'PASSION', 'STAR WARS', OSCARS, STAIRCASES
The Portuguese weekly Sol posted an interview with Brian De Palma today. Passion opened in Portugal on July 11. Here is a Google-assisted translation of the interview:
In Passion we feel great respect for Hitchcock. What do you consider most inspiring in his work?
This is a question I've been answering for 40 years. I learned a lot from Hitchcock thrillers. He created a grammar of cinema that many of us use, but I have my own way of seeing things.
I seemed to detect references to movies such as Vertigo. Am I wrong?
Do you know how long filmmakers have been filming spiral staircases? This began in silent films, it is the best way to capture someone walking up stairs. Hitchcock used this trick in Vertigo but before that it had been used dozens of times.
One realizes that dreams have a key role in your films ...
The majority of my thoughts occur during dreaming. Our subconscious is always working ...
In Passion there is a smartphone that takes account of the action. Are you a technology fan?
When I was in high school, I built computers, so we already see that my love of technology comes back. Today we walk with iPhones and film everything. Even my kids force me to take pictures of people with whom I speak [pauses to take a picture of the interviewer]. It’s for them to see what their father is doing.
To what extent do you think that technological tools can influence the movies?
When I started we had to raise a lot of money to make a movie. My first feature film cost $100,000, which we got from a rich girl. My second film cost $50,000. It is clear that both were flops. For the third film we raised $20,000. And it was a success. Today people complain about not having money to make films, but anyone can make them. It's all digital, and they can be edited on a computer. And if you cannot get a cast and write a script, it is best to do something else. Today there are no longer those excuses.
Feel part of a generation of filmmakers who changed cinema?
Yes, I am part of a group of filmmakers who arrived when the Hollywood system was ending. We were a little crazy and created sort of strange films like Easy Rider, but they made a lot of money. Suddenly we were considered the leaders of the city.
You began by making a very experimental film. Would you like to have followed this route?
In the beginning we experience everything to realize what we can do. I made a series of documentaries and experimental films, and won several awards. But only with my third film, which was Greetings, did I begin to enter the Hollywood scheme. I made several independent films that nobody remembers. Carrie was my tenth film.
Is it true or is it a myth that you wrote the first lines of the script of Star Wars?
No, I did not write these lines. George Lucas had an intro that was too complicated and I just told him, 'George, I don’t understand anything of what's written here'. So me and a screenwriter simplified the text. I have been accused of being the sarcastic type that made fun of 'The Force' ... It is true that I was always the official 'clown' of that group, but I'm also a good friend of George’s, and was there to help. My biggest contribution was untangling the mess at the beginning.
But it is true that you discovered Robert De Niro. How did that happen?
He came to see me because of an ad I had placed in a magazine to find a person who could project the movies. And he turned out to audition for a film I was doing in a garage. He was just amazing and I hired him. After two films he did some plays with me.
Do you keep in contact?
Not really. I saw him recently at a dinner that George [Lucas] gave. He appeared with his wife.
You have won several awards, but have never been nominated for an Oscar. Is that important to you?
In America the awards are only television shows in which the stars on the red carpet parade. They end up selling clothing and jewelry.
Were you able to anticipate the success of any of your films?
Only with The Untouchables.
Carrie. It was a cheap horror movie that was released on Halloween. Stephen King was not even known. The book did not sell very well and only during the production of Carrie did it become a best seller. But nobody knew who Stephen King was.
Scarface  was another of your great successes. Were you expecting that?
No. When it was shown in Hollywood, people left the room. I thought it would be a massacre. It wasn’t until it reached audiences that I realized it was something that had never been seen before.
Are there any films of yours that are considered special?
Mostly the controversial films. There is much talk of The Godfather, but Coppola had a traumatic experience. He was supposed to be fired almost daily. Dressed to Kill was ravaged by the women’s liberation movement ...
Is it important to shock the audience?
It is important to catch them off guard. It's like taking the rabbit out of the hat and putting it back in the hat when they are not looking.
It's on television that we see some of the finest moments of current fiction. How do you see this?
Television is a medium dominated by producers and screenwriters. [The directors are the types that take the cables the way] ... Look at The Sopranos or Mad Men: they are almost like War and Peace. The characters are developed over years! That is unprecedented.