I’ve reached a milestone! The tenth episode of The Filmumentaries Podcast. And what a great guest to mark the occasion. It was a real privilege to talk to this warm, intelligent artist about his decades of experience.
For episode nine I spoke to Ken Godwin about his fascinating time working behind the scenes of David Lynch’s sci-fi epic (some would say…flop) in 1983 down in Mexico. Ken’s story really is a unique insight into the weird world of filmmaking during that time period. Hit the link below to hear more….
In September 2020 I was fortunate enough to talk with Charles de Lauzirika, the director and producer who’s worked so on many of the wonderful behind the scenes documentaries on Ridley Scott’s films. Check it out at the link below.
A few weeks back, during the middle of the pandemic lockdown, I was… frustrated. If I’m not working or doing something creative, I do get rather moody. So to save myself and my family, I decided to finally do something I’d been talking about for years. I started “The Filmumentaries Podcast”!
Episode 1 was very much an experiment. Using an interview that I recorded many years ago with Wolf Kahler, aka Colonel Dietrich for my Raiding the Lost Ark Filmumentary. It’s a short, episode. A test in many ways.
For episode 2 I turned to my friend Giles Terera. He’s a West End actor, writer and director and fellow Star Wars obsessive. I always love talking to him and this was a good excuse to kill two birds with one stone.
I’ve now reached episode five, having spoken to puppeteer Tim Rose and Special effects guru Kevin Pike. With another two lined up to record this week, I hope to continuing regular releases. The next two will be released about 3-4 weeks apart. It’s now available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify Podcasts. Please take a listen and if you like it I’d really appreciate a review comment and a rating.
Following the completion of my short Ivor Powell documentary-bio in early May 2020, Ivor was hugely impressed with the results and kindly passed it onto the publicity department at Amblin Entertainment. They are co-producing Ivor’s new venture, BIOS with Universal. BIOS is a script Ivor co-wrote with Craig Luck (who weirdly, according to IMDB was in the Solo movie!). BIOS has been shot, staring Tom Hanks in the lead role and looks set to be a great sci-fi epic to add to Ivor’s impressive back catalogue. BIOS was originally due for release in October 2020, but given the events of the past few months, it has been moved to April 2021, presumably in the hope that it will get a cinema audience rather than home streaming. Amblin are currently seeking clarification on the BIOS trailer release date so that I can release my bio of Ivor along side it. We are also talking about me maybe getting use of some BIOS material in my little film. The VP of publicity at Amblin was so impressed with my little film that they have introduced me to the behind the scenes team at Universal. I’ve emailed them, but as yet I’ve had no reply. Who know’s if they are currently working or furloughed. But a positive moment nonetheless.
Rest assured I have been working on some filmumentaries projects behind the scenes, including my upcoming short doco about Ridley Scott’s former right-hand man, Ivor Powell. Look out for that soon. I’m currently waiting on a key element that I want to include before I release it!
A lot has changed in the world since I last released something (http://filmumentaries.com/2018/10/july-2018-new-short-doco-robert-watts-a-life-in-film/) and it got me thinking about taking another look at the podcast idea. Two years ago I started to make a first episode but never really finished it. But as many of you will have hours to digest lots of video and audio, I thought I should just upload it and ask for your feedback. So here it is, Episode 1 – Wolf Kahler. Let me know what you think and if you’d like to hear more like it.
Back in early July 2018 my friend (and talented cameraman) Patrick Tyndall and I drove into the English countryside to visit a gorgeous, secluded cottage to meet a film legend. Slap bang in the middle of the hottest and longest summer I can remember in the UK (not that I travel abroad extensively from March to November each year, so I often miss the sun here!), we entered the charming property to find our interviewee sat in a comfy chair in his conservatory, a few little dogs scampering around at his feet.
Robert Watts, a 60 year veteran of the film industry had agreed to give us an hour of his time to chat about his lengthy career. I’ve grown up watching Robert in a number of documentaries from the original 1980 making of Raiders to the brilliant Kevin Burns Star Wars documentary of 2004 “Empire of Dreams”. Robert always came across as a fun interviewee in those docos. And I can now tell you, from the horses mouth that this is indeed true.
Paddy and I had a blast chatting to Robert. In fact our only regret was not being able to have longer with him.
Anyway, I’ll let the Robert (via the video) do the talking…
As a fan of both Star Wars and Monty Python for the vast majority of my 40 years, I was surprised and delighted to read, back in the mid 2000’s in Michael Palin’s diaries 1969-1979, that those two worlds of the famous collided on more than one occasion. On one particular night this celebrity friendship led to a third unexpected megastar encounter with… The Rolling Stones! – On a side note I have a tenuous link to the Stones myself, having been born in Dartford, the Stones being our most famous “export”. My dad even remembers being in the Cubs while a Scout member and BB gun wielding Keith Richards hid up a tree taking pot shots at the younger targets below.
Anyway, back to Carrie and that megastar crossover story…. You see in 1979 during the production of The Empire Strikes Back, Carrie Fisher rented one of Eric Idle’s properties. 41 Carlton Hill, London to be precise. During that stay Carrie recounts one particular night:
“I was staying in Eric Idle’s town house in St. John’s Wood—that’s near St. John’s Wort, only more depressing—and Eric had just come home from filming “Life of Brian” in Tunisia. He brought this drink that he said they gave the extras so they’d work longer. I called it Tunisian Table Cleaner.”
“…Eric called down and said, ‘The Rolling Stones are here!’ They were recording two blocks away. And I came down and it was all of them. As a rule I’m allergic to alcohol, and Harrison doesn’t really drink either. But I called Harrison and said, ‘Get over here. This is ridiculous!”
