tv Mosaic World News LINKTV April 3, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT
would say later in the 80s, after working off good scripts, like "scarface," "untouchables" and "casualties of war," i think he eventually realized he needed a stronger grounding in script than he recognized, 5 years, 10 years earlier. it's boring when every film student or most of the audience that was semi-literate, just sit watching a film and saying, "that's the shot sequence from 'psycho,'" or "that's the burnt homestead from 'the searchers.'" i mean, it's not interesting. and i think, again, if you were to analyze in fact all the films this group made, the most interesting films, i think, are the most personal, not the borrowings, but the ones that are rooted more in their own experience. and i think with milius, i think his best film was "big wednesday," which is absolutely rooted
in the time he was a surfer in hawaii and in california. (lynda myles) you can discuss "big wednesday" in terms of ford, obviously, this sense of mythologizing the past. but it's totally imbued with his own past and experience. (orchestra music playing) it was a very important film to me at the time because that was a part of my youth. and i thought that that's what a filmmaker should do is explore personal things that you know. there's a cliche that everybody has one good story, the story of their life.
and when you are starting out, those are the stories you write about. and i think that was considered to be the proper thing to do. that's what socially responsible people did. you addressed your life and your issues. (robert de niro) loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. in bars and cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. there's no escape and he dies a lonely man. at the beginning of the 70s when the studios had no idea of what to make, if a director came in with a project and said, "this project will make money," the studio won't say no. and so suddenly directors -- kids who learned in film school that the essence of directing was self-expression got to make their movies for the first time.
it had really never happened before. you could never make a movie like "taxi driver." it was amazing "taxi driver" got made within the system. i and scorsese and de niro all had success in other films. and so then it got to a point where columbia said, "if everyone is saying somebody should make it, why don't we make it? the price is right, it's low. we'll take the chance." so the difference is that even though that was hard, the studios did make those films. you make the move. it's your move. outside of whatever charisma de niro has... you talkin' to me? i can't think of anybody less sympathetic than travis bickle. you talkin' to me? you'd cross the street to get away from this guy. then, who the hell else are you talking to? plus it ends with this unprecedented carnage, which is extraordinary, even now. i watched the film a few months ago and it's still probably one of the most violent scenes in american cinema.
(whispering) pow, pow, pow. any studio in their right mind would be mad to make that film and yet the film did very well. only in the 70s. i would differentiate a lot between what marty was doing and what i was doing and what george lucas was doing and steven spielberg was doing because george and steven really came from a populist, middle-american point of view and wanted to make movies that would move everybody. and marty wanted to make movies that moved himself. i think there's another contradiction in all this, which is that when you look at a director like coppola,
committed in all sorts of ways to -- in his own work and through zoetrope, through the work of others, to making personal cinema, i think it's arguable that his "commercial movies" like "the godfather," are of a more personal nature than his so-called art movies. we've known each other years, but this is the first time you ever came to me for counsel and for help. i can't remember the last time you invited me to your house even though my wife is godmother to your only child. but let's be frank here. you never wanted my friendship. and you were afraid to be in my debt. the first few days of brando, i recall bob called me, saying, "are we going to subtitle this? cause marlon talking like this and we didn't know what the hell he was saying." on top it, the opening scene where he was petting the cat,
that cat was a cat laying around the studio. and so the cat started purring and all you heard was the cat purring and brando mumbling something. and they start freaking out. (al ruddy) and it was dark. and it was very unsettling to people on the west coast. (man) i believe in america. america has made my fortune. when we were mixing the movie, he asked bob evans and said, "if this movie does over $60 million, will you guys buy me a car? a mercedes?" we both said, "absolutely, if it makes $60 million, we'll buy you a mercedes." the day the movie did $60 million and one dollar, i got a call from the president of mercedes-benz north america, who wanted to substantiate that in fact i was going to pay half for a special car that mr. coppola had ordered. and i said, "had ordered?" he said, "we're only going to build three next year.
one for franco and for the pope and one for mr. coppola. those cost like $70,000. (narrator) in january 1973, with box office earnings of over $81 million, "the godfather" became the biggest grossing film of all time. francis and george lucas and steven spielberg did become the dominant force in hollywood for a number of years. and still are the dominant force in hollywood within one way or another. it was a generation that had its finger on some very specific pulse. but i'd differentiate francis from lucas and spielberg who really were just kind of tapped into the american psyche. with spielberg, you see, it was a different thing. he comes from television. and we met in the early 70s. but he was a very different kind of person. when i turned 19, i made a movie in 35-millimeter called, "amblin." and that movie was seen by the then-head of t.v.
