The Servant is still one of the most engrossing movies of the 1960s.What did you find impressive about working with Losey?
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?
The only criticism I would make of the film is that the orgy seems a bit tame by orgy standards today.
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.