“And we had a really early call the following morning, but you have to measure the fun – Rolling Stones, or early call? Rolling Stones, or early call? And we decided on both. I wonder how he remembers it. But that night, there was a makeshift party.”
“And they’re a partying bunch of guys, and though I didn’t drink at the time, to be kind of amenable, or whatever, I drank. I used to say I’m allergic to drinking, and this would have been a demonstration of that. And we stayed up pretty late. Charlie [Watts], that one, he didn’t have a lot of facial expressions. He’s like the Darth Vader of the Stones.”
“I remember that we never went to sleep.”
“That morning we shot our arrival at Cloud City, where we meet Billy Dee Williams. And it’s one of the very few times in the series both Harrison and I smile. To this day, Eric is proud as a papa of his impact on the trilogy.”
Behind the Scenes on Cloud City
Carrie and Harrison having a rare smile together
Michael Palin remembers that same night in this entry from his diaries –
“Saturday 6th June 1979:
In the evening to a party at Eric’s – given by Chris Miller (Chris looked after the house while Eric was away) for Carrie Fisher (the heroine of Star Wars), who is renting El’s house while she works on a Star Wars Sequel at Elstree.
Carrie looking very small and delicate, her soft, pale skin a refreshing change from the butch aerosol-spray healthy look of most Los Angeleans. She doesn’t know anyone, but is straight and funny at the same time, and we have a mutual line of chat belonging to the select band of Saturday night Live hosts. She is currently ‘going with’ Paul Simon…”
Carrie “going with” Paul.
“The two heroes of Star Wars are also there – Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford.
Hamill is chirpy and is dressed like a delivery boy. Harrison for looks young and alienated. he would look over his glasses at us if he had any. As it is he moves broodingly around – like a a famous man might do if he knew how famous he is.”
UPDATE: Eric Idle – the man himself – just replied to my tweet in which I asked him “how well do you remember that night?”:
@jamieswb Very well. I tell the tale of ruining that scene! Carrie picked it up from me bless her. She was so damn funny,
UPDATE: It suddenly occurred to me today to check in Alan Arnold’s brilliant book, Once Upon A Galaxy – A journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes back. On that day, 6th June 1979 the whole crew were in shock as Second Unit Director John Barry had suddenly died. There is no record for that following morning.
The Beatle(s) connection is separate from the above, but just as surprising. In fact before today I didn’t even know it existed. In 1978, with the Star Wars cast at the top of their powers, Carrie Fisher appeared on “Ringo”, a TV Special starring Ringo Starr “as a both fictionalised version of himself, and as his fictional half-brother “Ognir Rrats” (Wikipedia). In in the sequence they sing a duet – “You’re Sixteen” in what has to be a special brand of awkwardness previously reserved only for “The Star Wars Holiday Special” of the same year. The “music video” even contains some Terry Gilliam-esque animation (by Linda Taylor), almost bringing us full circle back to Eric Idle.
The above quotes from Carrie are culled from the following three articles –
Many of my friends and family won’t understand why I am grieving for somebody I never met, but I’m sure you’ll agree that our heroes come in different shapes and sizes.
To me Carrie as Princess Leia was a shock to the system. I was about 5 years old. She was incredibly gorgeous, but also courageous, forthright and intelligent. She ran the show!
“Look, I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I tell you. OK?”
“Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way”.
Wow. I was in love.
She helped boys like me understand that women deserved positions of authority as much as, if not more than many men. Goodness knows what an inspiration she must have been to little girls! (Insert shot from 2014 of my then 6 year old daughter dressed as a stormtrooper but also Princess Leia…In disguise…On a special mission).
Later as a teenager, Star Wars returned to my life and again and I saw Carrie in a different light. I hunted for every film Mark, Carrie and Harrison starred in on VHS. I saw Carrie in The Blues Brothers, Under the Rainbow, When Harry Met Sally etc… All the time wondering if women as sharp, sexy and clever as her really existed. (I found out later when I met my wife). Always enjoying her on screen and off screen persona. Interviews with Ruby Wax, Clive James and Sarah Greene, proved that she was just as spunky, if not more so than her on screen persona.
In the late nineties I also became aware that she was a script doctor on several big movies. Her dislike of Lucas’s clunky dialogue clearly gave her the training she needed to become a master of writing lines for her friends movies. I later read two of her books and became enamoured with her once again.
My daughters now aged 11, 8 and 2 all know who Princess Leia is. The feisty one in the white dress. The one that killed Jabba the Hutt for enslaving her. The toy with “two little bumps on side of her hair.” – That’s the two year old.
Just before Christmas (me now into my 40’s… and 35 years into a Star Wars obsession) I was reading Carrie’s inner most thoughts about her time on Star Wars, aged 19. Always funny, always self deprecating. Always able to cut through it all yet still unable to fully believe how great she really was.
Carrie’s inherent courageousness showed itself again in c2010 when she appeared in a documentary about bipolar disorder. A condition from which she suffered terribly. She never hid her problems. Her honesty is undoubtedly one for the reasons that mental health continues to be a subject more readily discussed.
I also loved her attitude in her late 50’s, advising the new female protagonist of the Star Wars universe, Daisy Ridley, to “not go through the crew like a wild fire”. Hilarious as always. “If my life wasn’t funny, then it would just be true, and that’s unacceptable”.
On hearing the news that she’d had a heart attack and after seeing the outpouring of love from fans around world, I assumed she’d recover and we’d get to hear her acerbic voice cut through it all again. Regaling us with her addictions to Coca Cola and certain medications. But also to finally give her the chance to see how much we all loved her.
That day of course never came and all we have are our memories. Good memories. Thanks Carrie. May the Force be with you, always. X