at universal studios, sid sheinberg, who is now head of the studio. he saw the film, was impressed, asked me to come to his office. and he sort of bedazzled me by offering me this seven-year term contract and attempted to put me to work directing professional television shows. bill, step back this much. (steven spielberg) if i did learn one thing from t.v., it taught me to think quickly on my feet. to prepare, to plan, to know what i want to do when i get to work so i can accomplish the job. and t.v. for me wasn't an art form, it was a job. because of television, i didn't know for a while there whether or not i wanted to continue making film, because i felt that it was like working in a sweatshop. and i wasn't getting any of that stimulation, that gratification that i got making 8-millimeter war movies when i was twelve years old. i didn't have that passion, because television
sort of smothered the passion. it's only when i got into feature films, when i got into t.v. movies and made "duel" that i kind of rediscovered the fun about making films. what's your name, sir? david mann. spell that please? m-a-n-n. that's two n's. i'd like to report a truck driver who's endangering my life. your name again? david mann. (blaring horn) (steven spielberg) "duel" was a film that was discovered overseas. i remember taking my first trip to europe. i'd never been out of the u.s. before. going to europe the first time to do publicity for "duel" and discovering a lot of people out there who loved movies. i'm talking about journalists, the writers, loved movies. cherished films. much more than i ever sensed that the american journalists loved and cherished pictures.
but i was sort of idealized and idolized and lionized. and i felt wonderful about that and i said to myself, "gee, there really is a generation overseas that loves movies with a passion." he once mentioned to me that he liked to make -- there were films and there were movies. and he liked to do films. unaware he'd be the biggest moviemaker of all time. (dramatic music playing) that's a 20-footer. "jaws," because it came from a number one best-selling novel that universal gave a little more topspin to the advertising program. but no more so than they gave to the other 12 films they had coming out that year. i know that they didn't spend any more money on that film than they did on any other film in terms of publicity. only after "jaws" was a hit the first week in theatres
did universal begin chasing the success to keep the film in the awareness of the public. (yelling) get everybody out! (narrator) it was the massive, world-wide success of "jaws" which put the blockbuster movie firmly on the map. (peter bart) people didn't really talk about blockbusters much then. that was an idea that began to take shape in the early to mid-70s. the public doesn't realize that the character, what makes the picture a blockbuster is the willingness of people to see it two or three times, like "star wars," or "jaws." there are not enough people who go to movies out there to make something a $100-200 million picture unless you see it: does that have an audience? so by the mid-70s the industry was traumatized.
the pot of gold began to take shape. and studios began to say, "ah-ha, can't we open a picture in more theatres and spend more to advertize?" and the whole interior dialogue in studios was distorted and i think corrupted irreparably. (heavy breathing) (buzzing) i made "star wars." it was a very difficult film to make. and a lot of problems involved. it was with very little money, very little time. i finished it, i showed it to my friends. they said, "oh, gee, george, i really feel sorry for you. this is too bad. better luck next time." and then it became an even bigger hit. but i had absolutely no idea that it would be a blockbuster. i have you now. what? yahoo!
(paul hirsch) it opened a year after the end of the vietnam war. and i think the country had gone through such a trauma, of being divided. the left against the right, the pro-war and anti-war were at each other's throats for so many years and with such bitterness that everyone was looking for an opportunity for something they could share in common and feel good about and unite around. (poof!) (paul hirsch) george told me that, what i'm really making here is sort of like a disney movie. so he said,"disney films always make $16 million. you could look at every picture they've ever released, they make $16 million. this picture is costing around ten, so there's no way we're going to break even on the film. but i think that with the merchandising of products related to the film, we may be able to break even."
(peter bart) "star wars" for the first time brought in the concept that a film represented a franchise. that every movie could be sold in all of its little parts. there were products. there was product placement. every movie became an industry unto itself. that was something that no one envisioned, say, in 1970. i can remember at the time of "carrie," which was a success, but not a blockbuster, that there was a sense with de palma that he was obviously pleased by the response to the film. but frustrated that, i think, possibly because he thought the marketing hadn't been quite strong enough. that he thought "carrie" could have done more. it was an extraordinary desire to emulate the others and have this phenomenal success, which i suppose he had later with "the untouchables." (brian de palma) you can't really be that experimental or that odd
or follow your muse to some absurd end, if you're trying to open in a thousand theatres or two thousand theatres and $30-$20 million a weekend. so that's a bit of a problem. and once you get that fever, it's hard to get it out. every time a studio chose to make a film with me, they had hoped that the film would be on the economic level of, let's say, "the godfather," or like a "jaws." although, my films are very, very different. and i didn't quite believe it. i just kind of realized after "new york, new york" that it wasn't going to be that way. (yelling) did i tell you to have that baby? did i tell you to have that damn baby? no, i didn't, you had it. now you have it, now keep it.
