ALSO: ABANDONED 'TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE' REMAKE; MORE
Mr. Beaks' new interview with Brian De Palma was posted today at Ain't It Cool News. They talk about Passion, De Palma's abandoned remake of John Huston's Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, current TV vs. film, and De Palma's meeting with Daft Punk, among other things.
One of those other things is a movie De Palma wanted to do that was based on an old Robert Mitchum film called His Kind Of Woman. De Palma had mentioned this project to Anne Thompson last year. He mentions it again while responding to a question from Mr. Beaks:
Beaks: When we spoke before, you mentioned how Hitchcock would take a break from his major works to just make a well-made play like Dial M For Murder. Where does Passion land for you in terms of the personal and simply telling a story?
De Palma: In your career, you really don't predict how these things happen. I was working on a lot of projects, and they were all tied up, and I couldn't get them launched in that five-year period. The Boston Stranglers was all tied up at Paramount, as was the prequel to The Untouchables. The problem with these movies is that these scripts get a lot of money against them. A guy wrote a script based on an old RKO movie that Mitchum did called [His Kind Of Woman], and I couldn't talk the RKO people into giving me the rights. So there's a lot of frustration with respect to development. So this movie sort of came to me because they wanted to make an American version, and I said, "Great! I can go to Paris and work on this!" That's how it happened.
'TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE'
Another highlight of the interview happens when Mr. Beaks brings up De Palma's screenplay from the 1980s for a remake of Treasure Of The Sierra Madre:
Beaks: I think this is really your first remake. Obviously, Scarface was inspired by Hawks's film, but it's very different. This is explicitly a remake of Corneau's film. I know you wrote a remake of Treasure Of The Sierra Madre long ago that put an interesting spin on Huston's film. What's your feeling about remakes in general?
De Palma: Well, if you have a very good idea… obviously, Treasure Of The Sierra Madre is a fantastic movie. To remake that is a little madness. But I had a very good idea: instead of gold, I was going to make it about cocaine. You get it up there in the mountain it's kind of dealing with dust, but when you get it on the streets of New York it's like solid gold. And not only do you get corrupted because of the money, you get corrupted because of the drug. That gave me a really good idea. I came up with that idea so many years ago it's hard to remember. But it's very difficult to remake a classic movie. We were very fortunate with Scarface. Howard Hawks's Scarface is really good.
Beaks: Whatever happened to your Treasure Of The Sierra Madre?
De Palma: I have no idea. I wrote it so long ago, I don't even remember what I even did with it.
Beaks: I found a copy of the screenplay.
De Palma: You're kidding! I didn't even know there was a copy of the screenplay.
Beaks: I'm always hunting for those scripts of yours that never got made, and a friend of mine tracked this one down.
De Palma: How is it?
Beaks: It's great! I love the twist you put on it. It starts out so much like the original film that I wasn't sure what you were up to, but then it begins to go its own way, and it's really terrific. If you could ever get that together, I'd love to see that movie.
De Palma: Man. I haven't thought that about that in thirty or so years. (Laughs)
AND BACK TO 'PASSION'
De Palma goes into some detail regarding the locations and storyboards for Passion. "There are a lot of really great exteriors in Berlin that no one had seen before," De Palma tells Mr. Beaks, "so we moved the whole production to Berlin. And we were very fortunate to get this great office building that was vacant because of the recession, so we could sort of take it over. That's always the problem with office buildings: you've got to work around the office. But this was not the case here. It was a great looking building that gave us interesting office locations, which, of course, can be extremely boring."
Beaks then asks, "Did you design all of your shots ahead of time, or did you allow yourself leeway to invent stuff on the day?"
De Palma responds, "What's interesting about this one is that we had a long time to work on the script as we were preparing production and casting it, and I also had the advantage of the other movie. So I literally laid the whole movie out, every setup and every shot. I had these architectural programs where you could put people in them and move them around. And I could reference the other movie: two women talking to each other from across a desk. I could take a shot from the other movie and put it into my storyboards. 'Oh, that's the scene where Isabelle comes into Christine's office and they talk about A, B and C.' I printed them all out, so I could stack 8x11 printouts on my desk and walk anyone through the whole movie."
Beaks later asks De Palma if the power-struggle-kissing scene between Isabelle and Christine was scripted. De Palma replies, "Absolutely not. The girls did it on the day. When Noomi grabs her and gives her the kiss of death, and Rachel kisses her back leering at Noomi's assistant in the doorway... (Laughs) I would just sit behind the camera and smile. 'My god, these girls are really doing it!' They did a lot of stuff like that. The way she's playing with her in the car. 'I want to be admired! I want to be loved!' She kisses her, and Noomi's like, 'What the hell is going on here?' And Rachel picks up the lipstick and says, 'You need a little color.' (Laughs) It's hilarious!"
In discussing how eroticism in film has changed due to the more explicit nudity shown on cable TV, De Palma mentions the sex tape scene in Passion, saying, "That scene where the guy uses the camera to videotape their making out in the hotel room, I basically just gave them a camera and said, 'Just do whatever you would do.' (Laughs) Believe me, they did some incredible things."
'PHANTOM', DAFT PUNK, & PAUL WILLIAMS
Mr. Beaks also asks about the resurgence of interest in Phantom Of The Paradise, noting Daft Punk's recent collaboration with Paul Williams on the song "Touch". "It's great to be remembered!" De Palma tells Beaks. "I met with Daft Punk in Paris. We talked about Phantom, but it was just a preliminary discussion. I don't know what will come of it. We've always had a stage version we wanted to do, but it's never really come together. I saw the Paul Williams documentary, and thought it was charming."
Read the whole great interview here.