since the age of 10, so the fact that I didn't end up majoring in theater had little to do with what I felt inclined to pursue. In short, ironically, it was a business decision to study Business.
After college I moved to Chicago because it was the closes large city to home and one doesn't need to own a car in order to get around, like most cities in the US. I started applying for jobs in my field and was disappointed with the questions I was being asked by potential employers, one of which was, "How fast can you type?" Meanwhile, the males who had graduated with me were getting good job offers in management trainee positions. I took a job waitressing at a pub and it didn't take long - a couple of weeks maybe - for an opportunity of another sort to present itself to me. A young man who lived next door to the pub came in one day when I was the only person working. After the lunch rush each day was a lull in activity. I would sit at the computer in the restaurant's office and draw using a graphics program that came with the computer. I think it was Corel Draw. I became friends with this young man and showed him my drawings on the computer. He told me he had a small film production company, Loxley Hall Productions, and was in need of an artist. He contracted me to draw some teeth for a video he was making for an educational distributor, The Altschul Group. The name of the video was "Care of Children's Teeth." Very mundane stuff!
Loxley Hall Productions had other upcoming short films in the pipeline and needed someone like me to help produce them as two of their young partners had recently left Chicago to pursue other projects in LA. Thus began my career writing, producing and directing educational films. I wrote a series called, Life Lessons that was distributed to classrooms. The films were aimed at kids in grades Kindergarten through third. This was in 1994. We used all the new technology available to make these videos and basically desktop published the rough cuts and then would go into post production facilities to "finish" the films. This allowed us to make money at a business that was still giving "film" budgets for movies. I eventually became a partner at Loxley Hall Productions and produced quite a few films, including documentaries for A&E Television (& The History Channel).
It was while working for Loxley Hall Productions that I met Ron Forsythe who ended up becoming the DP of all of the films Bernard and I shot together as well. In 1995 we moved the company, Loxley Hall Productions from our base in Chicago to Portland, Oregon. The milder climate and the West Coast embracing of digital format prompted the decision. Unions in Chicago were difficult to work around. This wasn't a problem in Portland.
It took a while to find clients. In the mean time I took a job at Weiden and Kennedy Advertising where I worked on the Nike account. I essentially made research videos for Nike and Coca Cola and Kodak. One of the most fun things I did while at W&K was to travel back to Lansing, Michigan which was a test market for an experimental Coca-Cola soft drink called, OK Cola. I interviewed people, conducted focus groups, etc. and then cut the piece together to let them know what people thought of "Ok." Funny thing is, most people just said they thought it tasted OK and we never heard another thing about the beverage. I left the ad agency after I came across the story about Luba Tryszynska, a polish Jew who had saved 54 Dutch children at Bergen Belsen during WWII. I was so enthralled by the story that I set about making that documentary.
How did you meet Bernard Rose?
I moved to Los Angeles in August of 1998. Shortly thereafter I invited some friends out to dinner at a restaurant called Drai's on La Cienega. Bernard came along as the date of a friend of mine, Heidi Jo Markel. I fell instantly in love with him when he looked around the room full of several tables of gorgeous young women sitting opposite silver haired suiters. He said, "It looks like an old man and whore party in here." I thought it was funny because it was true, but nobody else had the nerve to say it. That's Bernard for you. He's his own worst enemy because he doesn't hold anything back. Some people refer to it has having "no filter." It's a blessing as well as a curse. Later in our marriage he was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome. Anyone who knows Bernard can tell there's something a bit off about him. He has ticks and though he doesn't shout out random, but rather well versed obscenities, he's often times misunderstood.
Who came up with the idea of making Ivans Xtc? Whose Idea was it to shoot the film digitally?
