PAUL WILLIAMS, JESSICA HARPER TALK 'PHANTOM'
ESQUIRE WRITER ALSO TALKED TO WILLIAM FINLEY IN 2012Brian De Palma
's Phantom Of The Paradise
was released in theaters 40 years ago today. Esquire's Peter Gerstenzang
posted an article today to celebrate "THE MOVIE NO ONE SAW BUT EVERYONE LOVES," featuring fresh interviews with Paul Williams
and Jessica Harper
, along with fresh quotes from William Finley
, who spoke to Gerstenzang shortly before Finley's death in 2012.
"I often wonder why movies like ours develop cults," Harper tells Gerstenzang. "I think, in part, it's because we're like the rescue dog that nobody wants. The film comes out, it gets rejected by people, and it's up for grabs. And it's something that you can call your own, if you want. It's yours. People like to form communities around things. So why not a movie?"
Williams tells Gerstenzang, "It's always been intriguing to me that Brian came to me to play Swan in this kind of a movie, considering the kind of work I was known for at the time. It's amazing he would pick the guy who co-wrote 'We've Only Just Begun' to pen songs for a film that was supposed to be depicting the future of rock. But Brian saw something in my music that made him think I could span the various kinds of genres in the film. Plus, the great treat for me was that I was able to satirize the kinds of music I love, like the Beach Boys and '50s stuff."
Williams also discusses how De Palma at first wanted him to play Winslow Leach, and how perfectly Finley embodied that role. "Throughout the movie," Williams tells Gerstenzang, "the Phantom plays his songs wearing a mask that shows only one eye. There's only one actor who could let you see just an eye and make you cry as a result. And that was Bill Finley." Williams adds, "When I was up in Winnipeg for the movie's premiere, some awestruck kid asked me, 'Hey man, a guy selling his soul to the devil, did you make that up?' And I said, 'Well, no, there was this guy named Goethe who did that.' Still, I think that it's so mythologically powerful, the Faustian idea of a guy selling his soul, combined with the Dorian Gray element. And Larry Pizer's gorgeous cinematography is essential, too. That draws you in. But mostly it's our audience, who keeps finding the movie on their own, on cable or through friends. When you love something that the world ignores? You become impassioned!"
FINLEY: DE PALMA USED TO HANG OUT AT THE FILLMORE A LOT AND TAKE PICTURES
Gerstenzang also quotes Finley from 2012: "Brian wrote the script originally in 1969. He used to hang out at the Fillmore a lot and take pictures. And he noticed, as the '60s were ending, that we were starting to see a lot more preening self-regard by the frontmen of bands. And the kids having an unhealthy attraction to it. I actually think that Robert Plant was the original model for Beef, but the character kept evolving. Still, I think Brian was very prescient about the coming of glam rock and the narcissism that came with it. He always had a good read on rock culture."