that's it, keep hitting me. go ahead, hit me. that's right. you had it. now you're crying? oh, be quiet! when it gets tough, you cry? and then the lifestyles sort of get a little crazy too, where you start to really be -- you're doing ten things at once and pouring your energy into places it shouldn't go. overdoing it in every level. and somehow you come out alive. i was alive two years later, but it was quite horrendous. (theme music to "new york/new york") (peter biskind) the phenomenal amounts of power and this success
that was showered on some of them, like coppola, between 1972 and 1974, with his oscar for "patton," through "godfather i," through "the conversation," into "godfather ii," was unbelievably successful. i mean, i don't think anybody, even spielberg, subsequently had that kind of intensity and incandescence for a two-year period. and the effects on someone's personality who has to live through that kind of thing is enormous. and then going off to make "apocalypse now" in the jungle for 2 or 3 years, that tends to isolate a person. to me that symbolizes the best of filmmaking and the biggest risk in that you take a subject matter that's kind of taboo, get a script you believe in. and you get a madman and say, "here, take this money and go to some distant part of the world and see what you're going to come back with."
(gunfire and explosions) (eerie music playing) (unintelligible loud voices) (john milius) but unless you take the risk and say to someone like francis who's capable of doing something really great, "here, go off and push the edges of the envelope, do the best you can and let's see what happens," you're never going to make that kind of film. films cost more to make today than they ever did before. it means that the bigger ideas, if i ever wanted to do "the greatest show on earth," like cecil b. demille, that picture today is almost not affordable. you almost couldn't go off and make a picture on the scale of "the greatest show on earth" without spending between $65 and $85 million. so the pressure's on. every time you make a movie, even a small art film
is costing $15 to $25 million. so it's not easy anymore going back to the old days when you got more bang for your buck. the amounts of money riding on a picture are so great that it tends to impede the creative process. you don't want to take those risks because you're afraid you'll lose your shirt. one film can kill a studio. and that essentially, that's what destroyed the 70s. i found myself after star wars, one, it was very difficult. i had no money, i was under a lot of pressure. i didn't like not having complete control of everything, which i did have on "graffiti" and i did have on "thx." i edited them, photographed them, wrote them. i did the whole thing. and i had control. if anything went wrong, i pushed the guy aside and said "i'll get the prop." (george lucas) with "star wars," i couldn't do that, it was way too big so i relied on a lot of others. so after i finished "star wars" i knew with the success of that that i had a chance to finish the saga, because i had this three-part thing.
only i knew when i finished "star wars," i wouldn't have the energy and the control by directing it because i was down there in the trenches directing. there was too much stuff going on above me that would sabotage the effort. so i moved upstairs and became executive producer. it was like other ideologies that failed like communism or something. i mean, it's a great idea and you can believe in it. it's very glorious to run up the steps of the presidium bearing a red flag but the bureaucracy takes over. and in that case, the idea was that these young filmmakers were going to be able to express themselves. and they were going to have -- be filled with great ideas that would change the world and give us great works of art. when in fact, they had no great ideas at all, or any ideas at all for the most part. (john milius) and only gave us greater explosions.
these days, it's a matter of: yeah, the film will make money. it really should. but if you feel it's not going to, if you feel it won't make money like "goodfellas" made money, which i didn't think would make money, but it did, or "cape fear," then you have to be prepared to cut your budget down, so the studio takes less risk and it's tough on me. well, it's my problem. i have to find a way to get the picture made and say what i want to say. i felt then and feel now that the important thing is -- is to keep working and making interesting films. and even if that means working at lower budgets, (paul schrader) working for cable television, so that's the important thing. one opportunity has presented itself after another. and i've kind of moved along. if you had asked me 2 years ago if i'd be producing tv shows,
i would say, "absolutely not. i never will go into tv." and here i am doing television. (george lucas) i have no idea where my life is going to take me. whatever feels right is where i go to. it was a golden age of filmmaking because we were all single, ambitious, in love with film. and we're still in love with film, but we're not as ambitious and none of us are single. and i think once we started getting married and having kids we began to fraction. and then we began to divide. and we went into our own lives and our own lifestyles. when i had a family, i know that the amount of time i talked to george, francis and marty on the telephone was cut down in half. and as i went from one to five children, now we have to make a conscious effort to re-unionize and get together. now i'm sort of in my family, into my life in a homey way. (steven spielberg) but when i was in my 20s and they were in their 20s, we were all kind of married to each other.
as you get older, it's more "here we go again." the struggle's on. is the fish going to eat me, or am i going to eat the fish? and there was some kind of camaraderie back then and i guess you were not -- you also felt immortal. the fish could never completely eat you. but as you get older, and you feel your feet and legs being bitten off, you begin to wonder: are you going to survive this one? i still feel i'm part of the hollywood system because in the end, that generates all the money. and eventually it filters down through independent films. but you have to respect the engine. and the engine is the commercial film industry. i mean, i remember once rather humorously