Bernard had this idea that he wanted to make a movie about an agent and base it on the main character, Ivan, in Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Illyich. We talked about the story for a while before one of my documentaries (Copycat Crimes, which I directed for A&E Television) was due to air on TV. I'd told him the budget level of the films I'd been working on was $200,000, so he was expecting them to look like crap. He wasn't familiar with the new digital technology. When he saw the quality of the images in my documentary he was astonished. That's how the decision came about. Now he's become known as the guy who practically invented the use of digital film for these types of films, but honestly, I'd made the first digital film to ever air on A&E Television (History Channel) in 1996. The film was called Angel of Bergen Belsen and it was shot using the Panasonic AJD-750 by my Director of Photography Ron Forsythe, who has gone on to work on several of Bernard's films.
So who's idea was it to shoot the film on digital video? It was a decision we arrived at jointly. I had the know-how and the crew and he was the man with the vision.
Was Ivans Xtc the first script you’ve ever written? How did you approach it, and how did you approach it as an adaptation?
No. In addition to writing several short educational film scripts and a documentary (the narrator's, Bill Kurtis' commentary) I'd also written a feature film script called, Underground News. I was working on it when I met Bernard Rose. I let him read it and he convinced me to work on ivansxtc with him.
I've recently approached the owner of Underground News to revisit the idea of producing it as a feature film. It's a little tricky because it involves weaving real video footage of cultural icons from the 1970s into a feature film, a la Forest Gump. The story is about a news show that aired in Chicago during the 1970s on public access television. The show was called Underground News and it became the place for celebrities to go to discuss their feelings about the Vietnam war and other grievances about the US government and corruption. While mainstream news was trying to downplay the number of casualties and other wartime atrocities, a group of ragtag young producers were conducting interviews with everyone who had something to say on the subject including Jane Fonda, John Lennon, Donald Sutherland, Abbie Hoffman, Woody Allen, members of the Greatful Dead and many more counter culture icons. All of this footage still exists and it's extraordinary!
As far as the script, ivansxtc, I was going for total realism. Bernard started writing it without me, but it had a bunch of scenes in it that seemed like stuff you'd find in an action movie, where Ivan gets kidnapped, bound and gagged and left for dead, you know, sensational stuff. To me, that seemed like a cop out, a cheap way to build a drama when the guy already had cancer. I thought the drama should be more subtle and focus on the moments that really mean something to a cancer victim, like that moment you get "the call" from the doctor's office in which they tell you to be sure to bring someone with you.
I put my foot down and told Bernard if I was going to make a movie about cancer that it was going to be real. He kept saying he was going to go to a hospital and do some research and even made initial plans to do so, but in the end he never did and Bernard, who has never shared a screenplay credit with anyone else, decided to let me have a go at the script.
I think, Ivans Xtc has a very naturalistic feel to it. On the one hand, you have the Cassavetes-style acting and on the other hand there’s the digital look which gives the film a certain realness.
Not sure what the question is, but yes, it was by design that the film have that cinema verité
quality to it. The reason we began working together on the project was because of my background in documentary films and the fact my mother had just died of cancer and because Bernard had liked my writing samples. I go for real. I brought a lot to the table when it came to that aspect of the story. Bernard knew nothing of cancer, in fact, it was one of the main things that attracted him to me; I knew about cancer and taking care of someone who had cancer up until the point of death.
A lot of people were taken aback that as the producer I would cast myself in the movie. The way I looked at it is that I'd already graduated to directing films (my most recent film was a documentary which I had received director credit) and just producing seemed like it would be dull. You know, running around making sure the talent were all happy and stuff like that. I figured if we cast Danny Huston then it wouldn't be a stretch for me to play his girlfriend. After all, we had good chemistry, were all good friends and Danny had only had very bit parts in a couple movies, one being Leaving Las Vegas where he played a bar tender. The other was Anna Karenina because he was Bernard's buddy. I intended to make money out of the picture. It was my intention to transfer it to film without telling anyone we'd shot it on HD, but when it came out Bernard was really excited about the aesthetic quality of the video and started acting as an unpaid PR man for the Sony HD Cam. It didn't help the cause. I was trying to produce a movie that looked like we spent more than $68,000 on it. In the end, I think we accomplished that, but it didn't help that the big mouth director was bragging all over town and in magazines about how little it cost. SMDH.
