has become of Anita Pallenberg? I read that she was involved in witchcraft
and was very overweight.
That’s all rubbish. Anita’s doing just fine. I look
in on her whenever I’m on the East Coast. She’s dropped a
lof of weight and I think she is writing. Anita is a survivor and a great
lady. I love her.
What was James Fox like on the film?
Willie, his nickname, was a great observer and was learning his craft.
He had already made some films and fell into this one with great gusto.
He literally became a gangster in the name of research. He spent eventings
in the company of London’s most notorious thugs, to the extent that
he actually frightened people. Now imagine this very macho, violent behaviour
being shattered, once again, under Jagger’s influence. It was perhaps
a tragedy that Willie became so traumatized by Jagger’s sexuality
that he succumbed to it and ultimately quit acting altogether and went
to India. It took him forever to snap out of it.
Jagger does make a rather late enterance, a rather grand entrance,
like Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Well, perhaps more like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulavard.. That’s
how I gave Jagger the line “Why don’t you go to a hotel?”
when Fox tries to rent the flat. It’s the sort of remark an aging
bitch would say to a lesser mortal.
At the end of the film, after Chas (Fox) shoots Turner (Jagger)
in the head, it’s Jagger that we see leaving the house with his
old gangster cronies-presumbably to be murdered by them. You meant to
indicate that Chas had absorbed Turner’s persona?
In a sense, yes. I was thinking of Jorge Luis Borges and the
Sanish bullfighter El Cordobes, who kisses the bull between the eyes before
placing his sword therein. Jagger is very much that bullfighter. In terms
of painting, if you look at the “Memo from Turner” number,
Jagger’s character has already assumed the Harry Flowers persona
(in terms of Chas’ perception). So this further absorption seems
natural. The “Memo from Turner” sequence, by the way is probably
the first rock video. You may not know it, but I’ve directed several
rock videos in the last few years. In point of fact, I did a bit of editing
on Gimme Shelter for the Maysles Brothers.
Why did it take you so long to mak another feature?
If you only knew how many unrealized projects are littered between 1970
and Demon Seed, you wouldn't ask. One of those projects that
caused a bit of a stir on the Riviera was a “caper” screenplay
entitled Avec Avec, which was made much later by my old mate
James Coburn. This was the kind of luck I had up until Demon Seed.
What was the Demon Seed experience like for you?
Well, it was a very unhappy experience. It was a pretty frustrationg experience.
My personality just does not gel with these studuio people. And MGM was
no different than Warner Bros.. was with Performance. I was the
reason they got Julie Christie, who was red hot at the time, and an Oscar
winner to boot. The front office loved everything until they got their
hands on my rough cut. It could hve been a great film, but even though
it got bloody repectable notices, it wasn’t my vision. As I’ve
said before, I am a painter who happens to make films. But enough of that!
Would you mind if we go on the film you just saw, which I’m very
White of the Eye.
Yes, Around 1985, after God knows how many unrealized projects (including
one reuniting me with Jagger, believe it or not, which was to be called
Ishtar, but don’t get me started on that…) I was
prepping this film for EMI, which was shelved when the company got taken
over by Cannnon. So as a sort of compensation, I was offered this strange
little novel by Margaret Tracy called Mrs. White, which my wife
and I adapted into White of the Eye. Basically, her novel explored
this woman’s feelings as she discovers that her husband is insane
and yet she is completely dominated by him. Well, I rethought all that
and decided it was more interesting to have her deeply in love, so that
when she discovers he’s a serial killer, she has to make that decision
to leave him or confront him and continue to love him. Even to the point
where he degenerates into bestiality. It really seemed to be an extremely
powerful and moving idea. In fact, in the final reel, I tried to create
the sound and fury of madness and take you into a world of transcendent
You certainly made Arizona seem very surreal.
Well, I’m European, and Arizona looks very exotic and a little surreal
when I’m confronted by it. The Indians have tremendous karma and
glamour. I could easily see Picasso on a reservation. The location was
a real trip. My main set piece is a run-down mining town called Globe,
which is on the edge of an Apache reservation, where a crumbling civilization
has this uneasy coexistence with violence-pagan violence. It had been
the second largest copper mine in Arizona and then became this relic,
this kind of scarred, extraordinary landscape. I vividly remember shooting
the final scene in a kind of stepped, zig-zagged structure, like an inverted
Once again, your painter’s eye seems to be at work here.
Well yes, I painted it as best I can, and if art is to be involved at
all, you hope that some kind of energy or sincerity will result in some
kind of revelation.
I see it as a portrait of a schizophrenic who views the suburban
sexuality of his victims as a kind of waste.
That’s your opinion. I didn’t try and diagnose or make a judgement
on the reasons for serial murder. I suppose I’m really asking if
we really know the people we love. Do we really understand their motives?
I mean this bedroom community of Globe, Arizona is full of waste and boredom.
The killer has a painter’s eye, which I suppose is mine.
My favorite line in the film occurs when the homicide detective
says to his assistant, “Did you ever look at a Picasso, Lucas?”
referring to the crime scene as resembling a work of art.
This serial killer happens to be a psychotic with an aesthetic imagination.
I like the concept of murders being arranged as art. But my favorite line
is on the poster art. “The only difference between a hunter and
a killer is his prey.”
I heard that White of the Eye was going to receive an
X rating, but it received an R. What happened?
What happened was Marlon Brando. He sent a letter to the MPAA, a brilliant
letter, analyzing sequences in the film in great detail, and praising
it for it originality and artistry. I mean, you wouldn’t have believed
this letter! Eventually they passed the film with a couple of nominal
cuts. About 90% of what I wanted is on the screen.
That was a beautiful thing for Brando to do.
Brando is a phenomenal human being. And I am pleased to say that he’s
going to be my partner on my next film, which he has written. At the moment
its called Jericho and I have really good feelings this time
around. But let’s not jinx it! You’ll be the first to know
when I have something concrete to show.