The past year was a bleak one on many fronts, not least because so many great artists — a lot of them giants within the cinematic field — passed away in 2016. The following piece collects together some of the memories of those who died from Talkhouse Film’s contributors. — N.D.
“His Star Trek success could have led him to headline more blockbusters, but he was more interested in collaborating with people he admired like Paul Schrader, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Almereyda and Jeremy Saulnier. When he wasn’t working (incessantly it seemed), he was an insatiable film buff and I especially enjoyed turning him on to obscure and classic movies from my stash of DVDs. He could expound on Bela Lugosi, for instance, or more recently Peter Lorre, till the sun came up. And he always had a new and fascinating take on the subject. I will dearly miss the opportunity of working with him again, as we had planned, but more so I will miss his inimitable presence: full of excitement about the work and the art, with a seemingly limitless future ahead of him. He so reminded me of myself at his age. Sometimes when friends leave, they take a part of you with them. Anton got the better part of me.”
— Joe Dante on Anton Yelchin (Talkhouse Film Contributors Remember Anton Yelchin)
“He was flatteringly curious about me – and specifically curious about what music I listened to, what movies I could recommend. He even took me out for dinner to continue our conversation – which still feels like the memory of a dream with the sort of wish-fulfillment that only a dream can provide. We corresponded for a bit after this encounter – and I sent him some records he was curious about (Bhangra music from London’s Indian quarter and Rai music from Algeria) and VHS dubs of the Clouzot film Les Diaboliques and Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive, which we had talked about over dinner.
I mention all this because meeting your idols is best avoided and many famous people are actually assholes. But in this short, trivial encounter, I’d seen a glimpse of what made Bowie so special as an artist – a magpie-like curiosity, a dedicated, all-consuming approach to his work and a kindness and generosity to even the most minor of collaborators.”
— James Marsh on David Bowie (Looking Back on Bowie: My Dinner with David, and His Lazarus Video)
“Back in the day, I taught a film class. We showed L.A. Confidential. After the screening, he answered questions and then was asked by many to sign copies of the movie’s screenplay that they had gotten from a local movie memorabilia shop. When he saw that it was not the shooting script, he abruptly stopped signing. That took us all aback. But then, the next day, a huge box arrived at my office. Curtis sent hundreds of copies of the actual script – all signed. Good man.”
— Rod Lurie on Curtis Hanson (Talkhouse Film Contributors Remember Curtis Hanson)
“I would never have guessed he had only a year to live – he talked about moviemaking with more youthful enthusiasm than anyone I’ve ever heard, including Quentin Tarantino. I think he was genuinely touched by the fact that Chris and I had devoted so much of our lives to studying what he did, and the simple pleasure he took in our appreciation made me so, so angry at the assholes in the industry and the critical establishment who delighted in taking him down. What did they have to gain by exiling this brilliant, sensitive, violent poet from the art form he mastered as well as anyone who ever lived? Cimino spoke generously about other filmmakers with whom he had worked, like Eastwood and Oliver Stone, and seemed motivated by nothing more than wanting to make and see great films.”
— Jim Hemphill on Michael Cimino (My Dinner with Michael)
“In 1986, I won a copy of Under the Cherry Moon on VHS. This was back when new videos cost about £80, so it was big deal. We almost wore the tape out. Much more flirtatious and stylized than its acclaimed and more successful predecessor, Purple Rain, I loved it unconditionally. Although clearly indulgent and camp as hell – Prince took over directing duties after he fired Mary Lambert, the original director – it is worth watching again simply to see some of the most come-hither, kohl-lined eyes ever recorded on film. …
Under the Cherry Moon and its accompanying soundtrack album, Parade, hit my prime teen years hard and I’m still affected today. Like Bowie, Prince taught us there was a different way to think about gender and sexuality. Prolific, mysterious and magic, always flanked by a crew of incredible female musicians, he showed us all a new way of doing things. He also gave Sheena Easton a platform to transcend her small-town Scottish roots. He showed us we could be anything we dreamt of.”
— Jeanie Finlay on Prince (How Prince and Under the Cherry Moon Changed My Life)
“I saw Bowie at the Empire in Liverpool back in the 1970s, on his Aladdin Sane tour. The audience was massively enthusiastic, a little too much so since at one point somebody held on to his hand too long and he left the stage.
After a couple of minutes, one of the roadies came on, took the mic, and said, “Cool it, you guys. One of you almost pulled David into THE PIT!”
Then the man returned and the show continued.
— Alex Cox on David Bowie (Talkhouse Film Contributors Remember David Bowie)
“He was one of us: a pervy, splatter-loving geek who wasn’t out to win awards, but lived simply to entertain. He was a lifelong Southerner who wallowed in the ridiculousness of Southern pride, poked fun at every form of political correctness, and was so on the cutting edge of horror, he managed to perfectly spoof the tropes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 10 years before Tobe Hooper even made The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Decades after leaving horror, Lewis hung lovingly onto being “The Godfather of Gore,” a much-cherished moniker his fans and peers had bestowed upon him for ushering in an entirely new subgenre of cinema. When I stumbled across him in a Toronto airport in 2007 (my one and only encounter with the man), words failed me. I walked up to Mr. Lewis, smiling oafishly, and managed to squeak out, “Thank you for all the movies, Godfather Lewis.” ”
— Ted Geoghegan on Herschell Gordon Lewis (Goodbye, Godfather: A Personal Remembrance of Herschell Gordon Lewis)
“Kiarostami’s films play on all the senses, bending and breaking the rules of classical structure, rationalism and thematic didacticism, but always deeply human. He is often called a poet of cinema, which is true from the standpoint that he was a poet who made movies. But the label is a little stuffy and somehow diminishing of his gifts. I think of Kiarostami more as a sly magician, a high-wire artist whose outwardly effortless storytelling masked a rigorous mastery of technique. He exists in that very small and specific circle of directors who mastered the art of creating transcendent films; including Carl Dreyer, Robert Bresson, Satyajit Ray, Luis Buñuel and Andrei Tarkovsky. Of course transcendence isn’t a prerequisite for a great movie, and these types of films are not to everyone’s taste. They happen to be my very favorite, and Kiarostami was the last in this lineage.”
— Alex Winter on Abbas Kiarostami (Talkhouse Film Contributors Remember Abbas Kiarostami)
“We shot one of our final scenes on a public beach in Connecticut with no permit. I rode the five miles from my house to the location with Robert in the backseat of a car next to him, nervously explaining what this scene meant, how it was the last moment between a father and his daughter. It is a scene in which the two characters are finally completely open and vulnerable with each other, realizing they don’t need the crutch of words to communicate. After I was done, Robert quietly replied, “OK, I think I got it.”
We sat on the bench side by side, looking out at Long Island Sound. The camera rolled and any sort of lingering sense of intimidation completely melted away. He calmed my anxieties and kept me fully present. A few times, I forgot to call “cut.” I remember feeling a tear of his fall as I placed my hand in his. I remember my head on his shoulder, and just for a moment, feeling like I was with my father again.”
— Victoria Negri on Robert Vaughn (Remembering Robert Vaughn, My Movie Dad)
“As the day went on, he became more and more engaged, and the work became a lot of fun. We were toward the end of our schedule, and the experience of making the film had been miserable for me in a lot of ways. It was always cold, and I was sick. The movie was very personal to me, and enough of a challenge that I knew I was going to screw up some piece of it. But working with Michael felt simple: we were searching for something together, and we found it. It was the best day of the shoot.”
— Nicholas McCarthy on Michael Massee (One of Those Creatures: Remembering Michael Massee)