How did audiences react to Ivans Xtc?
It depends on who the audience was. Agents didn't seem to like it at all. It seemed to resonate most with middle age women, and people who had lost someone to cancer. It is quite possible that middle age women in the audience fancied Danny's character and that's why, despite the character's sliminess, they had a soft spot for him. Other people just loathed the film. I think Avi Lerner wanted us to re-cut the film so that Ivan lives. It was just sort of funny. Nobody in foreign sales really wanted to touch it. Bernard had told this story that it was really about a CAA agent named Jay Maloney, whom I'd never met. Maloney had reportedly been dismissed (fired?) from CAA under bad circumstances. There were rumors of drug addiction. With Bernard telling everyone the story was about Jay, it raised their interest, but it also made the film controversial, when, in fact, it was a complete work of fiction. The story wasn't about Jay Maloney at all. The absolute saddest thing that happened on the whole film was that when we were finishing the film in Burbank, working with the sound mixer, Elmo Webber, the very first day we were set to screen it for our agent at CAA, Adam Krentzman, we received some shocking news. Jay Maloney had reportedly hung himself!
To this day I worry if Bernard's over-the-top musings about how he was making a movie about Jay Maloney -- and the rumors around LA, about some of the scenes -- might have drove him to suicide. In my mind it was never about Jay. That was just an angle Bernard would use to pitch it. (If you do your research there are some third party articles about Jay Maloney. So tragic and sad.)
I think, Ivans Xtc did, in a way, pave the way for films like Paul Schrader's The Canyons which also uses the digital look not as a flaw, but as a trademark and as a style. Have you seen it? What did you think?
No. I have not seen it, but now I'm going to! I greatly admire Paul Schrader. I met him in 2004 at the Edinburgh Festival, during the release of Snuff-Movie where we sat down and commiserated together about the stranglehold the Christian Right has on our Native West Michigan. Ironically, I now live in Grand Rapids (Michigan) where Paul Schrader was born and raised. I'd learned of him years before during my work on Copycat Crimes and had used a clip of Taxi Driver, which he wrote, and I interviewed the film's producer, the late Julia Phillips. I wonder how Taxi Driver would have turned out had they let Schrader direct it (instead of Martin Scorsese)?
It's fun to think that Schrader saw ivansxtc and that it may have influenced him.
The next project you and Bernard Rose worked on was Snuff-Movie. Tell me how it came about.
Snuff-Movie was a product of Bernard's twisted imagination. He had this idea that he wanted to make me the star so we'd be able to finance movies using my name. Ivansxtc hadn't gone so well financially. We still owed my investors money back and were living in a loft apartment in Chicago at the time it was written. The first time I read the script I threw it across the room. I was pregnant for our oldest child, our daughter, Sadie, and in the first few pages the main character (Mary Arkadin, who is an actress and also plays Wendy in the film) was in a scene of The Fall of the House of Usher. This character, dressed in Victorian garb, is lying on a table, heavily pregnant and near death when they decided to plunge a knife into her belly to save the unborn baby. It freaked me out so badly that I threw the script in anger.
When I watched Snuff-Movie I wondered if you were afraid of being sued because of the clear references to the Tate-LaBianca murders.
While that particular murder scene had a similar set up to the Tate-Labianca murders, no actual reference was made to them. The character being faux-murdered was Mary Arkadin, Boris' wife, a fictional character. It was all purely fictional. I wasn't at all afraid of being sued because there are no grounds for a law suit.
Bernard's the type of person who is always trying to extract ideas from the people he surrounds himself with. I refused to discuss Snuff-Movie with him. I found the script somewhat loathsome and disturbing. A few years later when we actually made it (and our two children had made it safely out of my womb) it was a blast. It was a very fun picture to make out in Romania, and with such a great supporting cast and crew.
