Exorcist: Variorum per Schrader
Excerpts, quotes and notes from Tim Silano's documentary Schrader's Exorcism.
Wednesday, 2009-11-04 | Film, The Limbs of Osiris
Flanked at Friday's press conference by nine of his cast and crew, who had flown in to Belgium at theirown expense to support him, Schrader expressed his happiness that audiences are being allowed to make up their own minds about his film. He also attacked producers Morgan Creek - who had originally binned Schrader's footage and shot a replacement version with Renny Harlin - for trying so hard to suppress his work. "I always knew there would be blood on the floor but I didn't know it would be mine," the maverick director quipped as he contemplated his battles with Morgan Creek and its boss James Robinson.
|Geoffrey Macnab (ScreenDaily.com)|
What follows are a collection of quotes from Tim Silano's documentary, Schrader's Exorcism (you can read my impressions of the film itself here.
I've collected them here a.) as an aid for myself, as I continue to compose additional Exorcist essays, and b.) as one of those essays. I'll get out of the way in a second and let the cast and crew of Schrader's Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) speak for themselves, but first I'd like to make the point that I think these quotes tell a story (which is something that Silano's documentary does not do), and that it is a story that is primarily about good intentions and intellectual dishonesty.
Honestly, as sympathetic as I am to the plight of a cast and crew who gets their film--their film that they worked on for years--yanked out from under them by its financiers, I don't have much patience for the shotgun "siege mentality" that seems to inspire most of the commentary from that cast and crew in this movie. From most of the actors and crew, one gets the strong impression that there is a very specific party line--a party line about how it's "us versus them", i.e. not just film-makers versus producers and financiers, but people who love films against vicious, brutal charlatans and carpet-baggers making a ruin of the once altruistic and noble business of making films (I'm sorry, did I say "films"? I meant to say "art")--and that it is everyone's responsibility to toe that line, even if it means platitudinizing aimlessly and evangelizing moronically about "starving artists" and "creative people" based on the tortuous and specious logic that the needs, wants and work of creative people somehow deserve more dignity and better treatment than the needs, wants and work of the executives who shake the hands, sign the checks and sometimes cut the throats. In fact, with the exception of Stellan Skarsgard and Ralph Brown, you hardly ever get an honest statement or sentiment out of any of the people involved with the creation of this film.
But the decision to respond to the decisions of Morgan Creek to cancel Schrader's production with a paper-thin pretense of moral outrage is a topic that I may revisit more productively and fully in a later essay. For now, here come the quotes:
Something was worrying me: I wondered why would a company like Morgan Creek hire a director like Paul Schrader, who is known for his intricate, psychological films, to do a big-budget franchise movie...and with me in the lead. I really tried to understand what their motives were and how they were thinking. And maybe they weren't.
There's a Hollywood tradition of trying to give some dignity to speculative, cynical, industrial venture by adding what they call "some class" to it. If you want to do "Rambo 9", who would you think of as the director? You would go, "is Bergman still alive?" If you want to do "Home Alone 6", you would hire Tarantino. If you wanted to do "Deep Throat 3": Lars von Trier.
And then as a producer, you would be surprised that you don't get a Rambo film, you get a Bergman film and that "Home Alone 6" ends in a massacre. And "Deep Throat 3", ah, I don't even want to think about what Trier would do to that.
And of course the producers were very surprised and shocked when Paul Schrader delivered a Paul Schrader film.
The man who financed it decided that he had made the wrong film and that he wanted a more contemporary kind of horror-driven film and I was dismissed and they started over: new writer, new director, (by and large) a new cast, and they made another movie. And so there are now two films of the same premise with the same lead actor.
This is unique in film history. Film schools around the world will be thankful. It's the easiest term paper anyone will ever write: "Compare and Contrast". It's sort of a boon to all aficionados of film history, to look at a situation where actors give different performances--this is not the performance Stellan gave for Renny Harlin, it's not the performance that Andrew [French] gave: the work [Vittorio] Storaro did is not the work he did on that film. It's just so fascinating and, at that level, it is a genuine asterisk in the history of Cinema. You know, hopefully it's more, but at least it's that.
It's horrible when something gets buried like that, but you know, I've had so many disappointments over the years as an actor and as a writer as well of various projects: you get promises and you don't get paid, or the film gets cut up or it gets taken off of you and somebody else edits it and, you know, whatever it is.
My expectations for this business are probably as low as they've ever been at the age of 47, and so, really, to have an experience like that, which just comes out of nowhere: it's kind of like a resurrection.
So when I got a gig with Paul Schrader in Morocco, I was extremely happy just to turn up and do it and to work with him and the other people who are at this table: the trouble with Hollywood, is that they don't really have any "feet on the ground": they're always after "the next thing" or what was in the magazine last month: it's very much "make it up as you go along".
It seems to be the case with this film that they started out at Point A, made a film that resembled very closely Point A, by which time they decided they didn't want to be in Point A any more--they wanted to be somewhere else--spent all the money and that was the same thing with Alien3, funnily enough.
It has to be said that David Fincher's Alien3 has yet to see the light of day, and probably never will. So this is a happy ending: it has to be.
Every time you think they've fucked you every way they can, they come up with a new way. So I don't know what the new way is: but I know it's out there. But that doesn't stop you from tryin'.
Kris Dewitt (photographer)
You wanna talk about a workaholic: Schrader's a workaholic. This guy, man, he did press like insanity: he was all over the place. He was with the press from seven in the morning to 10 at night: he didn't swagger, he didn't sway, he got his food, his cigarettes, his coffee and he just kept going on, and on and on: one interview after another. He never stopped! I started documenting that, because, quite frankly, it's pretty interesting. Man, Schrader? He brought in every body.
Well, I've taken to calling it "buyer's remorse". You know what "buyer's remorse is?" Say, you go out and you buy a Lexus, you get home and you say, I wish I had that big, ugly Hummer instead, so you go back, you buy another car: now you've got two cars.Finally, as you watch this movie and you see how deliberately misleading everyone involved is behaving and intellectually dishonest as they make their case, a picture begins to emerge. And it's not the picture that Schrader and Silano necessarily want to present, as it reveals them as down, out and more desperate to play David to Morgan Creek's Goliath than to redeem their project.
I guess that's the only way I can explain it.
Obviously we are in a time where the film-maker has less power than he did 15 or 20 years ago. Film-makers are seen much more as "providers", rather than "artists".
Which, to my way of thinking, is exactly where the fun begins.