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Sir Dirk Bogarde

The Servant is still one of the most engrossing movies of the 1960s.What did you find impressive about working with Losey?

It's what I said to you earlier:working with Joe is the way I have worked with all great directors.He would say'I dont know what you can do,' and I'd say 'All right I'll think of something,' and do it.The Servant was wonderful for a stage actor because of the long, long takes-you had a whole magazine of time to do your thing.Sometimes, working with other directors in England, you were very lucky if you could say 'We got 80 seconds of film for a day's work.With Joe you get 10 minutes , so it was possible to make a film in 5 weeks.The Servant took six weeks to make and Joe was ill for two of them.

There was a lot of very elaborate setting up for it, of course. That film was the only time the dolly-pusher was given a main credit.There is one scene with Wendy Craig and myself, when I let her in the front door and we go around the drawing room and then into the kitchen, where i fill up the jar with some flowers, then back into the drawing room; I think there were something like forty different camera angles and he never got them wrong.And the lighting was incredible-we took all day but it didn't matter.We would rehearse for about three hours in the morning and the lighting man would say 'I can't do it,' and joe would say 'Yes you can.' Then he would disappear amd we would'nt see each other again until five o' clock in the afternoon, and then we would shoot the whole thing in an hour.Douglas Slocombe [director of photography] , in tears on the last day of shooting, said this was the first time he had been able to put into practice all the things he had learned , and he was never so happy in his life. What's more he got the Oscar. There was no elaborate set; it was simply the house , an actual house in Chelsea, and Joe uses the house as the metaphor all the way through.

Did it seem to you that the film was a metaphor for what was happening in British society at the time?

No, it never occured to me, I just thought it was a great camp joke. I still think it's a very black comedy .It's very disturbing and complex as you say ,if you think about it, but it is still a marvellous film which doesn't date. It was brilliantly written by Harold Pinter and it was the first script he ever wrote for the movies. When I first read it I didn't know what the hell it was about.I had agreed to go in as co-producer with Joe on it when he first found the book ten years before.It was originally planned that i would play Tony, the nice young man,but then I found the boy, James Fox , here on television . I was too old by that time to play the young man, so I said to Joe we should get Ralph Richardson for the servant.Joe said we couldn't afford it, so that's how I came to play the servant.

The only criticism I would make of the film is that the orgy seems a bit tame by orgy standards today.

Well, when we did that it was the first time had understood what was happening with LSD parties.Joe and I knew they were taking place particularly around Chelsea, but the audiences and the critics didn't know. They expected an orgy to involve people screwing and they simply didn't understand at the time it was people going off into space under the influence of a hallucinatory drug - perhaps doing unspeakable things to the boy, but ... Since then , the critics have reconsidered it in light of their understanding of it.Thats what the young man was being given by his hairdresser in Jermyn Street.

The extraordinary thing was that once we had finished the film, nobody would touch it so it was put on the shelf for a year. It was actually on the shelf at Warner Brothers' studios in London.I have a very good friend called Arthur Abeles, an American who, at that time, was the European representative for booking films for Warners; he had a movie on at Warners in Leicester Square which was fading and he knew it couldn't hold up.He had a fortnight's gap to fill. He asked to look at the stuff Warners had stocked away and, by the grace of God, one of the things was The Servant . He saw the first two reels and said, 'We're sitting on a masterpiece, for Christ's sake!' He put it on for a fortnight and it ran for seven months, yet the studio had wanted to kill it. Equally so, they wanted to kill another film Joe and I made, King and Country. We never made a single film they wanted ! And of course, they loathed Accident I never understood how Joe, an American knew about English university life and mores so well.

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