I think you have a great presence in the movies. Have you acted before?
I'm not sure if you're referring to Snuff-Movie or ivansxtc. Obviously I'd acted in ivansxtc. and yes, I did a lot of theater in high school and some in college, but had been primarily behind-the-camera since college.
Snuff-Movie is actually a very clever movie which operates on so many different levels. But it’s disguised as a cheap horror film. Did you think, during the making, the movie would find its audience or was it just another digital experiment that wasn’t meant to make money anyway?
All films are intended to make money. That film was one of three films we were collaborating on under the horror film umbrella, Kensington Gore. In the end we decided to use the name ER Productions (short for Enos Rose) because it just made more sense. We had an LTD by that name and so that was the production company that produced Snuff in partnership with Donald Kushner's Junction Films. I spent nine months negotiating our three-picture deal and paid a lawyer about 30,000 pounds for said contract. We all need to eat. We're not independently wealthy.
I thought Snuff Movie would be a lot more commercially successful than it was, but Bernard tends to push the envelope. He doesn't realize that not everyone in the world grew up near an art theater in Hampstead and that not everyone in the world had seen Ken Russell's, The Devils. What he was doing on screen, in his mind, wasn't as shocking because he'd grown up in a London in the 1970s. The US has always been much more conservative and I wasn't surprised, after the full frontal nudity and mixed with a bit of the old ultra violence, that it wasn't embraced in the US. I guess I was envisioning more alluding to the grotesqueness than actually showing it in its full horror. I've never been a fan of gore. And to quote John MacNaughton, who I interviewed for my film, Copycat Crimes, "When you're making the film it's all fun and games, but when you finally screen the film in front of an audience and people are running out of the movie theater, it's not at all funny."
So when the film was finished and the buyers (who are sophisticated businesspeople, not teenage boys, which is the intended audience for horror films) didn't really like the film, Bernard turned on me. It was all my fault for wanting to play the lead and the film was no good because of me. It was really sad that he didn't stand by it even as a work of art. After all it's really an art film posing as a horror movie, so who is the audience, really? Highbrow horror fans are the audience. People who can look at it and say, Oh, that's a quote from The Shining or that's from an Orson Welles film. Are there enough of these people to justify the unfortunately titled Snuff-Movie playing in 2000 theaters nationwide? Probably not, but I would have thought word would get out among the critics that there was more to it than meets the eye. It really is sad that it did not.
Then the problem is, if it's an art film, what festival wants to show a gore-fest with full frontal nudity? It had its problems, but it has fans, too. Trust me, I've had to deal with them seeking me out all these years. It's also all over the internet, nude shots of me. Doesn't make for very good PR, especially for someone who earns a living as a journalist living in the midwest.
After Snuff-Movie came out and didn't get very good reviews, Bernard didn't want to make the other two horror films. He signed on to do another horror project that never came to fruition and paid him only $20,000. He broke the contract with Junction (and, in effect, with me, his wife) to make another horror film. I argued that since we had just negotiated a three horror picture deal together that I should be put on this new horror project as producer of the new horror project. The people at Newline agreed I could get paid for working on the picture, but wouldn't agree to credit me. I said no to that deal so they went with another director. The script was called, Amusement, which neither Bernard nor I wrote, and it was a total mess and so when (if) they finished the film it was unreleasable. You can look it up on IMDB. I could have told them that would happen.
Ironically, Bernard is now trying to put together a new horror label, a start up with another producer. The idea to make low budget horror movies (wonder where that came from?) much like the three picture contract Enos Rose Productions had with Donald Kushner's Junction films. I always thought it was a good idea in theory to do a whole bunch of them back to back while you have the studio space and the actors. Maybe he can make it work with this new woman he has running things for him.
Whose Idea was it to let the actors play two, three different roles? I’m sure, this was not just a budgetary decision?
The movie was not actually that "low-budget". It was a $7 Million Movie, and the most money Bernard's been paid to direct since I've known him. I think it's funny that you say it's low budget. The thing that I despise about the movie, though, is that the wig I wore was Lucy Liu's in Charlie's Angels. She must have a much bigger head than I do because it didn't fit right. There weren't a lot of other options in Bucharest. Adrutha Lee was our hair stylist and she brought it with her.
It was actually my idea to have the actors play other roles. My role, that of Mary Arkadin/Wendy was always intentioned as a split role. The others were not, but we were holding casting sessions in Bucharest for the bit parts and it became obvious that anyone with a speaking role would have to be played by native English speaking actors.
Did Jeroen Krabbé like the movie? Did you like it?
Jeroen Krabbé is an amazing actor. I feel he dwarfed me in the scenes we had together. He's larger than life, not only on screen, but in person as well. I think he liked the film. He said he did, but it may have just been him being polite. He made a nice comment about how I use my eyes. I guess you could call it a compliment.
I'm going to have to be honest and say that while I do like the film, it's not really the type of thing I'd rush out to the theater to go and see. It's hard to judge one's own work objectively. I had a great time making the film. Probably the most fun I've had ever. All the prosthetics and squibs and fake blood, it's really such a hoot to be part of a production like that. My favorite thing about the movie was the prosthetic head of actor Joe Reegan, the character who plays Jack. It was just fun to be around such an accomplished effects team. Toni G and Art Sakamoto are at the top of their trade.
I think, next to Ivans Xtc, The Kreutzer Sonata is the best of the Tolstoi-Adaptations by Bernard Rose. Why did you want to stick to Tolstoi? How did you approach the film?
Bernard is obsessed with two artists: Tolstoy and Kubrick. Since he can't remake Kubrick's films (who would want to they are perfect) he's set about adapting Tolstoy because these are wonderful public domain stories with superb dramatic structure available to adapt for free. You may find this odd, but I've never seen the finished version of Kreutzer Sonata. I have the DVD in its case with the plastic wrap still on it. The story behind it is a long one.
Bernard and I were contracted by Film Four in London by a producer named Liza Marshall, to write ivansxtc 2 and this was the story we came up with (I have my own screenplay version of ivansxtc 2, which I'm trying to get funded). Because what people really seemed to like most about ivansxtc was the central performance by Danny Huston, and the title character he plays -- Ivan -- dies in ivansxtc, how could we incorporate him into ivansxtc 2? We couldn't. That's where The Kreutzer Sonata comes in.
Bernard had it in his mind he'd wanted to do this adaptation since he made Anna Karenina (starring Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean) in Russia back in the 1996, but for some reason he couldn't wrap his head around writing it. He was busy with a screenplay that seems to have gone nowhere at the time we got the contract with Film Four and since I was mainly ghost writing for Bernard anyway, sometimes for credit, sometimes not, and I'd been contracted to co write the story, I put my mind to it and came up with the characters played by Danny Huston and Liz Rohm. It was easy. The characters were Bernard and myself. In real life we had two children and were living in a Georgian terraced house on London's north side, near his mum and dad on Hampstead Heath. Bernard suffered greatly from the same paranoid obsessive thinking that Edgar engages in and so it was not difficult at all for me to just lay it all out as if it was happening to us. The jealousy, the rage, the suspicion, the hate, the passion. It was 100% about the love affair between Bernard Rose and Lisa Enos.
I’m interested in your reading of the actual Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoi. It has very peculiar opinions towards sexuality and women. How did you relate to the novelette?
Honestly, it really affected me. It made me start to think that Bernard shared the same feelings as Tolstoy's murderous character. It was the beginning of the demise of our marriage! Bernard's behavior and attitude was so similar to that of the story's protagonist. He had cavorted with hookers at the onset of our friendship-come-relationship.
If you look at all of Bernard's films, they're filled with misogyny and unnecessary female nudity. When we would write together (and we've written other screenplays that have not been produced) he would always want to include scenes with gratuitous nudity. He had a running joke that every movie he made had to have an orgy in it. While it's not true for all of his films, it's true of a lot of them. All seemed unnecessary and for his own titillation, in my opinion.
As a wife, you really don't want your husband looking at other women naked, especially if they're someone you know, and in his case it would be his job to look at head shots of actresses and decide which of them he'd want to bring in for nude auditions and then eventually work with. We showed the casting process in Snuff-Movie. I'd beg him to please write out the nudity. It wasn't at all necessary. And in the case of Snuff-Movie, I said I'd do it, ultimately because the idea of him shooting all those nude scenes with another actress was quite upsetting. Jamie Pressly wrote him a letter asking to play the role that I played in Snuff. We were considering her for Pamela, and we'd never heard of her, but she's gone on to make quite a name for herself. I find it amusing that I beat her out of a role. Bernard figured we'd get her to Romania and she'd cop out of the finale, the naked crucifixion.
I learned from a very young age on stage you should not be modest about your body. If you need to strip down in the wings to do a quick change of costume, that's what you do, so I don't have a problem with nudity or if a scene requires it to further the story, that's okay, too, but the gratuitous nudity in Bernard's films…I believe he has quite a reputation in the UK as one of those men who does this just to get his jollies and I was starting to get that impression, too, and to me, that's not okay.
Pornography is legal. If you have an inclination to watch naked people, then do it, don't bring them into your production under the guise of it being a serious acting gig. What did the gratuitous nudity in Kreutzer Sonata (though I've not seen it I've heard the sex scenes are very explicit which is one reason I didn't watch it) really do for Liz Rohm's career? Nothing. What did it have to do with the story? Nothing. Bernard was depicting explicit nature of our sex life in that film and I'm just not okay with his inclination to always want to include uncomfortable, explicit sex scenes in his films.
In the end, we had moved back to the United States. London and LA were too expensive to find affordable housing for the four of us so we settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan and were planning a production called Dauville with a company out of Rome, which we'd visited and things were progressing, but slowly.
Bernard got antsy and left to go back to LA to find some writing work (in addition to filmmaking, we both earned our bread and butter paychecks as WGA writers for various LA-based companies). He decided to do Kreutzer Sonata without me as I stayed home in Michigan and cared for our two kids who were 3 and 5 at the time. It was the end of my career as I had no money with which to pay nannies and no parents. He left me high and dry and made Kreutzer without me. He changed the setting to Los Angeles and set about making it with Danny and Liz Rohm (a lovely woman whom I've met) at his friend, Lisa Henson's house. I believe she financed it as well and Naomi Despres did the actual leg-work associated with the production that would have been my "fun" on the project. Bernard actually withheld money from me with which to pay rent and buy groceries until I'd assign him the rights to the screenplay. I received $10,000 for writing it. I wasn't even invited to the premiere, if they even had one.
What did you do on Mr. Nice?
Mr. Nice was my project to produce. Before it was my project it belonged to the BBC. We got acquainted with the project through a guy by the last name of Perkins who had convinced Howard he had the money to produce the film. Dan Shepherd, who was our line producer and good friend on Snuff-Movie introduced us to the project. It was stalled in development at the BBC, and was being guided by a producer named Hillary Salmon. Two authors named Bev Kurty and Richard (?) Doyle had written a script that was supposed to be produced by BBC Television.
We proposed that it shouldn't be a TV production, but an independent film. David Thompson who was head of BBC Films called me in for a private meeting with him and congratulated me on my success as the sole Producer of ivansxtc and gave me his blessing to set the film up as an independent production.
There were also four books written about Howard Marx. I read all of the underlying material and Bernard and I discussed the project in detail as he put pen to paper. We approached Rhys Ifans, with whom we were friend and with whom we had been discussing a production of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot in which he would play the Idiot and I would play Aglaya. The main conversation took place at the l'hotel du cap during the Cannes Film Festival. We approached Rhyss who was there with a very disheveled looking Kate Moss, late one night after a gala screening, I'm guessing. He agreed to do the role. Ironically he and Howard Marks were from the same village in Wales and I believe they had even met. It was a magical moment. Bernard and I were staying nearby at the Hotel Belle Rives and I found myself lying on the beach next to Luc Roeg, who Bernard had known from his days back at working title. Luc is the diminutive boy from his father, Nik Roeg's Walkabout, one of my all-time favorite movies. Luc appears as though he has grown very little or aged since. Bernard used to joke that he was so short he used to use Luc's head as a place to set his coffee cup.
So there we were lying on the beach. I distinctly remember I was sunbathing topless (See? I am not a prude, just don't see the need for so much sex and nudity in Bernard's films) when Luc said to me, "We have to find some way to make a lot of money on Bernard's films." About a year later or so I made a phone call to Luc and passed him the baton on Mr. Nice. Bernard and I had run out of money (again) and I was at a loss. I was busy raising children and hadn't been able to come up with any takers as far as financing the project. I was a little sore when the film came out and didn't credit me as Co-Producer in the front credits as I believed I was entitled from our contract. But they'd all written me off as a woman who was raising children by that time and not someone in a position to complain about it. I did get invited to the premiere, but my ticket was not "plus one." I would have had to stand there alone on the red carpet while Bernard flaunted a girl over half his age that he was dating at the time, and we weren't even divorced!
I haven't seen Mr. Nice, either. The best thing I can say about it is that I got my producer fee on it, even though they didn't want to give me the credit for taking it as far as I had.
Are you still in the business? What are your next projects? Are there plans to collaborate with Bernard Rose again or is that a closed chapter?
To make ends meet I've had to take work in Michigan where I live with the kids. I started writing for a daily newspaper. That job dried up when it was purchased by a bigger company, but I found another job editing magazines. That job also dried up. The magazines were cancelled nationwide and I'm presently looking for work (so if you know of anyone who would like to hire a talented writer/actress/director, please holler.)
I have a screenplay or two that I'm trying to get financed, but to be honest, it's really hard because the only people I know in LA are people I met through or with Bernard. We were together the whole eight years I lived there and if they're colleagues of his, they won't talk to me. It's like eight years of my life wasted because not one contact I made would want to upset him. I think there's always an inkling that the next film he makes could be an out-of-the-ballpark hit like Candyman and that's very appealing to potential investors. It's just the way it goes.
All that said, we do partner together in real life in raising children. We have been co-parenting since our divorce in 2011. We talk frequently and it's not impossible that we could collaborate again. Before we divorced Bernard tried to get back together with me with the caveat that we couldn't work together because that ruined his career. Then he went and made a film, Boxing Day with his 23 year old then-girlfriend. I played a small role in it because he wanted the kids in the movie, too, but the film never found an audience. I think his best, most honest film, is ivansxtc. I'm proud of the work I did on that film, not the acting so much, but just putting the entire thing together, from arranging financing to writing all the contracts to making deals with all the talent. I worked very hard and unfortunately it never paid off. The distributor never paid us the money we were owed. It's just a sad fact of the business, if you don't get paid for the work you do up front, then you might never see even a dime. That pretty much sums up my experience with the movie business. I have a couple scripts that are pet projects that I'd like to see get financing. It's just hard to find the people with the money who want to invest in a good script. They seem to like the song and dance of the pitch and that's just not something I'm good at.
This is probably way more than you ever wanted or needed to know. It is a pretty convoluted situation. I've basically been left to raise kids, edged out of the business by him and can't really do anything about it because I have sole custody of our children who are awesome and doing quite well in school. They don't get to see their dad much, but it's not like he's not still very much a part of our lives.
I'm glad you asked the questions. Maybe I'll watch Kreutzer Sonata now. :-)